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NASA TESS Observatory Will Hunt For Alien Life On "Super-Earth" Exoplanets 112

Posted by samzenpus
from the hello-neighbor dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Kepler may be down, but now NASA has another planet-hunting tool in mind. The space agency is preparing the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) observatory in order to follow in Kepler's footsteps. NASA has been searching for alien planets for several years now. Learning about strange exoplanets such as enormous, hot 'Jupiters' and 'rogue planets' that actually cruise through space without a parent star certainly adds to the body of research concerning our universe. Yet what scientists are really interested in are the Earth-like planets that may hold the potential for life."
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NASA TESS Observatory Will Hunt For Alien Life On "Super-Earth" Exoplanets

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  • Dear slashdot mods (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 26, 2013 @08:34PM (#43829667)

    As a regular reader I ask you kindly, please do something about the vulgar AC that first post trolls this site. If you can't IP ban the troll then at least delete their posts. This is not reddit, please disrespect the "free speech" of vulgar trolls that add nothing to the conversation.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Adjust your settings to hide comments moderated under +2, and you shouldn't see many trolls. I agree, this should not be like reddit.
      • by icebike (68054)

        Adjust your settings to hide comments moderated under +2, and you shouldn't see many trolls. I agree, this should not be like reddit.

        It would be wonderful if SlashDot had some settings that actually worked on Mobile Devices.

        I can't get that stupid slider to work on anything but a desktop browser. Radio buttons would be nice.
        A control panel that actually worked would be nice.

        Here's an Idea, All Slashdot editors and admins are relegated to using Off the Shelf tables next month.
        For the whole month.

    • by Nyder (754090) on Sunday May 26, 2013 @09:36PM (#43829893) Journal

      As a regular reader I ask you kindly, please do something about the vulgar AC that first post trolls this site. If you can't IP ban the troll then at least delete their posts. This is not reddit, please disrespect the "free speech" of vulgar trolls that add nothing to the conversation.

      They could just make people have to log into post. Because the problem is Anonymous Cowards act like anonymous cowards.

    • "As a regular person I ask you kindly, please do something about the vulgar citizens that live in the world. If you can't arrest the fool then at least remove their vocal cords. This is not the USA, please destroy the "free speech" of individuals that I dislike, they add nothing to my conversation."

    • by symbolset (646467) *

      I've put a million words here: more work than most famous authors. Some that I regret. I would like to have many of those words back. And still I say: "no."

      The uncensored nature of /. is its special offer, unique in all the world. If /. censors it loses what makes it special.

  • Are they're looking for life on planets not warmed by a star?
    Or just hoping to find an alien Moonbase Alpha?

    • by hutsell (1228828)

      Are they're looking for life on planets not warmed by a star? Or just hoping to find an alien Moonbase Alpha?

      From what I understand, the geothermal core is essential for our survival; without it, the heat derived from the Sun isn't capable of being able to appropriately compensate in recreating the conditions for our type of life forms. However, there is speculation those conditions may work for the reverse. (Otoh, an alien Moonbase or Death Star would be an interesting bonus.)

      • Re:No star? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by icebike (68054) on Monday May 27, 2013 @12:58AM (#43830657)

        From what I understand, the geothermal core is essential for our survival; without it, the heat derived from the Sun isn't capable of being able to appropriately compensate in recreating the conditions for our type of life forms.

        Perhaps on THIS planet the core's heat is necessary, but that certainly wouldn't hold for a planet somewhat closer to the sun.
        There must be some proximity where the star's warmth is just goldilocks right.

        There are far too many hard and fast rules for habitability imposed by people who do nothing but speculate, with very little imagination.

        We need a moon,
        We need a magnetic field.
        We need a molten core.

        The list goes on.

        Look, its no surprise that earth is the perfect planet for humans, but that doesn't mean everything else has to be
        exactly the same. We don't all live on the African savanna, even though Groog probably insisted to Ooook that
        people could never live anywhere but within sight of one specific banyan tree.

        • Perhaps on THIS planet the core's heat is necessary, but that certainly wouldn't hold for a planet somewhat closer to the sun. There must be some proximity where the star's warmth is just goldilocks right.

