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TRAPPIST-1: Three Habitable Zone Planets

 Seven Earth-sized planets circle a star 39 light years from Earth. Three orbit in the ultra-cool red star’s habitable zone, where liquid water could exist and life might evolve. The star, TRAPPIST-1 lies near the ecliptic, within Aquarius. It has a mass 12 times smaller than the sun’s, radiates mostly in the infra red, and is slightly larger than Jupiter. The  planets receive about the same  amount of light received in the Solar System at Mercury to beyond Mars. [More . . .]

Optical SETI Advance

A huge cache of data has become available for the search for optical signals from extraterrestrial civilizations. The first catalog of more than a billion stars from the European Space Agency’s Gaia satellite was published in September. Because the catalogue contains the three-dimensional position of all optical sources that the spacecraft [More . . .]

Nearest Habitable Zone Planet

Proxima Centauri, at 4.22 light years, the nearest star to the sun,  has planet 1.3 times the mass of the Earth with a temperature suitable for liquid water on its surface. Discovered by the radial velocity method, Proxima b orbits its red dwarf star every 11.2 days. [More . . .]

$100 Million Starshot

ABreakthrough Starshot is a $100 million program  aiming to demonstrate new technology for ultra-light unmanned spacecraft traveling at 20% of the speed of light, providing the potential for a flyby mission of Alpha Centauri within a generation. The gram-scale spacecraft [More . . .]

Kepler-452b, Most Like Earth

The first near-Earth-size object detected by NASA’s Kepler mission in the habitable zone of a star like the sun has been confirmed as a planet. Kepler 452b as it is called is the smallest planet to date discovered orbiting in the habitable zone of a G2-type star, like our sun. This planet has spent 6 billion years in the habitable zone of its star, Kepler-452, over a billion years longer than Earth [More . . .]

SETI Breakthrough Listen

A $100 million project to expand the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) over a period of 10 years was announced in London on July 20, 2015. Funded by Yuri Milner a Russian entrepreneur and physicist, the Breakthrough Listen project will have access to two of the world’s most powerful telescopes [More . . . ]

Fast Creation of Life

An international team has reformulated the theory of the creation of life at hydrothermal vents in the Earth's primal oceans, proposing a membrane-driven process making use of two energy gradients. This location for the initial emergence of life on Earth would be significant because any particular vent may last no longer than 30,000 years [More . . . ]

Earth-size Planet in Life Zone

NASA's Kepler Space Telescope has confirmed that a planet the size of Earth exists in the habitable zone of another star than our sun. Kepler-186f orbits its star at a distance where liquid water might pool on its surface. It is less than 10 per cent larger than Earth and is the outermost planet detected at Kepler 186, a red dwarf [More . . . ]

Removing Atmospheric Blur

New adaptive optics have removed atmospheric blurring at the 6.5-meter Magellan telescope in Chile to give it twice the resolution of the Hubble space telescope. Already the new Magellan system (MagAO) has imaged a type of planet not found before and mapped an unexpected distribution of dust [More . . . ]

Planet Kepler-7B Clouds

Researchers using data from NASA's Kepler and Spitzer space telescopes have created the first cloud map of a planet beyond our solar system, a hot Jupiter-like world known as Kepler-7b. Nearly 1,000 light years from Earth, the planet orbits its star in just under five days. It is 60 per cent larger than Jupiter [More . . . ]

Earth-size Planets in Habitable Zone

Using an independent Kepler data processing program developed at UC Berkeley by graduate student Erik Petigura, astronomers at UC Berkeley and University of Hawaii, Manoa, estimate that 22 per cent of sun-like stars have Earth-size planets orbiting in their habitable zones. Their statistical analysis [More . . . ]

Life Around Dwarf Stars

Frank Drake views planets of M-stars as a potential region for life. These stars are very much smaller and cooler than the Sun, but there are many more of them. Their planets move in orbits close enough to the star for tidal lock to occur, causing one side to be heated by the star, while the other faces the coldness of interstellar space. Cloud cover could partially equalize the temperatures between the two hemispheres, making life possible over a broad region. [More . . . ]

70 Billion Planets

Extrapolations from two analyses in 2013 of the Kepler spacecraft's ongoing observations suggest that 50 per cent of stars in our Galaxy have planets in close-in orbits and 70 per cent (70 Billion) have planets out to Earth orbit. Since the Milky Way has about 100 billion stars, there may be at least 70 billion Earth-sized worlds. in orbits as large as the Earth’s or smaller. [More . . . ]