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Amazing Images: The Best Science Photos of the Week

Posted in SCIENCE, GEOLOGY,HEALTH, INVIRONMENT, TECHNOLOGY,ANTHROPOLOGY, ARCHAEOLOGY,, Uncategorized with tags on August 14, 2015 by 2eyeswatching

Post 4767

Amazing Images: The Best Science Photos of the Week


Italian Astronaut Sets New Record for Longest Space Mission by a Woman

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on June 13, 2015 by 2eyeswatching

Post 4658

Italian Astronaut Sets New Record for Longest Space Mission by a Woman

Here’s The First-Ever Picture Of Thunder

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on May 7, 2015 by 2eyeswatching

Post 4553

Chris Mills

Here’s The First-Ever Picture Of Thunder

Here's The First-Ever Picture Of Thunder

During a thunderstorm, it’s normally the lightning bolts that take over Instagram — after all, it’s a little difficult to apply the X-Pro II filter to a soundwave. That is, if you’re a heliophysicist armed with rockets, your own lightning bolt, and some heavy science.

In a paper presented today at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union, Maher Dayeh from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio revealed detailed acoustic maps he’d made of a lightning bolt — an image of thunder, in other words.

Here's The First-Ever Picture Of Thunder

To get the data, Dayeh went to a U.S. military installation in Florida, and fired a rocket trailling a copper wire into a cloud during a thunderstorm. The rocket triggered a lightning bolt, which travelled down the wire, allowing the team to record the thunder with 15 microphones set a meter apart. That produced the acoustic maps you can see above.

The experiments allowed Dayeh to map the acoustics of a thunderclap with “surprising detail” — and they also discovered that the loudness of a thunderclap depends on the peak electric current flowing through the lightning bolt. Plus, people got to shoot rockets into clouds and make lightning bolts. Science. [2015 Joint Assembly, Nature]

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More Mysterious Craters Found in Siberia

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on February 27, 2015 by 2eyeswatching

Post 4289

More Mysterious Craters Found in Siberia

A Siberian hole that opened up mysteriously and was reported in July 2014.
Credit: Screengrab Newslook Video 

Last summer, the discovery of several new giant craters in Siberia drew worldwide interest, launching wild speculation that meteorites, or even aliens, caused the gaping crevasses. And now, scientists have found even more of them.

In July 2014, reindeer herdersdiscovered a 260-feet-wide (80 meters) crater in northern Russia’s Yamal Peninsula. Later that month, two more craters were discovered in the Tazovsky district and Taymyr Peninsula (also spelled Taimyr), respectively.

Now, satellite images have revealed at least four more craters, and at least one is surrounded by as many as 20 mini craters, The Siberian Times reported. [See Photos of Siberia’s Mysterious Craters]

“We know now of seven craters in the Arctic area,” Vasily Bogoyavlensky, a scientist at the Moscow-based Oil and Gas Research Institute, told The Siberian Times. “Five are directly on the Yamal Peninsula, one in Yamal autonomous district, and one is on the north of the Krasnoyarsk region, near the Taimyr Peninsula.”

Now, two of the craters have turned into lakes, satellite images reveal. A crater called B2, located 6.2 miles (10 kilometers) south of Bovanenkovo, a major gas field in the Yamalo-Nenets autonomous district, is now a large lake ringed by more than 20 smaller water-filled craters.

But Bogoyavlensky thinks there may be many more. He called for further investigation of the craters, out of safety concerns for the region. “We must research this phenomenon urgently, to prevent possible disasters,” he said.

Siberian crater

Credit: Vasily Bogoyavlensky/The Siberian Times

Trapped gases

Although the origin of these craters remains somewhat mysterious, many scientists think they were created by explosions of high-pressure gas released from melting permafrost, or frozen soil, due to the warming of the climate.

“In my opinion, it definitely relates to warming and permafrost,” said Vladimir Romanovsky,a geophysicist who studies permafrost at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Romanovskythinks he knows how this occurs: Pressurized gas — mostly methane, but possibly carbon dioxide as well — exists beneath the permafrost. Since warming temperatures thaw the permafrost from the bottom up, an underground cavity forms, Romanovsky said. As the gas gets close to the surface, it deforms the ground above, creating a small hill. Finally, the pressurized gas erupts through the surface, forming a crater, he said.

