TIME space

NASA Discovers New Earth-Like Planet

It's a "bigger, older cousin to Earth"

NASA has discovered an Earth-like planet orbiting around a star, which a NASA researcher called a “bigger, older cousin to Earth.”

Kepler 452b was discovered on NASA’s Kepler mission orbiting in the habitable zone around a sun-like star, or the zone in which liquid water could pool on the surface of an orbiting planet, according to a NASA statement.

About 12 planets had previously been discovered in habitable zones that had similarities to earth, but, “Kepler-452b fires the planet hunter’s imagination because it is the most similar to the Earth-sun system found yet,” NASA’s statement says. “A planet at the right temperature within the habitable zone, and only about one-and-a-half times the diameter of Earth, circling a star very much like our own sun.”

Along with Kepler 452b, this mission also found 11 other small habitable zone planets. “This exciting result brings us one step closer to finding an Earth 2.0,” said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.

Read next: See the Evolution of the Iconic Blue Marble Photo

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TIME aliens

Your Phone Will Power Stephen Hawking’s Search For Aliens

Britain Extraterrestrials
Matt Dunham—AP Russian tech entrepreneur Yuri Milner, left, speaks next to renowned physicist Stephen Hawking during a press conference in London on July 20, 2015

But not with an iPhone.

To help Stephen Hawking’s $100 millions search for extraterrestrial life with Yuri Milner, smartphones will prove key. On Monday he and Milner, a billionaire, announced Breakthrough Listen, an initiative to find life beyond Earth.

By using the Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing app, which can be downloaded to Android phones, a user can help power the search for alien life. The app, according to Forbes, is powered via Wifi and won’t use a person’s data.

The phone app works like this: Data from two massive telescopes scan the universe for signals of alien life. By powering on the app, you allow the telescope’s collected data to be analyzed via crowd-sourcing. “BOINC computes only when your device is plugged in and charged, so it won’t run down your battery,” according to the app’s Google Play site.

But quite notably, the app can’t be used for iOS devices. So, sorry, iPhone users.

“We believe that life arose spontaneously on Earth,” Hawking said during the announcement. “So in an infinite universe, there must be other occurrences of life.”

“I don’t have high expectations, but the search itself will teach us quite a bit,” Milner told The Washington Post. “We could find something we’re not even looking for.”

Click this link to download the Android app.

TIME space

Stephen Hawking Endorses New Hunt for Alien Life, Despite Fear of Being ‘Conquered and Colonized’

Britain Extraterrestrials
Matt Dunham—AP Russian tech entrepreneur Yuri Milner, left, speaks next to renowned physicist Stephen Hawking during a press conference in London on July 20, 2015

"We are alive. We are intelligent. We must know"

Stephen Hawking has long made his concerns about the search for extraterrestrial life clear. But after his appearance with Russian billionaire Yuri Milner on Monday to announce Breakthrough Listen, the new $100 million initiative looking for signs of intelligent life, the famous physicist seems to have at least partially reconsidered.

Hawking famously revealed his worry that any aliens advanced enough to contact earth would be “looking to conquer and colonize whatever planets they could reach” during a 2010 episode of the miniseries Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking. And he clearly hasn’t changed his mind completely. “If you look at history, contact between humans and less intelligent organisms have often been disastrous from their point of view, and encounters between civilizations with advanced versus primitive technologies have gone badly for the less advanced,” he told reporters at the Breakthrough announcement. “A civilization reading one of our messages could be billions of years ahead of us. If so, they will be vastly more powerful, and may not see us as any more valuable than we see bacteria.”

Still, he said, the initiative is of special importance in a moment when humanity’s achievements in space are in the spotlight. “We are alive. We are intelligent. We must know,” he said of the search for life beyond earth.

Breakthrough Listen will provide funding explicitly for the search for extraterrestrial life, scanning the million stars closes to Earth and portions of 100 neighboring galaxies but not for sending messages or signals to communicate with that life, an important distinction for scientists like Hawking, who are concerned with the possible consequences of contact. Instead, a second program, Breakthrough Message, will host a competition in which anyone can submit ideas for potential interplanetary messages.

TIME space

How to Watch the Lyrid Meteor Shower This Week

The April Lyrids in Kutahya
Fatma Selma Kocabas Aydin—Anadolu Agency/Getty Images The April Lyrids, a meteor shower lasting from April 16 to April 26 each year, is seen over the ancient city of Aizanoi in Kutahya, Turkey on April 23, 2014.

The best time is just before dawn

You won’t want to miss this week’s meteor shower, so here’s what you need to know.

The annual Lyrid meteor shower occurs from April 16 to 25, but the best time to see it will be right before dawn on April 22 and 23, according to Slooh, an online observatory. This year’s shower promises to be especially good to watch because it coincides with a crescent moon, meaning the sky will be darker than usual.

“This year the moon will be a waxing crescent only 1/15th the brightness of a full moon, and it will set early, allowing excellent dark sky conditions for this shower,” said Slooh astronomer Bob Berman in a statement.

The best views will be in Europe, but people all across the globe should be able to catch some of the dazzling Lyrid fireballs by heading outside just before dawn. You can also watch a livestream of the meteor shower below, hosted by Slooh, beginning at 8 p.m. EDT Wednesday.

 

Read next: All That Glitters: 15 Breathtaking Photos of Meteor Showers

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TIME astronomy

Scientists Have Discovered the Biggest Known ‘Structure’ In the Universe

But you couldn't be blamed for missing it

Scientists researching a mysteriously cold region in space have found what they say is the largest known “structure” in the universe — a gigantic hole.

Discovered by researchers at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, the expanse is being called the “supervoid” and measures 1.8 billion light years across, the Guardian reported.