          You wouldn't be alive if this planet were significantly closer to the Sun. I believe we're sort of dangerously close to the inner border of the habitable zone. There's hardly any more CO2 for the crust to absorb to compensate for the rising solar radiation.

          • by icebike (68054)

            But we have a molten core, and a very active one.
            The topic under discussion in this subthread concerns planets that might not have a molten core or a much smaller core.

      • 1400 watts solar per square meter compared to about a half fwatt rom internal heat flow. However the core heat flow causes the magnetic dynamo and plate tectonics. Large planets like Jupiter the interal flow rivals the solar radiance Jupiter is still creating heat from grivitational shrinkage, but too small for fusion.
    • Re:No star? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Nyder (754090) on Sunday May 26, 2013 @09:37PM (#43829899) Journal

      Are they're looking for life on planets not warmed by a star?
      Or just hoping to find an alien Moonbase Alpha?

      They just mentioned those no star planets as an example of how cool it is out in space, but they will be looking for earth like planets in the habitable zone, which means a planet that orbits a star/sun.

    • by Longjmp (632577)
      Interesting idea.
      I'm wondering if a planet like Earth would be capable of developing and sustaining life without a sun, let's say 200 meters or so below the surface.
      Earth does have a pretty powerful "generator" in its core, I just don't know if that would be enough.

      To say it more sloppy: If (against all known physics) our sun would decide to collapse silently, would we be able to survive if we all grab shovels and dig really fast?
      • by the gnat (153162)

        I'm wondering if a planet like Earth would be capable of developing and sustaining life without a sun, let's say 200 meters or so below the surface.

        There is actually a huge amount of biomass beneath the seabed - all anaerobic prokaryotic microbes, as far I know. Deep sea volcanic vents are another major ecosystem. So it may be theoretically possible to develop terrestrial life without a sun (and certainly possible without direct light), but liquid water is still an absolute requirement, and geothermal hea

        • by Longjmp (632577)
          I guess I should have been more specific.
          Of course there is life in the deep sea (and caves). However, without the sun, temperature on Earth's surface (including the sea) would be around 3 Kelvin.
          Not much happening there (anymore) concerning life.
          Questions is, would geothermal energy alone be enough to provide enough heat for life? Or would a planet cool down entirely, despite of the reactor burning down below, bringing it to a halt.
          • by icebike (68054)

            Questions is, would geothermal energy alone be enough to provide enough heat for life? Or would a planet cool down entirely, despite of the reactor burning down below, bringing it to a halt.

            I think its not inconceivable that there could be some optimum sized planet with an optimally sized core that might survive long enough to have developed life. But it would be a massive heat radiator which should be visible in the infra-red.

          • by dryeo (100693)

            The interior of the Earth would still be warm without the sun. I'd guess a couple of miles down on average, closer where there is volcanic activity including warm spots at the bottom of the ocean where geothermal energy is escaping from the interior. Those hot spots are likely to move around so probably not much of an ecosystem would be present as life would have a hard time moving from oasis to oasis.
            Life would be pretty simple and whether life could spontaneously form under those conditions is pretty ques

      • by symbolset (646467) *
        In addition to geothermal heating, Natural fission reactors [wikipedia.org] are known to occur.
  • by OhANameWhatName (2688401) on Sunday May 26, 2013 @08:42PM (#43829707)
    Extra-terrestrial life has been visiting the earth for 10's if not 100's of thousands of years. What do you think the ancient Hindu scrolls talk about?

    In the fifties, there were thousands of reliable documented UFO sightings covered up by the US government with such ridiculous explanations as 'moonlight reflecting off of swamp gas'. Google up project blue book. We all know about the Roswell stories and there and hundreds of similar reliable situations throughout the last 50 years. Given that we know that extra-terrestrial life is and has been visiting the earth, what is with NASA still launching vessels into orbit to 'search' for extra-terrestrial beings?

    It's a thinly veiled ruse to fool an unsuspecting public into believing that the US government's mis-information campaign is the truth.

    Let's turn the tide and start a terrible wave of truth here. I've seen extra-terrestrial craft in the skies, how about you?

