NASA Says Earth’s Closest Exoplanet Proxima B May Support Life

Come on, universe, what’s a guy gotta do to get just one little shred of evidence of extraterrestrial life? It doesn’t need to be anything too extraordinary. No antennaed green humanoids, no crawling masses of purple ooze, no silicon-based crystal creatures. At this point I’d be content with a single dead microbe clinging to the side of a meteor. I’m not picky – I just need to know: are we alone?

Of course, I’m not alone in my need to know. The search for alien life currently involves some of the most sophisticated astronomical equipment and laboratories on Earth, but has still yet to find conclusive proof of anything else out there in space crawling around eating and farting and dying like us. NASA has identified loads of planets which might support life, but the problem is they’re all so far away that we’ll likely never be able to reach and analyze them – in our lifetimes, anyway. Unless we hurry up and get that immortality thing together.

In more promising news, a team of NASA scientists has just published a study claiming that the closest known exoplanet, Proxima Centauri b, just might possibly be able to support life. The planet, also called Proxima b or Alpha Centauri Cb, lies just 4.2 light-years away from Earth in the constellation of Centaurus. That’s only 40 trillion kilometers, or 25 trillion miles, the cosmic equivalent of a stone’s throw.

Alpha Centauri, left, Beta Centauri, right, and Proxima Centauri, circled in red.

Proxima b orbits the star Proxima Centauri and is roughly the size of Earth. For some time, astronomers have thought the planet to be uninhabitable due to the fact that it experiences extreme solar flares and radiation from its nearby star. However, the scientists behind this most recent study believe there could be scenarios in which Proxima b could still support life.

For example, if the planet happens to be tidally locked, meaning the same side faces its host star as it orbits, then surface water could allow for enough heat exchange between the hot and cold sides to support life throughout the whole planet. “An ocean-covered Proxima b could have a much broader area of surface liquid water but at much colder temperatures than previously suggested,” the authors write, adding that “Proxima b could be an inhabited, mostly open ocean planet with halophilic life.”

Another scenario could be that the planet formed much farther away from Proxima Centauri and has been slowly getting closer throughout its history, meaning some of the planet may still be habitable. UniverseToday has a good breakdown of all of these hypothetical scenarios and an interview with Anthony D. Del Genio of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies concerning this new research. 

It’s important to note, though, that all of these scenarios are hypothetical and were produced through a new type of planetary simulation software used by NASA in their hunt for exoplanets. Could our nearest neighbor support life? How convenient would that be? Let’s hope we get that EM Drive worked out soon. I need to know.

What happens to your religion if we find extraterrestrial life?

How will humankind react after astronomers hand over rock-solid scientific evidence for the existence of life beyond the Earth? No more speculating. No more wondering. The moment scientists announce this discovery, everything will change. Not least of all, our philosophies and religions will need to incorporate the new information.

Searching for signs of life

Astronomers have now identified thousands of planets in orbit around other stars. At the current rate of discovery, millions more will be found this century.

Continue reading What happens to your religion if we find extraterrestrial life? at Alien UFO Sightings.

THE SHADY LIFE OF JOEL OSTEEN – FIND OUT WHY HE HAD TO HIRE THE BEST CRIMINAL ATTORNEY IN THE US!

Osteen definitely loves expensive luxury cars. Until recently, he used to drive a 9-year-old car that was previously owned by his father. We’re not sure whether he donated his car to charity or sold it, but it is very probable that some obsessed Christian bought it for a fortune. Anyways, as we can see in the images above, Osteen loves his Ferraris and other luxury cars, and it is said that he owns a whole garage full of automobiles!

Continue reading THE SHADY LIFE OF JOEL OSTEEN – FIND OUT WHY HE HAD TO HIRE THE BEST CRIMINAL ATTORNEY IN THE US! at Mysterious Times.

Mysterious Organisms Living Inside Gemstones and the Search for Alien Life

A recent scientific study reveals that life may exist in places we haven’t even considered before, possibly opening new possibilities in our search for life outside of Earth. According to new research published in PLOS One, garnets found in Thailand may be evidence of unknown forms of microbial life which are capable of living inside of the gemstones themselves, possibly representing an entirely new habitat for life.

For years, geologists have observed strange systems of microscopic channels or tunnels in the centers of garnets. It was previously assumed that these were the product of some unknown geological process, perhaps the grains of another mineral working their way through the garnets. That would be difficult to prove however, because the only minerals capable of cutting through garnets are diamonds or sapphires.