In November 2014, scientists went on an expedition to study the Yamal crater, snapping some stunning photos. Vladimir Pushkarev, director of the Russian Centre of Arctic Exploration, actually climbed down into the crater on a rope to observe it from the inside.

“You can see from the photographs a very different structure,” where most of the hole is caved in, but only the upper 16 to 23 feet (5 to 7 m) looks like a crater, Romanovsky told Live Science. “Only the upper several meters [of ground] was thrown away, but most of the hole was actually there before the eruption.”

Dangerous explosions

The erupting methane may have even caught fire. Residents near the crater in the town of Antipayuta reported seeing a bright flash in the distance, according to The Siberian Times.

“Probably the gas ignited,” Bogoyavlensky told The Siberian Times. Investigating the craters will be dangerous, because scientists don’t know when the gas emissions will occur, he added.

How the methane would have caught fire is somewhat of a mystery, Romanovsky said. “It seems like it happened during wintertime, so there should be no thunderstorms, no lightning,” he said. He thinks the methane probably erupted without igniting, just due to high pressure.

These craters should only form when the temperature is warm enough to melt the permafrost. “If the warming continues, we will see more and more of this phenomenon,” Romanovsky said. It could happen anywhere there are enough sources of natural gas, including parts of Alaska and northwestern Canada, he added.

Follow Tanya Lewis on Twitter. Follow us @livescience,Facebook &Google+. Original article on Live Science.


Fisherman Says He Saw Bigfoot Bathing … And He Sent Us A Picture!

Posted in News, Uncategorized with tags on January 7, 2015 by 2eyeswatching

Post 4091

Fisherman Says He Saw Bigfoot Bathing … And He Sent Us A Picture!

Posted: 01/03/2015 10:52 am EST Updated: 01/04/2015 11:59 pm EST

One occupational hazard of reporting on unexplained phenomena: You can always count on waking up in the morning to find an email from someone swearing that they’ve just seen Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, a hybrid human alien or a UFO on the moon.

2015 began with a photo from John Rodriguez, a 66-year-old retired electrician, who claims that he was fishing Dec. 26 on the Hillsborough River near northeast Tampa, Florida, and came upon an incredible sight.

“I fish for gar in the river and I bring my camera to take pictures of the birds and what not. I heard a squishing sound, looked over and saw this thing walking through the water and crouch down in the duck weed. It did not look like a guy in a suit — it was definitely an animal. I took this picture and got out of there as fast as I could.”

Here’s the image that Rodriguez sent to HuffPost:


Rodriguez claims to have seen and photographed — in a completely clear and non-blurry moment — that tall, hairy, elusive creature often reported in North America and other parts of the world that goes by many names: Bigfoot, Sasquatch, Yeti. In Florida, it’s known as the Swamp Ape or Skunk Ape (primarily from descriptions of an extremely pungent odor it supposedly gives off).

“I’ve heard of Skunk Ape prints around Green Swamp [in Florida], but never anything like this,” Rodriguez told HuffPost in an email. “My whole life, never seen anything like it.”

Of course, the fact that the photo looks a little too crisp at some points, made us suspect it to be a fraud. Just look at the jagged line between the hairy beast and the water. That could be the work of a novice who just downloaded Photoshop for the first time.

However, we’ve got some time to kill. And doesn’t this man deserve to be taken at his word? After all, wouldn’t finding Bigfoot be a great way to kick off 2015?

Rodriguez said he snapped the picture in the early afternoon at an area where the Hillsborough River becomes a cypress swamp. The map below shows a small section of the 59-mile-long river that flows through Florida, filled with wildlife preserves that include many not-so-friendly creatures, such as alligators, known to jump into canoes and attack unsuspecting humans.


So, what are we to make of this fantastic tale? Did Rodriguez take the clearest, most definitive picture to date of Bigfoot?

Not so fast, according to Ben Hansen, lead investigator of the Syfy Channel’s “Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files” series.

“It’s a relief to finally have a clear picture of the creature,” Hansen, a former FBI agent, told HuffPost. “Every other photo and video we get is usually too blurry or the Bigfoot too obscured in brush to allow for any useful identification. Thanks to the clear photo, I’m excited to announce that the photographer has captured a real-life… gorilla in a Bigfoot suit!”

“To be more precise, the face of a gorilla that has been digitally added to the photo with editing software. Although I originally suspected the creature suit was actually in the water when the photo was taken, I started to notice shadows in front of the Bigfoot that appeared to be an inconsistent length and shape with the rest of the photo.”

