Saturday, October 02, 2010

Captain's Log: Zarmina's World
Another milestone in exoplanet research was reached last week, when the first "earth-like" planet orbiting another star was discovered--at least in the sense that its composition and position suggest it could nurture life as we more or less know it. It's the "not too hot, not too cold" thesis that had headline writers dubbing it a Goldilock's planet.

"I call it Zarmina's World," said co-discoverer Stephen Vogt, after his wife. Sounds like the location of an original series Star Trek story, all right. It's well within warp range, though by conventional means it might take a generation ship to get there. It's the sixth planet out from Gliese 581, and about three times the size of Earth.

Maybe even more provocative are the rough calculations Vogt and another astronomer came up with. Since it took the discovery of about 500 planets before one was found that might turn out to be Class M, they've calculated that there could be some 40 billion planets in our universe with the potential for indigenous life.

In space exploration news, Congress finally passed a NASA authorization that, after all the fuss and retrenching, is pretty much what President Obama requested. "NASA administrator Charles Bolden Jr. said the bill, which approves more than $58 billion in spending over the next three years, would foster the president's goals of extending the life of the space station, launching a commercial space transportation industry, fostering new technology and creating thousands of new jobs."

Hey--Look, up in the sky! It's a bird, it's a plane, no--it's a comet. Comet Hartley is a green comet coming close to Earth, and it's getting in range to be visible: small telescopes see it, and binoculars eventually, and some claim it's already available to the naked eye. It reaches its closest point to Terra on October 20, and a couple of weeks later, the NASA spacecraft formerely known as Deep Impact will have its own close encounter with the comet's tail.

Finally, one of the privileges of running your own blog is ignoring the show biz news except for what interests you. So there are these tidbits: a new director has been mentioned for the next Superman movie: Robert Zemeckis, who made the Back to the Future trilogy. I guess the Batman guy caved...And a month or so shy of the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I movie, J.K. Rowling told Oprah that there might be more Harry Potter stories. Actually I knew this but was sworn to secrecy. Seriously. And it wasn't because I'm pals with J.K., because alas I'm not.

Captain's Update : Wired is now reporting that Zack Snyder ("The 300") will direct the next first Superman movie. I'm underwhelmed. This may be my last report on this film.

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