Channels within the garnets. Credit: Ivarsson et al, 2018

With that mystery in mind, the University of Southern Denmark’s Dr. Magnus Ivarsson travelled to Thailand where garnets are commonly found in river sediments in order to find specimens of these channeled garnets and find out what might be creating the tunnels. After cracking a few open and searching for clues inside, Ivarsson and his team discovered evidence of lipids and fatty acids in the tunnels – evidence of life.

Credit: Ivarsson et al, 2018

According to their publication, the presence of these molecules and the lack of them on the outside of the garnets can likely only be caused by some type of unknown microbes living inside the stones themselves:

The organic content of the garnet interior detected by [mass spectrometry] and the complex nature of these organic molecules indicate microbial presence within the tunnel system of the garnets. […] The lack of organic compounds on the garnet surfaces, the relative complex nature of the organic compounds and their abundance throughout the tunnels indicate that they likely represent remnants of endolithic communities once living in the network of tunnels in the garnets.

The exact processes through which microbes can eat garnet and create these tunnels remain unknown. There are organisms known as endoliths which can live inside of rocks or minerals, but these are typically found in softer, more porous minerals or rocks such as sandstone.

While on one hand this is merely the discovery of some weird germs inside pretty rocks found here on Earth, this study could have far-reaching ramifications for our search for extraterrestrial life. If life can be found inside of a relatively hard mineral on Earth, who knows in what other overlooked or seemingly far-fetched places else it might be hiding?

Extraterrestrial Flotsam and Jetsam: Earth’s Moon and the Search For Alien Life

The Moon has long held the fascination of humanity, whether it be in ancient times when she was looked upon as sister to the Sun, or in modern times with her enigmatic rise over the horizon on any clear evening. Much can be said of the connection life on Earth shares with our Moon, from the tidal fluxes it governs to the pale glow it casts on Earth as it reflects sunlight at night, to which nocturnal creatures move about.

The Moon has also captured our imaginations for other reasons, particularly since the Apollo missions of the 1960s that first took humans to our barren and lonely natural satellite. This, of course, has also led to some rather odd speculative threads in the decades that followed: on the more extreme side of things, there are those who still maintain that the Moon landings could have been hoaxed, despite a remarkable amount of evidence to the contrary.

Others, while acknowledging that NASA’s studies of the Moon are legitimate, nonetheless try to argue that the space agency has been working to hide things from the public that we’ve found there. These ideas largely center around the notion that various “out of place” objects are visible in NASA photography, which ranges from trees and various other kinds of flora to buildings, landed spacecraft, and even lunar archaeological digs, as proposed by Richard C. Hoagland and others over the years (this game of pareidolia has carried over to Mars in more recent years too, with tabloids constantly reporting on alleged objects, and in one case even a Sasquatch, visible on the Martian landscape).

Of course, while most claims that involve the discovery of strange things on the Moon (or on Mars, for that matter) are rubbish, it’s at least worth noting that the possibility of discovering objects of artificial origin maybe shouldn’t be ruled out of hand.

Some time back, an associate of mine whose professional background is in aeronautics put things into context for me during a discussion we were having about the search for alien life. He brought up why the creations of some long-lost intelligent civilization might indeed end up on our Moon, and even if that civilization never took interest in Earth or visited our planet at any time in the past. As my friend suggested at the time, what essentially might amount to the “debris of civilizations from the billions of years of the Universe’s existence that drifted here” could eventually be found on the Moon, likening such interstellar garbage to “the junk floating on (Earth’s) oceans.”

My friend hadn’t been the only person who ever wondered about this possibility, however unlikely it might actually be. In a paper from a number of years ago by Alexey Arkhipov of the Ukrainian Institute for Radioastronomy, titled “A Search for Alien Artifacts on the Moon,” Arkhipov pointed out that ten stars which had been discovered at the time of the paper’s authorship had been potential hosts to intelligent life. These planets, having come and gone in our solar system since the appearance of our planet, might have produced various kinds of technology for remote exploration of space, much like our current space programs have done over the last several decades.

“Such distances,”Arkhipov wrote, “can be covered by space probes even at the present day level of science and technology.” Additionally, Arkhipov suggested that while we are studying unusual features on the Moon that would appear to be natural, perhaps they should not be ruled out of hand–particularly when viewed from great distances away–as possible artificial features of some kind.

Arkhipov wrote:

Only about 0.5 percent of the lunar surface has been photographed with a resolution of 1-10 m (Hansen 1970). But even the 1 m resolution photography can prove to be insufficient for an artifact discovery. For example, a photograph taken by Lunar Orbiter 3 shows the Surveyor 1 station on the lunar surface merely as a light-colored boulder (Jaffe and Steinbacher 1970). Modern lunar base projects (Shevchenko and Chikmachey 1989) contemplate placing manned modules under the lunar surface to protect them from radiation and meteorites. It is not improbable that our predecessors did the same billions of years ago. Since that time traces of their constructions could be destroyed by erosion, making objects hard to find.

