Sunday, February 08, 2009

Seen From Space: Big Week in Space News (UPDATED)

UPDATE: Pretty much a puff-piece on SpaceX, but interesting timing nonetheless.

Number of alien worlds quantified
Intelligent civilisations are out there and there could be thousands of them, according to an Edinburgh scientist.

The discovery of more than 330 planets outside our solar system in recent years has helped refine the number of life forms that are likely to exist.

The current research estimates that there are at least 361 intelligent civilisations in our Galaxy and possibly as many as 38,000.
Is There a Planet X?
Planet X would be the most significant addition to the solar system since the discovery of Pluto, the now notorious non-planet, in 1930. When the International Astronomical Union voted to downgrade Pluto to dwarf planet status in 2006, they established three criteria for a fully blown planet in our solar system: it must orbit the sun; its gravity must suffice to mould it into a near-spherical shape; and it must be massive enough to have ploughed its orbit clear of other bits and bobs. Pluto falls down on this third point. It is just one of many Kuiper belt objects (KBOs), icy bits of debris that pepper space from Neptune's orbit at 30 astronomical units out to around 50 AU, where 1 AU is the distance between Earth and the sun.
Telescope sees smallest exoplanet
The smallest planet yet found outside the Solar System has been detected by a French space telescope. The rocky world is less than twice the size of Earth. Only a handful of planets have so far been found with a mass comparable to Earth, Venus, Mars or Mercury.
Google Mars launches
NASA and Google announced Monday the release of a new Mars mode in Google Earth that brings to everyone’s desktop a high-res, 3D view of the Red Planet.

According to a NASA news release, the mode enables users “to fly virtually through enormous canyons and scale huge mountains on Mars that are much larger than any found on Earth.” Users can explore the planet through the eyes of Mars rovers and see satellite imagery from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and other probes.
UPDATE: Reader PJ noted the NASA/Google project, The Singularity University:
Singularity University, which will be housed on the NASA Ames base near Mountain View and begin classes in June, is the brainchild of Ray Kurzweil and Peter Diamandis. The two world-renowned scientists were expected to unveil their plans at the TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conference beginning in Long Beach today.

The school hopes to attract students from a cross section of emerging disciplines - including nanotechnology, biotechnology and information technology - to tackle huge issues facing humanity.
Interesting collaboration. Maybe "Singularity" and "Disclosure" are somehow connected.

UPDATE II: Not exactly space news, but tying back to the Hulu ad:
Internet users in the United States watched a record 14.3 ("17"- CK) billion online videos in December, an increase of 13 percent over the previous month, according to comScore, an Internet marketing research firm. Popular site YouTube led the growth charge, accounting for almost half the incremental gain in videos viewed.

Internet TV services such as Hulu, Joost and Veoh also are feeding off a new generation of tech-savvy users in search of cheap access to video content.- CNN