    Take the red pill.
    • by the gnat (153162) on Sunday May 26, 2013 @08:58PM (#43829757)

      there were thousands of reliable documented UFO sightings covered up by the US government with such ridiculous explanations as 'moonlight reflecting off of swamp gas'

      Put yourself in their shoes for a moment. You're testing supersonic spy planes in an era where our largest adversary had successfully stolen nuclear weapons research from us, and you're trying to stop the local yokels from asking too many questions about the unimaginably fast, jet-black craft that keep whooshing overhead. What do you tell them that will shut them up, without saying "we're testing top-secret spy planes that will overfly the Soviet Union"?

      If extraterrestrials really did visit Earth as often (and for as long) as you claim, btw, there would be actual hard evidence. There is none. The simplest explanation is that a) people freak out when confronted with rapid technological change, and b) the human brain is a superb pattern-finding machine - so good that it often finds patterns where none exist. And if we're going to treat ancient Hindu scrolls as reliable documentary evidence, why not just take the Book of Genesis at face value too, and have the government stop funding evolution research? (Or medical research, for that matter - clearly divine intervention can cure disease more effectively than modern medicine.)

      • I am sure the government has tested flying saucers in one form or another. The anti-gravity experiments they carried out surely had some successes.

        • by sribe (304414)

          I am sure the government has tested flying saucers in one form or another.

          Why yes, they have. It's a sure thing, because the documents have bee de-classified and those involved in the work have talked about it. Hell, pictures from very early flight tests have been published.

          The anti-gravity experiments they carried out surely had some successes.

          Well now. That's not quite such a certain thing ;-)

      • by Nyder (754090)

        there were thousands of reliable documented UFO sightings covered up by the US government with such ridiculous explanations as 'moonlight reflecting off of swamp gas'

        Put yourself in their shoes for a moment. You're testing supersonic spy planes in an era where our largest adversary had successfully stolen nuclear weapons research from us, and you're trying to stop the local yokels from asking too many questions about the unimaginably fast, jet-black craft that keep whooshing overhead. What do you tell them that will shut them up, without saying "we're testing top-secret spy planes that will overfly the Soviet Union"?

        If extraterrestrials really did visit Earth as often (and for as long) as you claim, btw, there would be actual hard evidence. There is none. The simplest explanation is that a) people freak out when confronted with rapid technological change, and b) the human brain is a superb pattern-finding machine - so good that it often finds patterns where none exist. And if we're going to treat ancient Hindu scrolls as reliable documentary evidence, why not just take the Book of Genesis at face value too, and have the government stop funding evolution research? (Or medical research, for that matter - clearly divine intervention can cure disease more effectively than modern medicine.)

        Only problem is, that when stuff crash from the sky, usually the Government is there to collect it. Then we never know. Now I'm not saying UFO's are real, it's just if they are, and the government knows, they have been cleaning up after them.

        As for your taking Genesis & the Hindu scrolls at face value, no, that would be stupid, but it doesn't mean that there isn't some truth in those. I haven't read the Hindu scrolls (would like to though), so I am not that familiar with what they say, but based

        • by dcw3 (649211)

          As for the government cleaning up, efforts like what you claim would have had taken many people over many years. Nobody can keep secrets that big for that long. And what about all the evidence left from before recent history? Who cleaned up back in the 14-1600s? Did native Indians tribes hide the evidence?

          As for your premise that " there most likely is other life out there", until there's real evidence, the odds are just as likely that religion is real.

          • As for your premise that " there most likely is other life out there", until there's real evidence, the odds are just as likely that religion is real.

            I'd say the existence of aliens is more likely since life is known to be possible within the physical realities of the universe, while deities are not.

        • Only problem is, that when stuff crash from the sky, usually the Government is there to collect it. Then we never know.

          The government's very best cleanup efforts still aren't perfect. When an A12 (SR71 prototype) being tested from Area 51 crashed, it got the full MIB-style coverup. They spread the story that a bomber carrying a nuke crashed to keep the locals away, and then tried to clean up every single piece so that nobody would find out that it was built from exotic smuggled Russian metals.

