Gliese 581g – The next "Earth"?

The fact that we’ve found a habitable planet candidate so soon after starting our search has important implications for the number of habitable planets that may exist in our galaxy – which was estimated to be around 10 billion. 

Having found Gliese 581g so soon though, may mean one of two things. Either we were very lucky, or there are more planets out there than we thought. Based on this discovery, it’s possible that we may have many more habitable planets than originally thought.

Perhaps 20 to 30 billion stars in our galaxy may have conditions suitable for life.

Astronomy Picture Of The Day | NGC 2683: Spiral Edge-On

NGC 2683: Spiral Edge-On

Credit: Data: Hubble Legacy Archive, ESA, NASA; Processing: Nikolaus Sulzenauer

Explanation: Does spiral galaxy NGC 2683 have a bar across its center? Being so nearly like our own barred Milky Way Galaxy, one might guess it has. Being so nearly edge-on, however, it is hard to tell. Either way, this gorgeous island universe, cataloged as NGC 2683, lies a mere 20 million light-years distant in the northern constellation of the Cat (Lynx). NGC 2683 is seen nearly edge-on in this cosmic vista, with more distant galaxies scattered in the background. Blended light from a large population of old yellowish stars forms the remarkably bright galactic core. Starlight silhouettes the dust lanes along winding spiral arms, dotted with the telltale blue glow of young star clusters in this galaxy‘s star forming regions.

NGC 2683 was discovered by William Herschel on February 5, 1788.

This spiral galaxy is viewed nearly edge-on from our perspective. Because of its appearance, it was nicknamed the “UFO Galaxy” by the Astronaut Memorial Planetarium and Observatory site. Note the small yellowish core in the center of the galaxy, consisting of older stars. Also note the fine details of the spiral structure, traced by dark dust in the brighter part of the disk (particularly well visible in the larger image.

The UFO is receding from us at 410 km/s, and from the Galactic Center at 375 km/s. This indicates that it is probably one of the nearby galaxies, perhaps at about 16 million light years.

The image in this page was obtained by Dick Stone when participating in the Kitt Peak Visitor Center’s Advanced Observing Program. It is a composite of 4 CCD images: Luminance = 42 min, Red = 20 min, Green = 20 min, Blue = 40 min.

via apod.nasa.gov

Why are there still Chimpanzees?

This post  is an attempt to reply to part of this question posted on Twitter by Ed Betterley.

Oh! The process by which new oxygen is produced is called Photosynthesis.

As for your last question, Ed, I have better reasons not to believe in any gods than to believe, but, if there are gods and they are just, they will not care how godly and pious you have been, but will judge you based on the virtues you have lived by.

Neil deGrasse Tyson at UB: What NASA Means to America's Future

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, a Distinguished Speaker at the University at Buffalo, answered a student’s question about federal cutbacks to NASA funding. Tyson is host of the PBS series NOVA scienceNOW and director of New York City’s Hayden Planetarium.

The God of the Gaps (by Neil deGrasse Tyson)

The God of the Gaps (by Neil deGrasse Tyson)

From: Beyond Belief 2006

Neil deGrasse Tyson talks about the evolution of knowledge across the centuries and the god of the gaps.

Astronomy Picture Of The Day | Melotte 15 in the Heart

Melotte 15 in the Heart Image Credit & Copyright: Derek Santiago

Explanation: Cosmic clouds seem to form fantastic shapes in the central regions of emission nebula IC 1805. Of course, the clouds are sculpted by stellar winds and radiation from massive hot stars in the nebula‘s newborn star cluster, Melotte 15. About 1.5 million years young, the cluster stars are near the center in this colorful skyscape, along with dark dust clouds silhouetted against glowing atomic gas. A composite of narrow and broad band telescopic images, the view spans about 40 light-years and includes emission from hydrogen in green, sulfur in red, and oxygen in blue hues. Wider field images reveal that IC 1805’s simpler, overall outline suggests its popular name – The Heart Nebula. IC 1805 is located about 7,500 light years away toward the constellation Cassiopeia.

Pope Benedict XVI's astronomer: the Catholic Church welcomes aliens

Dr Guy Consolmango, curator of the Pope's meteorite collection

Brother Guy Consolmagno is curator of the Pope’s meteorite collection Photo: AP Photo/Plinio Lepri

The senior Vatican scientist, Brother Guy Consolmagno, said that he would be delighted if we encountered intelligent aliens and would be happy to baptise them.

His pronouncement opens up the possibility of space missionaries heading out to the stars to convert aliens to Christianity.

Speaking on the eve of addressing the British Science Festival, Dr Consolmangno said he had no problem with science and religion co-existing together.

But he dismissed Creationism and claimed that the revival of “intelligent design” – the controversial theory that only God can explain gaps in the theory of evolution – was “bad theology”.

Dr Consolmango is one of a team of 12 astronomers working for the Vatican, said the Catholic Church had been supporting and funding science for centuries.

He said he was “comfortable” with the idea of alien life and asked if he would baptise an alien, he replied “Only if they asked”.

“I’d be delighted if we found life elsewhere and delighted if we found intelligent life elsewhere,” he said.

“But the odds of us finding it, of it being intelligent and us being able to communicate with it – when you add them up it’s probably not a practical question.

“God is bigger than just humanity. God is also the god of angels.”

He said the characteristics synonymous with having a soul – intelligence, free will, freedom to love and freedom to make decisions may not be unique to humans.

“Any entity – no matter how many tentacles it has has a soul,’ he said.

However machines were unlikely to be smart or human-enough to have souls.

Dr Consolmango, 57, the curator of the Pope’s meteorite collection, is a trained astronomer and planetary scientist at the Vatican’s observatory.

He worked as a scientist in California for 15 years before turning to the church.

He said “intelligent design” had been “hijacked” by religious fundamentalists.

“The word has been hijacked by a narrow group of Creationist fundamentalists in America to mean something it did not originally mean at all.

“It’s another form of the God of the gaps,” he said.

‘It’s bad theology in that it turns God once again into the pagan god of thunder and lightning.’

The phrase ‘Intelligent Design’ was centuries old and described the idea that God could be discovered in the laws of space and time and the existence of human reason..

The Vatican was ‘very aware’ of what was going on in the world of science, he added.

The Pontifical Academy of Science, of which Stephen Hawking is a member, kept the senior cardinals and the Pope up-to-date with the latest scientific developments, he said.

The discovery of aliens would raise huge theological problems for the Roman Catholic church that would make the debate over women priests, clerical abstinence and contraception pale into insignificance.

The Problem of Evil and ID Creationism

WARNING: Biologist attempting Philosophy! Watch at your own risk. Most of the images are pretty mild, but some people are disturbed by medical images. Also censored some classic works of art (that are prominently displayed in churches) that depict non-sexual human anatomy.

Intelligent Design Creationism, in an attempt to subvert the Constitutional protections against religious education in public schools, have jettisoned the Biblical creation story. Along with that, they have lost the “Fallen Eden/Free Will” defense of the Problem of Evil. This creates a special situation where they insist on an interventionist God without a strong position of theodicy.

This video’s goal is to show one of many religious or theological objections to Intelligent Design Creationism. It’s important to remember that IDC does not represent many intelligent Christians.