“Additionally, there appears to be some heavy digital editing touch-up to the fur around the face and where the body meets the water. I’m now leaning more toward believing the whole creature was pasted into the image and then branches and twigs were added in the foreground. The branches also could have really been in the scene, but they were later edited as separate layers so Bigfoot looks like he’s now behind them, sitting in deep contemplation.”

Digital photographs use a format called EXIF data, which stores a lot of accessible information within each image — like shutter speed, if a flash was used, date and time of the image, etc. Hansen pointed out that the EXIF information of the Florida swamp creature picture suggests the image was digitally created on Dec. 26 with Photoshop.

Since those details are extremely important when trying to research unexplained phenomena images, we asked Rodriguez about this.

“I did not Photoshop this at all. Believe me or not,” Rodriguez said. “When I plug in my memory card, it asks to import and opens in Photoshop. I just changed the name and saved. It seems like people get publicly crucified for coming forward with this kind of stuff.”

Rodriguez also said this debunking attitude is what caused him to initially hesitate sending the original picture to HuffPost.

A March 2014 story about the search for Florida’s Skunk Apepointed out the following:

The belief in mythological animals might be as old as humanity itself. Nearly every culture’s folklore contains at least one imagined creature in its folklore that has no place in modern science.

It’s easy to imagine how, in the days when much of the planet had yet to be explored and catalogued, you might have reasonably believed in the existence of any of these beasts. But in the present day, when every square mile of the earth’s surface has been photographed by satellites, and scientists have identified 1.3 million species (with mostly plants, tiny animals and microbes remaining to be found), how could you still believe in a lumbering, seven-foot-tall ape, hiding out in one of the most well-studied countries on the planet?

When dealing with reports and discussions about things like Bigfoot, UFOs, lake monsters, ghosts, etc., there’s always a fine line walked by those who make the claims and the skeptics or outright debunkers who do their best to make the stories go away.

In the most literal sense, that’s the nature of the beast — especially where large, hairy creatures are involved.

Hansen brings up another item about this current alleged Skunk Ape sighting near Tampa.

“The white stripe down the middle of the head and chin is a nice touch. If it’s a Skunk Ape, why not make it look like a skunk, right? In reality, I have yet to come across a story with any merit where witnesses describe the Skunk Ape with an actual white stripe like a skunk.”

Par for the course, these stories produce strong opposing points of view. And still, one clear photograph of something that may or may not be a real Bigfoot is not definitive proof that the creature exists, the way DNA evidence — or an actual body — would be.

We still, apparently, don’t have either of those things yet.

New Evidence Reveals What a “Typical” Solar System Looks Like

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on April 30, 2014 by 2eyeswatching

Post 3216       George Dvorsky

New Evidence Reveals What a “Typical” Solar System Looks Like

New Evidence Reveals What a "Typical" Solar System Looks Like

Prior to the discovery of exoplanets, astronomers assumed that our solar system’s configuration was typical. But now, some 1,715 exoplanets later, we know that we’re far from ordinary. So what passes for “normal” in the annals of solar systems? Here’s what we know now.

Top Image: Artistic impression of Kepler 186f by Ron Miller (used with permission).

Astronomers used to believe that our solar system was representative of most — if not all — planetary systems.

“I think it’s fair to say that most astronomers assumed that our solar system was unlikely to be an anomaly,” says Eric B. Ford. He’s with the Center for Exoplanets and Habitable Worlds, and a professor of astronomy and astrophysics at the Pennsylvania State University in State College, PA.

New Evidence Reveals What a "Typical" Solar System Looks Like

Image: NASA.

For some cases the assumption was explicit, but in other cases, we simply didn’t think about planetary systems that were very different from our own,” he told io9.

This made perfect sense at the time given the lack of empirical evidence to suggest otherwise. It was a valid application of the Copernican Principle (i.e. we shouldn’t assume that we’re special in the large scheme of things). Moreover, our solar system has a kind of logical and consistent flavor to it, one in which small, rocky planets are parked on the inside, and large gas giants hang out on the outside — and all in tidy, nearly circular orbits.

But as Ford points out in a paper that now appears in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, we now know that our solar system is atypical in multiple ways. The discovery of exoplanets, he says, is providing many opportunities for improving our understanding of the formation and evolution of planetary systems.