          And if you can find the crash site today and look hard you can still find pieces of that metal.

          • by kermidge (2221646)

            "that it was built from exotic smuggled Russian metals."

            Say what? Just what 'exotic smuggled Russian [sic] metals' were used to build the A-12? Are you saying Lockheed and its contractors didn't make their own stuff?

            • I'm having trouble finding a good source on it but the raw material titanium alloy used was smuggled from Russia.

              Best source I can find is this quote from Skunk Works by Ben Rich:

              "Our supplier, Titanium Metals Corporation, had only limited reserves of the precious alloy, so the CIA conducted a worldwide search and using third parties and dummy companies, managed to unobtrusively purchase the base metal from one of the world's leading exporters - the Soviet Union.

              The Russians never had an inkling of how they were actually contributing to the creation of the airplane being rushed into construction to spy on their homeland."

              • by kermidge (2221646)

                Ah, cool, hadn't seen this before, and thanks for the info. So, we're talking titanium then, but the quote isn't clear. In one part of the sentence it says "precious alloy" and later, "base metal." Titanium is an element, no? Now I'm confused, again. (Not that that's an unusual state of mind, mind.)

                Further, I can't quite reconcile 'smuggled from Russia' with 'one of the world's leading exporters [presumably of titanium]' Seems to me buying something on the open market, even if you're disguising the bu

      • by loufoque (1400831)

        The USSR did not steal nuclear weapon technology from the USA.

        • by the gnat (153162)

          The USSR did not steal nuclear weapon technology from the USA.

          Oh, really? [wikipedia.org] (And that's hardly the only example.)

        • by thrich81 (1357561)

          The first Soviet A-bomb was practically a copy of the US 'Fat Man' design. From the wikipedia article (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RDS-1) about it:
          " At Lavrenty Beria's insistence, the RDS-1 bomb was designed as an implosion weapon similar to the Fat Man bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan; RDS-1 also had a solid plutonium core. The bomb designers had developed a more sophisticated design (tested later as RDS-2), but rejected it due to the known reliability of the Fat Man type design; the USSR having received

      • by ks*nut (985334)
        In reference to the government of the United States turninng a blind eye to science, I think you would be astounded at some of the bullshit coming out of the beltway: if it doesn't have economic or defense benefits it won't be funded. We're allowing a misinformed few (Congress) to stifle pure research just when we're discovering some really interesting things about the universe and the prospect for life having evolved on other planets.
        • by dcw3 (649211)

          Disclaimer: I'm all for research, this included.

          It's a matter of priorities. Have you seen the debt lately? Have you seen unemployment lately? Have you seen the crumbling infrastructure lately?

          I'm not in favor of funding science projects when we can't afford to fund basic human needs such as healthcare.

      • > If extraterrestrials really did visit Earth as often (and for as long) as you claim, btw, there would be actual hard evidence.

        That is an assumption and a fallacy.

        In about 10 years we'll finally be able to meet our "neighbors" and you will be able to find out WHY mass-contact was not _allowed_.

    • by ThePeices (635180)

      Since you seem to have put some effort into your Trollpost, Ill put some effort in judging how well you did.

      After some deliberation, I have awarded you a 4/10.

      You scored points for the effort required to type out your Trollpost, as well as doing some research on the current bunk believed by serious UFO nutcases. I also awarded you points for your attention to spelling and grammar. ( many Troll attempts fail at even simple primary school level English )

      Unfortunately, I marked you down due to the obvious natu

      • Nothing you have posted is even slightly believable to even the uneducated

        You better warn wikipedia [wikipedia.org] because they've got some trash up there. Also, you might want to let the US Air Force [af.mil] know that project blue book never existed. Sheesh, the quality of information available from the government is certainly going downhill!

        But I'll give you a 6/10 for your debunking post. It contains no facts but really elicits the disbelief of the reader. It does an excellent job of maintaining the socially acceptable position of UFO debunking whilst also tying in subtle insult by association

    • by flayzernax (1060680) on Sunday May 26, 2013 @09:22PM (#43829841)

      The truth is out there. But not many will ever find it. And many forget it's a constant quest to keep it up to date and patched.

