io9 Space – The current generation of telescopes have found hundreds of exoplanets. The next generation will find thousands. Depending on the tools we develop, we might be within decades of finding life on alien worlds.
A new pair of telescopes are launching soon: the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) in 2017, and the James Webb Space Telescope in 2018. Kepler has found us hundreds of worlds; TESS is designed to track thousands of stars for that brief dimming that indicates the presence of a planet.
The James Webb Space Telescope will be all about transit spectroscopy: picking the most likely worlds, and looking for signs of life. Light from the distant star will filter though its atmosphere, and if Webb is as good in practice as it is on paper, that tiny bit of altered light will be enough for us to analyze and characterize the atmosphere of alien worlds.
The James Webb telescope will have 6.5 meter mirrors. To get it into space, the engineers are enacting the rocket scientist version of building a ship in a bottle. The mirrors are folded and tucked to squeeze into a rocket, a fraction of the size the behemoth will stretch in space. It’s all really quite impressive, and I’m excited to start seeing its data on distant worlds.
But with telescopes, bigger is better, and scientists are always dreaming of something more. Bigger mirrors means more light collected, and better resolution. With a 20-meter telescope, we could spy on all small exoplanets, looking for life on planets like ours. The bigger our telescopes get, and the longer we look, the better our chances are for finding alien life somewhere out there. If we want to build that big, we’re going to have to up our game for better launching systems capable of carrying the oversized load into orbit.
MArs gullies appear to be actively forming today, and are not just some relic of past activity that took place millions of years ago. But on Mars, water can’t exist for long on the surface even if it is briny, so how are these gullies being created? New observations from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) spacecraft suggest that dry ice (frozen carbon dioxide) may actually be responsible. The new findings have been published in the journal Icarus.
Helion Energy’s Fusion Engine is the only demonstrated fusion energy source capable of producing both on demand and baseload power at low cost and with minimal environmental impact. Employing a patented staged electromagnetic compressor and direct energy conversion, the Fusion Engine efficiently harnesses fusion energy employing fuel derived solely from water. This IAEA award winning and DOE validated prototype generated the required fusion energy output that allows for commercialization of economical fusion by 2019. By removing complex tritium systems and steam turbines, the Fusion Engine can be constructed faster and with reduced capital costs. And unlike current nuclear systems, Helion’s fusion technology is inherently safe and generates only clean byproducts. Helion holds the key to unlock the long sought after promise of endless fusion energy.
They got $5 million from DOE and are raising $35 million. The chief researcher John Slough also has a NASA funded direct fusion propulsion project.