The university’s lead researcher István Szapudi called it “the largest individual structure ever identified by humanity,” although his team’s targeted survey confirmed that it contains absolutely nothing — all scientists know is that about 10,000 galaxies are missing from it in a section that shows unusually low temperatures.

Read more at The Guardian

Read next: How to Watch the Lyrid Meteor Shower This Week

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TIME Outer Space

Asteroid Flies By Earth With Its Own Moon in Tow

The asteroid and its companion were too far away to pose a threat

The asteroid that flew past Earth on Monday has its own moon.

The 230-foot wide moon trailed behind asteroid 2004 BL86, and NASA scientists captured images as it passed. The asteroid and its companion were too far away to pose a threat, flying about 745,000 miles (1.2 million kilometers) from Earth. But it will still be the largest asteroid known to pass this close to the earth until 2027, when an asteroid called 1999 AN10 is expected to arrive.

Asteroid 2004 BL86 will not return to pass by Earth for at least another 200 years, NASA scientists say.

“While it poses no threat to Earth for the foreseeable future, it’s a relatively close approach by a relatively large asteroid, so it provides us a unique opportunity to observe and learn more,” Don Yeomans said a statement.

TIME space

Stunning Images Of Galaxy Clusters Teach Scientists About Star Birth

Chandra observations of the Perseus and Virgo galaxy clusters suggest turbulence may be preventing hot gas there from cooling
CXC/Stanford/NASA Chandra observations of the Perseus and Virgo galaxy clusters suggest turbulence may be preventing hot gas from cooling.

Turbulence is preventing star formation

It seems that the stars have aligned in the world of astronomy.

In a new study, researchers found that galactic turbulence may prevent the formation of new stars in outer galaxy clusters, which are the largest objects in the universe held together by gravity, existing at temperatures upwards of a million degrees.

Scientists have long wondered why these massive clusters have not begun to cool and form stars.

“We knew that somehow the gas in clusters is being heated to prevent it cooling and forming stars. The question was exactly how,” said lead researcher Irina Zhuravleva, of Stanford University.

According to Zhuravleva, the heat is being “channeled” through turbulence within the cluster. This movement is what maintains the cluster’s high temperature, preventing star formation.

TIME Outer Space

Look Up: There’s a Rare Partial Solar Eclipse Thursday

Sudan Solar Eclipse
Anadolu Agency—Getty Images A partial solar eclipse is seen over the Sudanese capital Khartoum on November 3, 2013.

Here's when to look up at the sky

As long as rainclouds aren’t obstructing the view, people across the United States will be able to look up Thursday afternoon to witness the moon cover part of the sun in a rare partial solar eclipse.

According to Weather.com, nearly all of North America, barring part of Canada and New England, will be able to see the display. Sky and Telescope has a list of when the eclipse will be visible in different major cities. The partial solar eclipse will be viewable in New York beginning at 5:49 p.m. and peaking at 6:03, though skywatchers on the west coast will get the best show — the eclipse begins in Los Angeles at 2:08 p.m. and hit its peak midway point at 3:28 p.m. local time.

Here’s a map that tracks eclipse visibility:

While there will be another partial solar eclipse Aug. 21, 2017, Business Insider reports there won’t be another that is visible to the entire country until 2023. So maybe step outside — but take precautions.

“Looking directly at the Sun is harmful to your eyes at any time, partial eclipse or no,” says Sky and Telescope’s Alan MacRobert. “The only reason a partial eclipse is dangerous is that it prompts people to gaze at the Sun, something they wouldn’t normally do. The result can be temporary or permanent blurred vision or blind spots at the center of your view.”

[Sky and Telescope]

TIME space

Researchers Just Discovered The Brightest Dead Star Ever Found

A rare and mighty pulsar (pink) can be seen at the center of the galaxy Messier 82 in this new multi-wavelength portrait, released on Oct. 8, 2014.
NASA/JPL-Caltech A rare and mighty pulsar (pink) can be seen at the center of the galaxy Messier 82 in this new multi-wavelength portrait, released on Oct. 8, 2014.

Astronomers using NASA’s NuSTAR telescope array have found something beautiful about 12 million light-years from our planet Earth: The brightest dead star, or pulsar, ever found. It’s only called a dead star because it’s the leftovers from a supernova — this thing is still very much alive, pumping out around 10 million suns’ worth of energy, according to NASA. Scientists originally thought the pulsar, located in the Messier 82 galaxy, was a black hole, but it turns out that isn’t the case at all.

“You might think of this pulsar as the ‘Mighty Mouse’ of stellar remnants,” said Fiona Harrison, the NuSTAR principal investigator at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California, in a NASA release about the pulsar. “It has all the power of a black hole, but with much less mass.”

TIME Outer Space

Russia Says It’s Putting Another Man on the Moon…By 2030

Soyuz TMA-12M Prepares To Launch
Joel Kowsky—NASA/Getty Images The Soyuz TMA-12M rocket launches to the International Space Station, March 26, 2014 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

One giant leap for mankind, again

Russia’s space agency said Tuesday it will launch a “full-scale” exploration of the Moon as part of a long-term mission to get a human being on the lunar surface for the first time in decades.

The head of Roscomsos, Oleg Ostapenko, said that designs were already underway for a manned spacecraft that he estimated could reach the moon by the end of the next decade. “By that time, based on the results of lunar surface exploration by unmanned space probes, we will designate [the] most promising places for lunar expeditions and lunar bases,” Ostapenko said, according to a translation by Russian state-owned news agency ITAR-TASS.

The mission was announced at a government meeting chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who has previously threatened to sever ties with American space agencies over the West’s reproach of Russia’s involvement in the Ukraine crisis.

“At the end of the next decade, we plan to complete tests of a super-heavy-class carries rocket and begin full-scale exploration of the Moon,” Rogozin said.

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