Blogs about planets

Jihae during a performance in 2010

On December 18 the miniseries “Mars” ended.

“Mars” is a docudrama, in part a documentary about space programs with archive footage and interviews with people involved in various ways and in part a TV show that tells the story of the first manned expedition to Mars starting from 2033. The two parts are mixed so as to give a greater impression of likelihood to the future events, as if they were a continuation of those of the documentary part.

The miniseries, which consists of six episodes, is based on the book “How We’ll Live on Mars” by Stephen Petranek, a journalist who explained the possible development of the American space program and the possibility that humans could live on Mars by 2027. This idea is based on a series of factors which include scientific and technological developments but also economic ones because there are also private companies that are starting opening a real market in the space that includes trade and tourism.

Dan Tamayo (Photo courtesy Ken Jones)

An article published in “The Astrophysical Journal Letters” describes the development and the application of machine learning algorithms to verify the stability of planetary systems. A team of researchers at the University of Toronto Scarborough led by Dan Tamayo experimented this new approach to this type of astronomical research by creating a method a thousand times faster than conventional ones.

The panorama seen by the Mars Rover Opportunity on the top of Cape Tribulation (Image NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.)

NASA released an image of the Martian landscape seen from the Mars Rover Opportunity on the occasion of the earth’s eleventh anniversary of its arrival on Mars. Opportunity landed at 5:05 UTC on January 25, 2004 and now has traveled for about 41.7 km (25.9 miles) on the red planet. About three weeks ago it reached the top of the segment of the Endeavour Crater called Cape Tribulation and from there it used its Pancam (panoramic camera) instrument to take a series of photographs that were combined together.

The NGTS dome during the day. In the background the VLT and VISTA domes (Photo ESO/R. Wesson)

In recent days the NGTS (Next-Generation Transit Survey) has been put into operation. It’s a new instrument to search for exoplanets built to find super-Earths with a size starting from twice the Earth up to Neptune-like planets eight times the size of the Earth. It’s composed of an array of 12 telescopes with an aperture of 20 cm each which is located at the ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile.

The most promising exoplanet found with the Kepler Space Telescope with their size proportional to that of the Earth (Image NASA)

At the 225th meeting of the American Astronomical Society there was the announce of the identification of the 1000th exoplanet verified using observations of the Kepler space telescope. That’s become a routine but the interesting thing is that among the verified planets there are eight that have a size less than twice the Earth and are in the habitable zone of their star.