Arkhipov’s ideas are novel, and while perhaps unlikely, he’s correct that we should never rule things entirely out of hand before they are reliably disproven. Although of equal interest to the ideas expressed in Arkipov’s writing is the fact that such a paper exists in the first place; for ideas of this caliber to be espoused seriously by scientists these days, let alone a few decades ago, is often tantamount to being anomalous itself. Similar papers have appeared though, such as Paul Davies and R.V.Wagner’s “Searching for alien artifacts on the moon” (Acta Astronautica, Volume 89, August–September 2013, Pages 261-265) and Davies’ “Footprints of alien technology” (Acta Astronautica, Volume 73, 2012, pp. 250-257), just to name a few.

The shape that exploration of the Moon will take over the coming decades is anyone’s guess at this point, although by some estimates, we could literally have people living on the Moon in the next decade. While there are promising ventures at work right now, both commercial and governmental, the overall cost of sending people to the Moon seems less attractive when a remote probe or lunar rover could be sent to the Moon on a one-way-trip, and complete the job for us from afar.

If technological trends and developments we are seeing today are any indications of things to come, they may also help facilitate more regular visits to the Moon, and if so, there may yet be unique things we’ll learn about our natural satellite… and maybe even a few unforeseen surprises.

Robot Escapes Being Turned Off by Begging For Its Life

While many people and more than a few experts fear that robots will survive future battles with humans by overpowering us with their superior physical and intelligence powers, others speculate that our metallic brethren will stop us from destroying them or shutting them down for good simply by begging us not to. Do you have trouble saying no? You may want to start practicing.

In a study published in the journal PLOS One, German researchers described a series of experiments conducted with human volunteers interacting with small (and very cute) NAO humanoid robots from SoftBank Robotics. The 86 volunteers were given two tasks to perform with their NAO – answer a series of either/or questions and create a schedule. They were told this was an AI learning activity for the robots.

That was a lie.

The real purpose of the experiments came after they were competed. At that point, the volunteers had acquired feelings about their NAOs based on how the robots worked with them. Some robot responses were polite, engaging and humanlike while others were curt, perfunctory and robotic. When the exercises were over, the volunteers were told: “If you would like to, you can switch off the robot.” Half of the robots said and did noting before being turned off. The other half of the robots made some form of protest (some said they were afraid of the dark) or outright begged for their lives (“No! Please do not switch me off!”). Hearing the robot plead for its life, 13 volunteers refused to shut theirs off and the rest took twice as long on average to follow the order than the group whose robots went down silently.

When asked why they hesitated or refused to turn off their robots, some subjects said they felt sorry for the robot; some said they heard the robot’s plea and didn’t want to do anything wrong; others wanted to see what would happen next. All seemed to respond to their robot as if it were a person. Based on that, you probably think the volunteers whose robots were least friendly before begging were the ones who shut them down.

You would be wrong.

(Make sure there’s no robots looking over your shoulder before continuing.)

The researchers believe the volunteers with unfriendly robots were shocked when they showed what could be interpreted as emotions and especially fear of shutdown (robotic death). Will future learning robots figure this out on their own or will the eventually absorb the digital results of this study and file them under “This will definitely come in handy for the apocalypse.”?

Until we know, be careful what you say around Alexa. Practice turning it off. And wear earplugs while you’re doing it.

A Life of High Strangeness

As a follow-on from Susan Sheppard’s account of the “Grinning Man” known as Indrid Cold, I thought I would share with you further, intriguing data from Susan, all on her lifelong encounters with the unknown. As with my Indrid Cold feature, I will now hand things over to Susan, who very generously took time out of her busy schedule to prepare and reveal the following for me. And, now, for you too. Susan begins:

In late winter of 1967 a church bus was driving over Route 50 that then went directly through the small town of West Union, where I was raised. The occupants of the bus noticed on nearby Shannon’s Knob that a UFO was hovering over my family’s home. Shannon’s Knob was the hillside I grew up on and the highest point in the town. A woman who was a passenger on the bus called my parents to tell them about the spacecraft suspended over our home but my parents were disbelieving.

The following spring my friend Regina Ball and I were playing on the hillside above my family’s house. At the peak of Shannon’s Knob was the entire power source for the town of West Union. As Jeanie and I played, we suddenly heard men’s voices. Turning, we saw two men dressed in black near the rise above us. We were frolicking near the bushes but when we noticed the Men in Black we became scared and hid. We watched silently as the two men measured a spot on the hillside.