      Americans don't want to believe that their lifestyle choices are dictated by media and personal misjudgment. As opposed to being dictated by circumstance and technology. Because of this people are particularly resistant to the idea that there might be more advanced societies interacting with certain humans or that our power elite might actively be perusing those "aliens".

      Or that our religions are heavily influenced ala, late Star Trek opener. The planet was Niburo and the Enterprise totally became an icon of those primitives. This is a not so subtle comment by your betters in Hollywood. I of course think that such influences are passing fads for a few generations like many things in human culture. But become more subtly embedded over time through repetition or interaction with other influences.

      Either way religions need to be looked at objectively. And we need to assume we are being watched to take the next steps as a society. This doesn't invalidate spirituality. Or modern science. It is in addition to those things we cannot explain. Simply saying "there's nothing over the ocean" is far worse then saying aliens did it. Or "We must go find out whether aliens did it!". One creates stagnation in society. While the other mentality seeks the truth.

      People who are investigating this process on their own are much further a long the path of truth then those who just repeat wrote memorized lessons from official sources of information provided by your exalted overlords.

      • People who are investigating this process on their own are much further a long the path of truth then those who just repeat wrote memorized lessons from official sources of information provided by your exalted overlords

        Damn but I wish I could mod you up. I'm guessing you weren't edumacated in a western civilisation?

      • by LesFerg (452838)

        People who are investigating this process on their own are much further a long the path of truth then those who just repeat wrote memorized lessons from official sources of information provided by your exalted overlords.

        If he wrote the meaning of the word rote enough times, maybe he would remember how to spell it.

    • by sribe (304414)

      We all know about the Roswell stories and there and hundreds of similar reliable situations throughout the last 50 years. Given that we know that extra-terrestrial life is and has been visiting the earth...

      Wow. The leap from unidentified flying objects to "they must be aliens" leaves a gap in logic wider and deeper than the Grand Canyon!

    • by CHIT2ME (2667601)
      Just drink the Kool-aide dude! You'll feel better soon!
  • by the gnat (153162) on Sunday May 26, 2013 @08:50PM (#43829735)

    Every time Slashdot posts a story about the search for extraterrestrial life, at least a half-dozen scientifically illiterate people complain (often quite stridently) that NASA (or whoever) is too narrow-minded because they're only looking at signs of terrestrial-like (carbon-based, oxygen-metabolizing) life. And every comment of this sort gets at least another half-dozen replies, from people who actually know at least a little bit of science, explaining, very patiently, that we have no idea what other forms of life might look like, chemically speaking, no way of knowing if such life forms exist, and thus no way of detecting their presence. It's so predictable, and so inane. This is one of the most fascinating open questions in modern science, but these threads simply get clogged up by idiots upset that NASA hasn't considered their ill-informed speculation.

    • by ThePeices (635180)

      The only acceptable response to those people is a good old fashioned Trolling.

      Remember, they are just a (vocal) minority, most of us here at Slashdot do actually have a modicum of intelligence, and can see the true merit behind such scientific endeavours.

    • They why did you start off by posting a totally off topic thread? If you do not like their opinions. Provide yours in counterpoint. An effectively non-trolly statement might sway some in your favor.

      Otherwise ignore them. Or start your own thread with your own qualifications.

      Or you know, admit that very few people know much about space. Including the ones that think they do. Considering how vast space is and how small and political Nasa could be...

    • by Legion303 (97901)

      Don't forget about the dumb fuck UFO conspiracy nuts who think a government that can't cover up blowjobs would be capable of preventing leaks about alien visitors for over 60 years.

  • What if we find a planet that is just like Earth; and has a thriving ecosystem; but has much more gravity than Earth? We would need exoskeleton suits to walk around until we got used to it. But I guess we will find Earth 2.0 eventually that is just right. But even a planet like Venus could have life in the upper atmosphere. And there are theories that even Neutron stars harbour life under the surface. Life will always find a way. Not all aliens are humanoid with funny things on their foreheads.

