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Life on Saturn?

Filed under: Breaking News,Chemicals,Controversy,Natural Wonders,News of the Weird World,Science News — Tags: , , — Positronic Dave @ 4:05 am June 8, 2010

Could there really, possibly be life on Saturn? A new discovery on Titan, one of Saturn’s moons has caused a great deal of excitement over the actual possibility of life on the giant moon. Several news sources have already run with stories of “Proof of Alien Life Found!” when it is far too soon to even speculate in that direction.

Chemical analysis sent back by NASA’s Cassini space probe based on experiments done by its Neutral Mass and Composite Infrared Spectrometers suggest that microbes consuming acetylene may be present in lakes of liquid ethane or methane.

In this artist's concept released by NASA, the Cassini spacecraft is seen with the European Space Agency's Huygens probe attached underneath as it approaches Saturn. The Cassini spacecraft will launch the Huygens probe on a course that should send it plunging into the atmosphere of Saturn's big moon Titan, Friday, Dec. 24, 2004. (AP Photo/NASA)

All this excitement is rooted in analyses of chemical data returned by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. One study suggested that hydrogen was disappearing between the upper atmosphere and the surface of the gaseous planet.

Does this mean that something is eating the hydrogen? Something living? Could it be that, like we breathe oxygen, something on Saturn breathes hydrogen?

However, another study pointed out the absence of acetylene, meaning nothing there could carry a torch for sentience. (Get it? Acetylene? Carry a torch? Ah, science jokes kill me… and I’m sure they’re doing nothing for all of you, either.) Seriously though, the point is acetylene would be necessary for life-forms that require liquid methane instead of water.

However, optimistic scientists retorted, “So there could be two forms of life there!” And so, all the grumpy scientists rolled their terrible eyes, and gnashed their terrible teeth, and refused to discuss it further until the first group of scientists stopped whistling the theme from Star Trek.

Then the pessimists killed all the joy by pointing out that biological possibilities were vastly less probable than non-biological, proving that some people will take the fun out of anything. Is there life on Saturn? I guess we’ll wait and see…

For more info on the raw science of Life on Saturn, see this article in the New Scientist.

Shuttle Atlantis

Filed under: Breaking News,Science News — Tags: , , — Positronic Dave @ 7:42 pm May 14, 2010

New that that the Shuttle Atlantis actually took off, must be good news indeed at NASA where, it seems lately (lately being, since the 1980’s) NASA hasn’t ben known for doing it that very well.

Well, believe it or don’t (ha ha Ripley’s Lawyers), the Space Shuttle Atlantis thundered off its launchpad at the Kennedy Space Center this afternoon, headed for the International Space Station and final planned mission of its 25-year career.

It was a bittersweet moment for the thousands gathered along the Space Coast, as well as shuttle workers standing outside the Vehicle Assembly Building. This is the first of the final three launches before the Shuttle Program is retired later this year. Economic fears are especially profound, as local residents try to imagine a future without the support of all the personnel assigned there.

Proving you can find moments of poetry anywhere, Shuttle Launch Director Mike Leinbach said to the crew, prior to take-off, “I’d like to wish you all good luck and Godspeed and have some fun out there.”

The Atlantis commander Ken Ham replied, “Thank you to the thousands of folks out there who have taken care of this bird for a long time

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