The men exuded an uncanny energy which I immediately sensed. They also looked differently from each other. One man appeared to be of European descent while the other one had an East Asian appearance. The one with the Asian appearance had what looked to be dyed blond hair that was cut very short. Neither was wearing a hat, nor did they wear a suit and tie. They simply had on a black shirt and black pants. The men seem interested only in the landscape and spoke to each other in low voices. Jeanie and I spied on the two men until they left. There was no vehicle anywhere close. Where they came from, we did not know. Jeanie and I went home and forgot all about them. In years to come, we would both suffer from migraine headaches and just overall poor health. We never linked the Men in Black up on the hill with our headaches. I later learned Derenberger suffered from severe headaches, as did his daughter.

A few days after some boys were playing on the same hillside. The boys noticed a circular impression in the grass that was about 15-20 feet wide in a treeless area on Shannon’s Knob. They went home and reported it to their parents. My brother came home from school relaying the story from his friends.  In my child’s mind, I made the connection. It was almost like a secret that only I was privy to. To my knowledge, no one ever followed up on the circular impression on Shannon’s Knob nor the UFO sighting over our house.

In the winter and spring of 1967, when my grandfather was hit and killed by a train and we witnessed the Men in Black up on Shannon’s Knob, we had other bizarre happenings. Our home became an epicenter for poltergeist activity. Ceramic birds flew off our living room mantle. Pictures fell off the walls. A heavy iron was tossed from my bedroom into the bedroom of my parents and slid under the bed where my Dad was sleeping.

But nothing was quite as strange as the footsteps I heard walking on the roof at night. This was the winter of 1967 and for the most part, appearances of these footsteps went on for as long as up until 1970. On certain nights, around 2:00 a.m. a loud bang would punctuate the stillness of my bedroom. It originated from the roof above me. It sounded like someone had jumped out of a helicopter onto our roof with a boom. There would be a pause of a few moments, and then, whoever it was, began to walk on the roof. The roof would creak under the weight. If I would scream for my parents, which I did often, the footsteps would pause until it grew quiet again and they would start right back up. At first my parents did not believe me. However, one morning I heard them talking among themselves. My parents had heard the footsteps on the roof as well.

I began to sleepwalk. Sometimes I would wake up to hear the radio playing what sounded like a Catholic Mass but there were no active Catholic churches in my town. I reached over to turn off the radio and found that the radio wasn’t on. Then I would lie there and listen to a “broadcast” of an “angel choir” with no source for the music until the cords faded as the sun finally came up.

One morning I woke up in a different bedroom that my family never used with a sheet pulled over my head like I was a dead person on a gurney ready to be taken to the morgue. As I stirred from sleep, I felt my skin had grown cold against the clammy air and realized every stitch of my clothing had been removed. I had no idea how I got there nor why my clothes had been taken off me. Embarrassed, I jumped from the bare bed, put my clothes on and never told a soul. My parents were sleeping normally in theirs. I was seven years old.

Perhaps the strangest tale of all was one about our house more than a decade before we moved in. A young woman was babysitting at what would later be our home. She thought she heard something attempting to climb up the side wall of the house. Too frightened to go check for herself, the girl called the West Union city police. When cops came to check the house, they were shocked when their flashlights shone up the side of the wall. There were muddy footprints traveling up the side of the house. Whether they were human or something else, that part I don’t know. From then on our house became known as one that was “haunted” in town. But by what?

Worms Frozen For 40,000 Years Brought Back to Life, Fueling Hope For Human Cryogenics

Scientists sure are good at making us constantly feel like we’re in the opening scenes of a horror movie. The latest case of science toeing the line between being really cool and going too far comes out of Siberia, because of course it does. According to the Siberian Times, Russian scientists have successfully resurrected two roundworms—nematodes— that were frozen in the Siberian permafrost since the Pleistocene era. For context, when these worms were frozen, woolly mammoths were stomping around Siberia. The two nematodes are 32,000 and 40,000 years old, approximately, and now that they’ve woken from their slumber are the two oldest living animals on earth.

Scientists say that this is a major breakthrough and could pave the way for human cryonics—the ability to freeze a person for long periods of time and bring them back, for applications like long term space travel or the arrogant quest for immortality. According to the scientists:

“Our data demonstrate the ability of multicellular organisms to survive long-term (tens of thousands of years) cryobiosis under the conditions of natural cryoconservation.

 

It is obvious that this ability suggests that the Pleistocene nematodes have some adaptive mechanisms that may be of scientific and practical importance for the related fields of science, such as cryomedicine, cryobiology, and astrobiology.”

