NASA has a surprise up its sleeve!

1616 – Galileo Galilei heads to the Vatican to debate celestial policy. He is told that the sun orbits the earth, not the other way around.

1919 – Edwin Hubble, using 1 100 inch telescope, begins to prove the age and the size of the universe using his discovery of Cepheid Variables (stars of a particular size, brightness and predictability)

1964 – Astronomer Sarah Palin is born, ready to rewrite the laws of physics and to instill in all americans a true biblical education.


Time for a change of subject. I was tempted, VERY TEMPTED, to pile on with yet another anti-Obama attack diarrhee. But, even after wikileaks showed that Obama conspired with the Bush Administration to keep the torture and war crimes trials from taking place, others are doing a great job.

Nor will I mention just how delusional the President and his staff appear, when 5 minutes after Obama (followed by the Giblett) are proud to describe how nicely nicely the GOP will cooperate on so many issues, the resident turtle of the GOP senate came out of his shell, to threaten the entire lame duck congress, holding unemployment relief, START and other critical issues hostage, unless he gets taxs breaks for millionaires and billionaires.

Let’s talk stars.

WASHINGTON — NASA will hold a news conference at 2 p.m. EST on Thursday, Dec. 2, to discuss an astrobiology finding that will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life. Astrobiology is the study of the origin, evolution, distribution and future of life in the universe.

The news conference will be held at the NASA Headquarters auditorium at 300 E St. SW, in Washington. It will be broadcast live on NASA Television and streamed on the agency’s website at

Participants are: –     Mary Voytek, director, Astrobiology Program, NASA Headquarters, Washington –     Felisa Wolfe-Simon, NASA astrobiology research fellow, U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, Calif. –     Pamela Conrad, astrobiologist, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. –     Steven Benner, distinguished fellow, Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution, Gainesville, Fla. –     James Elser, professor, Arizona State University, Tempe

See NASA’s website for more.

Molecular evolution . . . . Astrobiology. What the HELL is going on?

Here’s a bit of history:

Code of Federal Regulations, Title 14, Chapter V, Section 1211. This deals  with aviation, space and alien contact.  #1211 through 1299 specifically regulate the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Section 1211 was added in 1969:   “NASA policy, responsibility and authority to guard the Earth against any harmful contamination or adverse changes in its environment resulting from personnel, spacecraft and other property returning to the [earth] after landing on or coming within the atmospheric envelope of a celestial body…”

To enforce this provision, the statute also stated that anyone guilty of any extra-terrestrial contact committed a criminal act, subject to one year imrpisonment, without trial,  and fined $5,000. The NASA administrator was empowered to determine, with or without a hearing, that a person or object has been “extraterrestrially exposed” and impose an indeterminate quarantine under armed guard.

That is how afraid the government was on the issue of ET, alien contact, and UFOs.


Glad that you asked. According to Wikipedia,

Astrobiology or exobiology is the study of the origin, evolution, distribution, and future of life in the universe. Earth is the only known inhabited planet in the universe to date. However, advancements in the fields of astrobiology, observational astronomy and discovery of large varieties of extremophiles with extraordinary capability to thrive in the harshest environments on Earth, have led to speculation that life may possibly be thriving on many of the extraterrestrial bodies in the universe. This interdisciplinary field encompasses the search for habitable environments in our Solar System and habitable planets outside our Solar System, the search for evidence of prebiotic chemistry, laboratory and field research into the origins and early evolution of life on Earth, and studies of the potential for life to adapt to challenges on Earth and in outer space.

Astrobiology makes use of physics, chemistry, astronomy, biology, molecular biology, ecology, planetary science, geography and geology to investigate the possibility of life on other worlds and help recognize biospheres that might be different from the biosphere on Earth. Astrobiology concerns itself with an interpretation of existing scientific data; given more detailed and reliable data from other parts of the Universe, the roots of astrobiology itself—physics, chemistry, and biology—may have their theoretical bases challenged. Although speculation is entertained to give context, astrobiology concerns itself primarily with hypotheses that fit firmly into existing scientific theories.


To paraphrase our own resident alien, You Betcha.

If you have been following NASA’s exoplanet research, we have already catalogued more than 600 planets, ranging to slightly smaller than earth, to 1/3 the size of Jupiter.

Exoplanet searches rely on several different techniques, and even these methods are being fine tuned every day.

Radial velocity measures is the finding of a periodic Doppler shift. The frequency of the shift determines the orbit of the planet around the star. This usually finds large, hot, gaseous  planets like Jupiter, orbiting close to a star.

Transit light Curves sees the variation in a star’s light, as the planet(s) cross in front of that star. The problem with this method is that the planet has to be directly in orbit between the star and our earth’s observatory. It works, but the numbers are few.

Gravitational microlensing
This one sounds cool, eh?  If there is a star with a planet, and behind it is a larger star, the light deflected by the closest star’s gravity, discloses  a planet orbiting it by disturbing how the gravitational lens works.

Direct imaging.

You betcha, on steroids. This first happened, probably, in 2004.

– – – 

You have to realize that every planet found so far is very close to earth. (relatively speaking) Every planet is firmly stuck within the Milky Way (our galactic collection of billions and billions of stars), and frankly, we’ve barely scratched the surface. And these are simply our closest neighbors!

The latest announced finding involves HIP 13044, an expanding red star that is eating up a planet about 6 times the size of earth. That is what our sun will do in several billion years.

Probably the neatest finding has been GI 581. they have found at least 5, possibly 6 planets, the last one only 3 times the size of earth, probably solid, and most likely with a gas atmosphere.  They are looking for ways to measure whether water exists on the surface, and I suspect that one of the announcements today involves water discoveries.

See you folks soon. We have only a few hours to go. By the way, NASA has a complete, blanket black out on this news conference. Not even a rumor is leaking out. Look for some blockbuster news today!

And you christian neanderthals who hate evolution, science, stem cells, and rational thinking?

Fuck off.