Other Earths? A new estimate raises the odds of finding them.

The Christian Science Monitor reports: “The prospects for finding Earth-sized planets around other sun-like stars in the Milky Way appear to be improving.

A new estimate predicts that for every four sun-like stars, one should host at least one planet with anywhere from one-half to twice Earth’s mass.

The estimate was among the results of a study by an international research team commissioned by NASA to identify potential targets for as-yet unbuilt space telescopes.

The study, which will appear in the journal Science, doesn’t directly address the Holy Grail for planet hunters – finding an Earth-size planet at a life-sustaining distance from its host star. The researchers’ prediction involves Earth-size objects in orbits that would fall well inside the orbit of Mercury, the inhospitable first rock from the sun. Their estimate was based on careful observations of stars from a volcano-based telescope in Hawaii.

But if Earth-scale planets are present at the distance the study’s researchers predict, it would imply a greater likelihood that such objects would be present in more-distant orbits as well – including within a star’s so-called habitable zone, they say.

At the least, such close-in objects would be among the first Earth-size planets NASA’s Kepler mission is expected to detect. The Kepler spacecraft, which was launched in March 2009 and trails Earth in its orbit around the sun, is designed to detect Earth-size planets in ‘life-friendly orbits’ around distant stars.

If the international research team’s prediction holds up, Kepler, in addition to the planets it is already looking for, would also find as many as 260 of the star-hugging Earths the researchers predict…” (“And great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven. And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.” – Luke 21:11, 25, 26. See also the next report.)

Moon’s water is useful resource, says NASA

BBC News reports: “There are oases of water-rich soil that could sustain astronauts on the Moon, according to NASA.

Scientists studied the full results of an experiment that smashed a rocket and a probe into a lunar crater last year.

The impacts kicked up large amounts of rock and dust, revealing a suite of fascinating chemical compounds and far more water than anyone had imagined.

A NASA-led team tells Science magazine that about 155kg of water vapour and water-ice were blown out of the crater.

The researchers’ analysis suggests the lunar regolith, or soil, at the impact site contains 5.6% by weight of water-ice.

‘That’s a significant amount of water,’ said Anthony Colaprete, from the US space agency’s Ames research centre.

‘And it’s in the form of water-ice grains. That’s good news because water-ice is very much a friendly resource to work with. You don’t have to warm it very much; you just have to bring it up to room temperature to pull it out of the dirt real easy.’

And he added: ‘If you took just the 10km region around the impact site and say it had 5% water – that would be equivalent to about a billion gallons of water. I’m not saying that’s what’s there, but it just shows you that even at these small concentrations there’s potential for lots of water.’…”

Most Distant Galaxy Ever Confirmed

Wired.com reports: “Astronomers’ new observations have spotted the most distant galaxy ever seen. The galaxy’s light comes from about 13.1 billion light-years away, making it one of the first galaxies to form after the Big Bang.

The new galaxy is about 30 million light-years farther away than previous record-holder, a gamma-ray burst that faded within a few hours of its peak brightness, and 200 million light-years farther than the next most distant galaxy.

‘We are approaching the limits of the observable universe with this observation,’ said astronomer Michele Trenti of the University of Colorado, who was not involved in the new work. ‘It is quite a good improvement.’

The finding, published in the Oct. 21 Nature, could also give insight into how young stars helped make the universe transparent.

The new distance champion, deemed UDFy-38135539, was first spotted in late 2009 in a Hubble Space Telescope image called the Ultra Deep Field. The image captures 10,000 galaxies in the universe’s earliest epochs, several of which were good candidates for the most distant galaxy…” (I believe there are millions or even billions of galaxies like ours — each with 200 – 400 million suns. Christ created all of this vast mass of galaxies – John 1:3, 10; Colossians 1:16, 17; Revelation 4:10, 11; and Hebrews 1:2 tells us that by Christ God made the worlds [plural, unlimited]. David in the Psalms is startled by God’s creation – Psalm 19:1-3; Psalm 8:3, 4.)

One EMP burst and the world goes dark

USA Today reports: “The sky erupts. Cities darken, food spoils and homes fall silent. Civilization collapses.

End-of-the-world novel? A video game? Or could such a scenario loom in America’s future?

There is talk of catastrophe ahead, depending on whom you believe, because of the threat of an electromagnetic pulse triggered by either a supersized solar storm or terrorist A-bomb, both capable of disabling the electric grid that powers modern life.

Electromagnetic pulses (EMP) are oversized outbursts of atmospheric electricity. Whether powered by geomagnetic storms or by nuclear blasts, their resultant intense magnetic fields can induce ground currents strong enough to burn out power lines and electrical equipment across state lines…

Fear is evident. With the sun’s 11-year solar cycle ramping up for its stormy maximum in 2012, and nuclear concerns swirling about Iran and North Korea, a drumbeat of reports and blue-ribbon panels center on electromagnetic pulse scenarios.

‘We’re taking this seriously,’ says Ed Legge of the Edison Electric Institute in Washington, which represents utilities. He points to a North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC) report in June, conducted with the Energy Department, that found pulse threats to the grid ‘may be much greater than anticipated.’

There are ‘some important reasons for concern,’ says physicist Yousaf Butt of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass. ‘But there is also a lot of fluff.’

At risk are the more than 200,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines that cross North America, supplying 1,800 utilities the power for TVs, lights, refrigerators and air conditioners in homes, and for the businesses, hospitals and police stations that take care of us all.

‘The electric grid’s vulnerability to cyber and to other attacks is one of the single greatest threats to our national security,’ Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., said in June as he introduced the bill to the House of Representatives…” (II Timothy 3:1 “This know also that in the last days perilous [dangerous] times shall come“. See also Joel 2:30, 31; Acts 2:19, 20; and Matthew 24:29.)