Space & Exploration:
The theory of Panspermia states that life exists through the cosmos, and is distributed between planets, stars and even galaxies by asteroids, comets, meteors and planetoids. In this respect, life began on Earth about 4 billion years ago after microorganisms hitching a ride on space rocks landed on the surface. Over the years, considerable research has been devoted towards demonstrating that the various aspects of this theory work.
It came from outer space … and went back there two weeks later, having astonished and excited astronomers and planetary scientists. A cigar-shaped object, less than half a kilometre long and barely bright enough to be detected by the world’s most powerful telescopes, payed us a flying visit in October this year – reminding us that the heavens still hold plenty of surprises.
No human has been to the Moon since 1972 and only 12 people have ever done it – all of them American men. But that list could soon be getting a lot longer. Why the Moon? Haven’t we already been there, done that? Well, yes. But now there are new reasons motivating countries to reach the Moon.
The number of confirmed extra-solar planets has increased by leaps and bounds in recent years. With every new discovery, the question of when we might be able to explore these planets directly naturally arises. There have been several suggestions so far, ranging from laser-sail driven nanocraft that would travel to Alpha Centauri in just 20 years (Breakthrough Starshot) to slower-moving microcraft equipped with a gene laboratories (The Genesis Project).
Astronomers recently scrambled to observe an intriguing asteroid that zipped through the solar system on a steep trajectory from interstellar space—the first confirmed object from another star.
In October 2017, Japan’s Selenological and Engineering Explorer probe discovered a massive underground cave on the Moon. The space, which is 100 meters (328 feet) wide and 50 kilometers (31 miles) long, is being touted as a potential location for a lunar station. In fact, some experts are asserting that the best way to live on the Moon is in caves just like the one recently discovered.
Ever since the project was first conceived, scientists have been eagerly awaiting the day that the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will take to space. As the planned successor to Hubble, the JWST will use its powerful infrared imaging capabilities to study some of the most distant objects in the Universe (such as the formation of the first galaxies) and study extra-solar planets around nearby stars.
It has happened to most of us: walking home late at night under clear skies you catch a glimpse of something bright moving, often from the corner of your eye. You turn to see what it is but it’s gone without a trace. And chances are you will have seen a meteor ending its multi-billion year journey in a burst of light 100km up.
This new picture of the week, taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, shows the dwarf galaxy NGC 4625, located about 30 million light-years away in the constellation of Canes Venatici (The Hunting Dogs). The image, acquired with the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS), reveals the single major spiral arm of the galaxy, which gives it an asymmetric appearance. But why is there only one such spiral arm, when spiral galaxies normally have at least two?
METI has sent a new message out into space, targeting a nearby star system called GJ 273. The new project hopes to establish a new method of reaching out to alien life, which could potentially send a reply in the next 25 years.