Two of the five planets seen circling a distant star may be capable of supporting life, reports the team operating the Kepler Space Telescope. Relatively close to Earth's size and within their sun's habitable zone, the worlds—1200 light years away—are the most tantalizing yet in a search that began in 2009. [The Atlantic]
The International Space Orchestra in front of Vacuum Chambers, NASA Ames Research Center. Photo: Neil Berrett.
I never dreamed I would be in a NASA base in California, singing and playing music.
The Ground Control Opera performance by Nelly Ben Hayoun, presented the International Space Orchestra, 50 local technicians and scientists, playing in the city of San Jose at the Zero1 Biennial 2012. The opera reenacts the first minutes of Neil Armstrong's landing on the Moon. It's dedicated to the memory of the recently gone cosmonauts and astronauts, and the endeavors of scientists at ground-control stations, still trying to make our 20th century dreams of spaceflight come true.
My daughter asked me when she mis-heard that I was singing for "NASA": Mom why are you singing to "NATO?" NATO bombed us in Serbia in 1999! I said my dear this is NASA, not NATO, they have planes and rockets but not bombers and missiles! They are searching for habitable planets with the Kepler space probe! Maybe there are other space controllers somewhere out there!
Stream videos at Ustream
The Kepler space telescope has found a new, fun discovery that promises years of great Star Wars jokes. Kepler-16b is a planet that represents a type of system we've never seen before—at least, in the real world. Two hundred light years away, this Saturn-size ball of rock and gas is orbiting two stars at once. Yes, just like Tatooine.
Only, not really. Because Kepler 16b's stars are a bit on the dim side. Here's how Phil Plait explains it:
And while there are two stars involved in heating the planet, their light is pretty feeble. Even at its distance of a little over 100 million kilometers (65 million miles) from the pair — roughly the same distance at which Venus orbits the Sun — Kepler-16b is cold: the temperature at its cloud tops (assuming it’s a gas giant like Saturn) would be at best -70°C (-100°F).
So any visions you have of Luke Skywalker standing in the desert with his leg resting on a rock while he wistfully watches the two suns set in the west may have to wait. Even if the planet has a big moon (which these observations cannot yet detect) conditions there would be a bit chillier than on Tatooine. More like Hoth.
The video above is a stream of the Kepler 16b press conference. You can also find that video online at this link.