From here on Earth, the planet Kepler-186f is a faint spot in the chaotic and twinkling universe. Its star is dim and far, far away.
But Kepler-186f is making headlines on Earth because, despite its distance, it looks a lot like our own planet.
The Kepler-186 system is in the constellation Cygnus, which stargazers will know as the easy-to-spot swan in the northern hemisphere’s summertime sky.
From a human perspective, that makes it unusual. Kepler-186f is the first Earth-like planet in the habitable zone around its star that scientists have ever found. (!)
To the average American, the news about NASA’s Kepler spacecraft discovering evidence of potentially “billions” of Earth-like planets in “habitable” solar orbits in the universe might feel like a paradigm-shifting moment. If there are billions of Earth-like planets out there, the possibility of life existing somewhere other than Earth suddenly goes from seeming like an odds-against to an odds-on notion.
But to NASA’s scientists, that paradigm had shifted long before the headlines hit—indeed, before Kepler even launched.
Read more. [Image: NASA]
Curiosity watched as one moon eclipsed the other.
The ancients read their stories into the skies; we read corporate logos.
Read more. [Image: T.A. Rector (University of Alaska Anchorage) and H. Schweiker (WIYN and NOAO/AURA/NSF)]
A reminder of how much we still have to learn about our own little corner of the universe
Spoiler! It’s blue.
Thanks to a well-timed tip from landscape blogger Alex Trevi of Pruned, Venue made a detour on our exit out of Flagstaff, Arizona, to visit the old black cinder fields of an extinct volcano—where, incredibly, NASA and its Apollo astronauts once practiced their, at the time, forthcoming landing on the moon.
Read more. [Image: Venue]
Astronauts can, certainly, tear up — they’re human, after all. But in zero gravity, the tears themselves can’t flow downward in the way they do on Earth. The moisture generated has nowhere to go. Tears, Feustel put it, “don’t fall off of your eye … they kind of stay there.” NASA spacewalk officer Allison Bollinger, who oversaw Feustel’s EVA, confirmed this assessment. “They actually kind of conglomerate around your eyeball,” she said.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]
[Images: Kevin Gill]