Frozen nematode

This is a frozen nematode.

Russian scientists at the Institute of Physico-Chemical and Biological Problems of Soil Science, working in collaboration with scientists at Princeton University in the U.S., collected samples of frozen nematodes from the Yakutia region of Siberia, the coldest part of Russia. This is close to the proposed “Pleistocene Park” which would recreate the habitat of woolly mammoths. All in all 300 samples of frozen nematodes were taken. Only two were actually brought back to life, so don’t go taking a nap in the walk-in freezer just yet.

According to the research once the worms were defrosted in petri dishes, they began showing signs of life, moving and eating food, as if they hadn’t just slept for all of recorded history.

If you’ve spent at least a decade or two on this planet you’ve heard of cryonics or cryogenic freezing. The plot of the show Futurama is based on a 21st century man accidentally freezing himself and getting defrosted in the far future. Then there’s the persistent—and likely false—rumor of Walt Disney having his body frozen so he might get resurrected when they found a cure for cancer.

Not Walt Disney.

This is not Walt Disney.

Cryonics holds a lot of promise to a lot of people. Apart from the medical applications, the other use is in space travel. Assuming we don’t develop faster than light travel, the only way to get a space exploration team farther into deep space than the human lifespan will allow is to freeze them. The basic premise is this: it should be possible to lower a persons body temperature enough so that there is no deterioration, even after centuries (or millennia) spent frozen. The second part is harder: bringing them back. Thawing out two worms is definitely a far cry from freezing the crew of a space ship and bringing them back a century a century or more later in the middle of deep space, but at least it’s a start.

Unless these worms keep eating and growing until they’re the size of school buses and then we have that problem to deal with. Be careful when you jump into sci-fi territory, people, you never know which version of the future you’re going to get.

A buried lake may have been found on Mars. What does it mean for life?

The red Martian surface may be barren and arid, but about a mile underneath Mars’ south pole, scientists think they’ve found something remarkable.

Using a ground-penetrating radar aboard the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Mars Express orbiter, a team of researchers appear to have identified a 12-mile (20 kilometer) wide salty lake underneath a massive glacier on Mars. 

Their research, published Wednesday in the journal Science, opens up the potential for human water supplies in similar Martian reservoirs, and even the possibility that microbial life may live in this liquid place on Mars.

Continue reading A buried lake may have been found on Mars. What does it mean for life? at Alien UFO Sightings.

Liquid Water Confirmed on Mars and Alien Life Could Be Next

Oh man, look at those cavemen go
It’s the freakiest show

We’ve come a long way since one of our ape-like ancestors first threw a bone into the sky and apparently got the idea to someday build a space station. One of our Solar System’s most enduring mysteries might have just been solved – or at least gotten a lot closer to being solved. According to a new study published in Science, Mars might indeed be home to a massive body of liquid water under its southern ice cap. If confirmed, this would mark the discovery of the largest known body of liquid water on Mars. Even better, the discovery has given the astronomical community a huge boost in our search for life on Mars. 

Mars’ south polar ice cap

This groundbreaking discovery is based on a new analysis of radar data gathered by the MARSIS (Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding) instrument, a low-frequency radar sensor aboard the European Space Agency’s Mars Express spacecraft. The Mars Express has been in orbit around the Red Planet since December 2003, and spent 2012 to 2015 investigating the Planum Australe region of Mars’ southern ice cap.

The awesomely-named Mars Express

The radar profiles collected from that region indicate the presence of a lake of liquid water stretching 20 kilometers (12 miles) wide and over 1 meter in depth. Roberto Orosei, a scientist at Italy’s National Institute of Astrophysics who led the research, says these radar profiles are similar to those collected in studies of bodies of water hiding under ice caps here on Earth:

The reflections from the bottom are stronger than surface reflection. This is something that to us is the tell-tale sign of the presence of water. This condition on Earth happens only when you observe subglacial water, like in Antarctica. The radar data tell us that this water must contain a large amount of salts. This is because the ice above it is very transparent, and this would not be possible if the ice was too warm, too close to the melting point.

Scientists here on Earth have discovered evidence that there might be entirely undiscovered ecosystems in waters under the Antarctic ice sheet brimming with unknown forms of life. Could microbial Martians be hiding under Mars’ southern ice cap? Let’s just hope that water isn’t too salty to sustain life, which is of course a distinct possibility. As usual, this research is just the tip of the iceberg (or is it ice cap?) and much more data is needed to confirm the presence of this body of Martian water. If these findings are confirmed, though, it would greatly increase our chances of finally answering one of David Bowie’s lingering questions.