No Two Are The Same

Planet-hunting projects, like NASA’s Kepler mission and the California Planet Survey, are providing a slew of data for scientists to pour over. Back in February of this year, for example,NASA confirmed the existence of 715 new exoplanets — an announcement that increased the figure of known exoplanets by a factor of 70%. And it was less than two weeks ago thatastronomers found the first Earth-sized, habitable zone planet. These days, the challenge for planetary astronomers is to make sense of all these findings.

Needless to say, and as Ford told me, it’s still premature to put a single figure on of the total number of solar system architectures.

“We’re still trying to make sense of all the planetary systems were finding, so there’s not a single number,” he noted. “That said, we are already starting to recognize that some architectures are showing up many times in our planet searches.”

I asked Ford why there are so many different types of solar systems.

“When planets start forming somewhere, they don’t know how big they will become,” he explained. “So often multiple planets start growing up so close to each other that some sort of violent outcome is inevitable as they grow in mass.”

Planet formation starts when gas and dust swirls around what will become a star. Some of the dust sticks together to form into pebbles, some pebbles grow into planetessimals, and planetessimals grow into planets.

“Of course, growing from a collection of gaseous atoms to a giant or even rocky planet, there are humongous changes in the sizes, masses and relevant physics,” Ford told io9. “If it were simple, we would have already figured it out.”

That said, Ford says there are several planet-types and solar system architectures that appear to be fairly common throughout the galaxy.

Hot Jupiters

New Evidence Reveals What a "Typical" Solar System Looks Like

Image: ESA/NASA.

One of the first planetary models to emerge was one featuring a giant planet orbiting very closely to its host star — a so-called hot Jupiter. These systems typically feature a gap between the gas giant and any additional planets further away from the host star. Hot Jupiters feature orbital periods of up to several days and masses comparable to that of Jupiter or Saturn. As more observations have been made, however, astronomers have extended the median orbital period of these planets to about a year. They also know that they’re rarer than initially presumed (a product of observational selection effects — and a problem that plagues every observation).

In terms of how hot Jupiters form, the going theory is that they begin as a rocky core far away from their host star, followed by the accretion of a gaseous envelope, and then the migration to an uncomfortably close orbital location (sometimes as close as ~2-5 day orbital periods).

Scientists aren’t entirely sure why the migration occurs, but it could happen as the result of a gradual migration through the protoplanetary disk, or the result of dramatic gravitational effects (i.e. the excitation of a large eccentricity followed by tidal circularization). This process essentially cleans out the inner solar system by scattering any rocky planets in the inner planetary system into the star or the outer regions of the planetary system.

Giant Planets Near Snow Lines

New Evidence Reveals What a "Typical" Solar System Looks Like

Image: ESO/M. Kornmesser/Nick Risinger.

A second architecture involves giant planets with greater orbital periods, typically around 300 days to about four years. These systems contain several planets significantly larger than the Earth, but smaller than Neptune. They’re packed tightly together, all orbiting closer to their star than the Earth is to our sun, and typically on nearly circular orbits.

Some of these planets may have formed farther out in the disk and migrated to their current location. And it may not be a coincidence that many of these planets reside near the water-snow line (the location in the protoplanetary disk where the solid surface density increases due to condensation of water ice).

“Because the snow line affects the formation of planetesimals, migration of giant planets

toward the snow line could be accommodated by a variety of migration models, including migration through a gaseous disk, migration via planetesimal scattering, or even via scattering of multiple planets or planetary cores,” writes Ford in his paper.

Long-Period Giant Planets

Astronomers are also discovering giant planets with orbital distances ranging from a few AU to several AU. These systems contain about two to four giant planets orbiting their star with a distance comparable to that of Venus to our Sun, often with significantly elongated orbits.

These wide, eccentric orbits suggest that some of these planets have ejected others from the host planetary system. And in fact, studies have shown that this “planet scattering” effect can naturally produce a broad range of eccentric orbits observed by astronomers.

Another intriguing possibility is that planets in wide orbits formed around a star from a different solar system, eventually making their way to a new host star.

Super-Earths and Mini Neptunes

Some systems feature Neptune- and super-Earth mass objects at short orbital periods. These planets appear to be much more common than giant planets. Interestingly, most solar-type stars host a sub-Neptune size planet.