    • by Nyder (754090) on Sunday May 26, 2013 @09:52PM (#43829963) Journal

      What if we find a planet that is just like Earth; and has a thriving ecosystem; but has much more gravity than Earth? We would need exoskeleton suits to walk around until we got used to it. But I guess we will find Earth 2.0 eventually that is just right. But even a planet like Venus could have life in the upper atmosphere. And there are theories that even Neutron stars harbour life under the surface. Life will always find a way. Not all aliens are humanoid with funny things on their foreheads.

      If we find a planet with life on it (ie. is habitable), our chances of getting there is slim to none. We don't need to worry about exoskeletons or genetic upgrades because we do NOT have the tech, not even close, to be able to travel to another solar system.

      • by iggymanz (596061)

        We do have the tech, but not the will to spend the obscene amount of money it would take. There are fission powered craft designs that can do the trip. Such a ship would blow a product of a majority of the world's uranium reserves out its exhaust pipe.

        • We don't have the tech in any practical sense. Certainly not to make the trip in a life time. Can't do it at all with chemical rockets:

          http://youtu.be/YPjXxKpM4DM?t=7m20s [youtu.be]

          And to go to Pandora ... um I mean, to Alpha Centauri, in the 6 years of the movie? Can't be done. This guy (video below) has done his homework - even anti-matter explosions (if you could make that much anti-matter, and remember, it isn't free, it is just a storage and release mechanism for some other energy source here in our Sol

      • We don't need to worry about exoskeletons or genetic upgrades because we do NOT have the tech, not even close, to be able to travel to another solar system.

        Who is this WE that you keep talking about? My descendants will surely travel to another star system. Hopefully your descendants break free of the limitations of your thought so they can go too. There is even a (impossibly small) possibility that *I* might get a chance to travel to another star system.

        If we do not consider these things now, how will we get there in the future? A journey of an octillion miles starts with one foot step.

    • What if we find a planet that is just like Earth; and has a thriving ecosystem; but has much more gravity than Earth?

      The inhabitants will be so small that they won't stand a chance against us.

  • TESS is a cheap substitute was what is really needed. Its not the real deal, earth like planet finder that is needed. It only looks at the same stars for 3 months. Which means it will only find "habitable zone" planets that orbit their stars 3 times in that 3 month period. i.e.. only red dwarf stars. The planets it finds will be tidally locked and subject to million of years of star flares (red dwarfs are typically flare stars). What we need is Nasa's dropped Terrestrial planet finder.
    • What we need is Nasa's dropped Terrestrial planet finder

      Butter fingers.

    • by a_hanso (1891616)

      I think this is the best we can get, given the budget situation. As I understand, it won't even be launched till 2017. On the plus side, unlike Kepler, it's an all-sky survey.

  • "And yet, across the gulf of space, minds immeasurably superior to ours regarded this super-earth with envious eyes; and slowly, and surely, they drew their plans against us."
  • The proper term is "undocumented" planet!

  • Every time something points to life (ahem, bacteria life) on Mars, there's a group of scientists that start doing back flips to say it's natural crystal formations, complex chemical reactions, etc. So it's nice, but I figure even if they find a planet with obvious city lights and an atmosphere filled with methane and CFCs, it will just result in another wave of doubters saying it's caused by naturally occurring phenomenon.
    So what's the reason for NASA even bothering? It's not just a way to raise public in
    • by iggymanz (596061)

      You think science should falsify information to fit your delusions? the reason science claims no life has been found to date on Mars is because there is no evidence whatsoever of it yet. Not one shred. Loosen your tinfoil hat.

  • The misdirection of searching for alien life elsewhere precludes the assumption that alien life isn't here on planet Earth. And to close this circle of logic, if alien life exists elsewhere, why wouldn't it also exist here as well?
    • by iggymanz (596061)

      science thus far has not found any creature with extraterrestrial genetic makeup on this planet, only native born ones

      • by slick7 (1703596)

        science thus far has not found any creature with extraterrestrial genetic makeup on this planet, only native born ones

        Science has also made millions if not billions on cancer research without getting any nearer to a cure, that is accepted by the pharmaceutical industry and their rubber stamp FDA. Therefore your argument is invalid.

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