It’s confirmed. There is water on the Moon. OK,
what’s the big deal? Water is very common in the cosmos
and has been seen on the moon before. The
difference is that previously it had been been only in craters near the lunar south pole, perpetually in darkness. Now, as the updated NASA announcement said,
NASA’s SOFIA Discovers Water on Sunlit Surface of Moon,
which will be much more accessible to future explorers.
How significant this is remains to be seen, but it has provided Katie Mack with some
Last month I posted about a Possible Sign of Life on Venus, which
reported on Phosphine gas in the cloud decks of Venus.
Earlier this month I mentioned More about phosphine on Venus.
The story is not over yet.
A Question of Phosphine
Re-analysis of the 267-GHz ALMA observations of Venus: No statistically significant detection
. This team re-analyzed the same data used in the first Phosphine gas
paper, but came to the opposite conclusion. So it comes down to a very complicated question of statistical analysis.
Professor Coles also linked to A stringent upper limit of the PH3 abundance at
the cloud top of Venus by another team which included Jane Greaves, first author of Phosphine
gas in the cloud decks of Venus.
Following up on Possible Sign of Life on Venus. After that
announcement some scientists took another look at 1978 data from the
Pioneer Venus Multiprobe. At
the time nobody was specifically looking for phosphine, but a new analysis of the raw data supports the possibility that there is phospine in the
atmosphere of Venus. Details at Is Phosphine in the Mass Spectra from Venus’ Clouds?.
This has happened before in astronomy. After both Neptune and Pluto were discovered, astronomers looked at old records and found that their
predecessors had seen both bodies, but had not realized they were significant. In the case of Neptune one of those predecessors was
Yesterday I got an email from Cosmoquest about a science
press conference (“presser”) where a new discovery would be announced. With all the new distance-based
communication technology anybody could watch, rather than just those in a select room, however large. The
event was put on by the Royal Astronomical Society today. I watched it on the
Cosmoquest Twitch TV channel. I had never heard of Twitch TV before.
An international team of astronomers, led by Professor
Jane Greaves of Cardiff University,
today announced the discovery of a rare molecule – phosphine – in the clouds of Venus. On Earth, this gas is
only made industrially, or by microbes that thrive in oxygen-free environments.
The discovery was made by spectroscopy using two different radio telescopes. The significance of this is that the production of phospine
by purely chemical processes is very unlikely in the atmosphere of Venus. The team looked at every possible chemical reaction they
could think up, and failed to find any that could come close to producing the observed amount of phospine.
Murder ‘comes naturally’ to chimpanzees
A major study suggests that killing among chimpanzees results from normal competition, not human interference.
Neil DeGrasse Tyson: US need not lose its edge in science … but if things continue as they have been the last couple decades, it will. This seems quite similar to the talk that Mia McDavid, Rachel Hadley and I heard him give in May
Nathan Taylor, Why Astronomers and Journalists should pay heed to Biologists about ET.
Years ago I wrote something that mentioned similar issues: Extraterrestrial Intelligence: A skeptical view. This was long before the Kepler space probe. However, Taylor seems to be saying the fundamentals of the issue have not changed.
As Taylor points out, there is an ad hominem issue here. Frank Tipler, who was a forceful advocate of the no-ETs view in the early and mid 1980s, subsequently became a “crackpot” (Taylor’s word, but I agree completely). However, this does not invalidate Tipler’s earlier work.
Taylor also points out that for practical (creating life) purposes, the universe is still very young. Star formation will continue for a long time, a necessary condition for life. ETs may yet turn up, but you will need to be very patient.