Short-Period Tightly Packed Inner Planetary Systems (STIPS)

But while mini-Neptunes may be extremely common, we’re also learning that our galaxy is home to an abundance of systems with multiple planets. A typical system contains planets with relatively short orbits, ranging from about one to 100 days. These systems tend to be tightly packed, suggesting correlated orbital periods. The mass of most of these planets is dominated by rock, ice, or water, but not gas. Ford says these planets didn’t accrete a rocky core before clearing the protoplanetary disk, and it’s conceivable that their atmospheres are the result of outgassing (rather than accretion of gas from the disk).


Ford also told me about two other types: A giant planet on a very slow and wide orbit much further from its host star than any of the planets in our solar system are from the Sun, and a giant planet orbiting around a binary star system.

Life On Fairly Odd Planets

Ford’s work also carries implications to the search for alien life.

“The history of how planets formed can have a significant impact on their habitability,” he says. “For example, most of Earth’s original water may have been lost to space. In that case, much of Earth’s present day water may have been acquired by collisions with asteroids and comets. The rate of those collisions depends on the locations and masses of other planets, in our solar system Jupiter’s orbit is particularly important. Therefore, we don’t just want to find individual planets. Instead, we want to characterize all the planets orbiting a star and combine our knowledge about each of them to piece together their story.”

New Evidence Reveals What a "Typical" Solar System Looks Like

Image: ESO/L. Calçada.

His paper thus proposes some interesting questions, such as, is it worth searching for signs of life on planets larger than the Earthand likely enshrouded in a dense atmosphere? And if so, what would we look for? Also, if we don’t find any evidence of life, would that be a meaningful finding? Or would our search be so primitive that it’s not really an interesting result?

Thankfully, we may be able to answer some of the questions in the coming years.

“You can expect that astronomers will searching for and find rocky planets orbiting bright and nearby stars,” he says. “Those will be easier to study in more details. With ground-based direct imaging searches and the James Webb Space Telescope, we’ll likely learn lots more about the atmospheres of Jupiter-size and Neptune-size planets.”

Read the entire study at PNAS: “Architectures of planetary systems and implications for their formation .”

Follow me on Twitter: @dvorsky


Incredible Technology: How to Search for Advanced Alien Civilizations

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on January 16, 2014 by 2eyeswatching

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Post 2834

Incredible Technology: How to Search for Advanced Alien Civilizations

By Tanya Lewis, Staff Writer   |   January 14, 2014 10:06am ET

– See more at:

An artist’s concept showing the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE spacecraft, in its orbit around Earth.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech-

Look at a picture of the Earth at night, and the world appears to be, quite literally, glowing. Now, scientists are starting to look for signs of advanced alien civilizations by the glow given off by technology used to harvest the energy from a star or even an entire galaxy.

Theoretical physicist and mathematician Freeman Dyson first proposed the idea that advanced alien civilizations might develop technology to encircle a star and harvest most of its power, a structure now known as a Dyson sphere. If these objects do exist, astronomers might be able to detect the waste heat they produce using telescopes that peer into space using infrared light.

“The main point,” Dyson told LiveScience, “is looking for aliens who don’t want to communicate. My question was, ‘How do you look for silent aliens?’ They have to radiate away their waste heat. The only way to do that is to radiate lots of infrared radiation.” [13 Ways to Hunt Intelligent Aliens]

Now, astronomers at Pennsylvania State University are starting to narrow the search for Dyson spheres. But the search has only just begun, and may take hundreds of years, Dyson said. Finding Dyson spheres isn’t inevitable, but “it’s certainly possible,” he said.

Great balls of fire

By surrounding their star with swarms of energy-collecting satellites, advanced civilizations could create Dyson spheres.See full infographic
Credit: by Karl Tate, Infographics Artist 

Much of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) effort has focused on listening for radio signals sent by an intelligent civilization, as depicted in the movie “Contact.” But this approach assumes the aliens want to communicate with humans. Dyson spheres get around this problem, because even a civilization that wasn’t actively trying to communicate with others would give off waste heat.

Diagram of a Dyson sphere
Credit: Bibi Saint-Pol (Wikimedia) 

Russian astrophysicist Nikolai Kardashev classified long-lived civilizations as one of three types: those that control the resources of a planet (Type I), of a star (Type II), or of a galaxy (Type III). A Dyson sphere represents a Type II civilization.

An episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” depicts the starship Enterprise responding to a distress call from a transport ship that has crashed into the outer hull of a Dyson sphere. But Dyson himself never envisioned the structure as a solid sphere.

“It doesn’t have to be a sphere at all,” Dyson said, “just any place where aliens happen to be generating a lot of energy.” He described his structure as an “artificial biosphere,” which could be a cloud of objects orbiting a star closely enough to absorb all the starlight. A solid sphere would be too weak to support its weight against the gravity of a stars.

Dyson estimated that an alien civilization with a surface temperature around 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 degrees Celsius) would emit infrared radiation at a wavelength of around 10 microns. Earth’s atmosphere emits a lot of radiation in this region, so a telescope located in space would work best. But the necessary technology wasn’t available when Dyson proposed the idea.

Searching for Dyson spheres

Then, in 1983, an international team launched the Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS), the first observatory to image the entire sky in infrared light. “It turns out the sky is crawling with infrared sources,” Dyson said, but most of these are from galactic dust and other natural sources.

More recently, Richard Carrigan, now a scientist emeritus at Fermilab near Batavia, Ill., used IRAS to look for Dyson spheres. “By the time I got to it, there had been a nice history of people trying, but not on a systematic scale,” Carrigan said.

A Dyson sphere should act like a “black body,” a hypothetical object that absorbs all the electromagnetic radiation falling on it and radiates energy depending on its temperature. A black body looks similar to galactic dust in the infrared, but there are differences in the spectra — the range of colors corresponding to its composition. [UFO Quiz: What’s Really Out There?]

Allen Telescope Array

Dyson sphere galaxiesCarrigan measured the infrared spectra using IRAS’s spectrometer, but found only a few objects within several hundred light-years of Earth that could be Dyson spheres. (One light-year is about 5.9 trillion miles, or 9.5 trillion kilometers.) He and his colleagues used the SETI Institute’s Allen Array to listen for radio signals emanating from these objects, but found none.

What if alien civilizations have developed Dyson spheres that use the energy from entire galaxies? Carrigan tried searching for Dyson sphere galaxies, because those would be easiest to detect. Now, Jason Wright, an astrophysicist at Pennsylvania State University, is doing the same thing, using the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) space telescope.

“WISE was launched by NASA for pure, natural astrophysics,” Wright said — “it just happened to be perfect Dyson sphere finder.” If a Dyson sphere galaxy were giving off mid-infrared, it would be “boomingly bright,” Wright said.

Wright and his colleagues found no evidence of Dyson spheres that block out 50 to 100 percent of their galaxy’s light. Now, his team is trying to narrow down the fraction of a galaxy that could be contained by Dyson spheres even further: “We think we can get down to 20 to 30 percent with the WISE satellite itself,” he said. The team plans to follow up on the best Dyson sphere candidates with other telescopes, and go on to look for Dyson spheres around individual stars.

Another idea that Dyson himself proposed, but which astronomers haven’t tried, is to look for “skid marks” on the sky from spacecraft slowing down from speeds close to the speed of light. These could create long streaks of ionized gas that might be visible to some telescopes, Dyson said.

If astronomers do find hints of Dyson spheres or other extraterrestrial technology, it would trigger a worldwide effort to look at them using different astronomical instruments. Even if scientists don’t find alien civilizations, the search could discover interesting new physics.

“At the very worst, we will be able to put an upward limit on the amount of starlight alien civilizations use,” Wright said, “and at best, we might find something very interesting and extraordinary — whether a new class of astrophysical object, or something so strange we’ll need to point SETI instruments at it.”

Follow Tanya Lewis on Twitter and Google+. Follow us @livescienceFacebook Google+. Original article on LiveScience.

Shell-Worlds: How Humanity Could Terraform Small Planets (Infographic)

by Karl Tate, Infographics Artist
Infographic: how an engineer proposes to encase planets inside a shell

Engineer Ken Roy envisions someday encasing small planets inside artificial shells to retain their atmosphere and provide an Earth-like environment. This could provide a shortcut for terraforming, the process of  redesigning a planet’s surface to be more hospitable for human habitation.

Full Story: Incredible Technology: How to Use ‘Shells’ to Terraform a Planet

Mars or perhaps a moon in another solar system could be encased in a shell of dirt, steel and Kevlar fiber. With air presssure raised to a safe level and enough oxygen in the atmosphere, people could live freely on the surface. A small planet would have low enough gravity to allow for human-powered flight. [Photos: Visions of Future Space Habitats & Artificial Ecosystems]

Lighting would be artificial since the shell could not admit sunlight. Heavy industry would be located on the outside of the shell, in the vacuum of space. Airlocks in the shell would allow spaceships to enter and land.