Earlier this morning the space shuttle Discovery undocked from the International Space Station (ISS) to make its final return trip to Earth. Discovery is scheduled to land at 10:58 a.m. CST Wednesday, which means we have the opportunity tonight and tomorrow night to see a double flyby.
Neither the Spaceweather flybys nor Heavens Above lists times for the dual passes, but NASA’s Human Space Flight site shows the shuttle 20 seconds of time ahead of the space station tonight for the Duluth region. If it’s clear, they’ll appear together in the same region of the sky one in front of the other. Tomorrow night the ISS will lag two minutes behind Discovery.
Checking the weather for the Duluth, Minn. region, I see partly cloudy skies this evening when the passes begin at 7:29 p.m.
Watch for the shuttle and ISS to appear in the southwestern sky very near the crescent moon and travel across the south, reaching their highest point around 7:31. And bring your camera. George Kristiansen, a 17-year-old amateur astronomer from the UK, set up his digital camera last night during a similar pass and made the lovely image of Jupiter, Discovery-ISS and the moon featured above.
A “big” story reported by Fox News has been bouncing around the Internet the past few days about a NASA researcher claiming to have discovered alien lifeforms inside the Orgueil, Ivuna and Alais CI1 carbonaceous chondrite meteorites.
These rare meteorites, which formed on asteroids where liquid water was available for a time, are made of materials virtually unaltered since the beginning of the solar system. All three meteorites contain non-biological amino acids. You might recall from your high school biology that amino acids serve as the building blocks of proteins.
The Alais meteorite fell in France in 1806; Orgueil in France in 1864 and Ivuna in Tanzania in 1938.Â Dr. Richard B. Hoover, an astrobiologist with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, broke open the stones in a sterile environment and studied their interior surfaces with high-powered electron microscopes. Inside he found filaments that to him greatly resembled terrestrial bacteria in form and size. In particular, some of Hoover’s filaments are comparable to the large terrestrial bacterium Titanospirillum velox.
The paper was published Friday in the online Journal of Cosmology, which some scientists consider a fringe publication. Knowing that such extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, the Journal has invited 100 experts to review the paper and critically analyze the data. This open-mindedness is certainly goes to the magazine’s credit.
It isn’t the first time that extraterrestrial fossils were reported in meteorites. Some of you might recall the fanfare around the 1996 announcement by NASA researcher David McKay on his discovery of fossilized bacteria in the Martian meteorite ALH84001. Other groups of scientists immediately went to work trying to figure out ways the structures could form without life. To date, most scientists think the “fossils” and other chemical traces attributed to life were created chemically through natural processes rather than biologically.
In science you have to be very careful about making the claim that because something looks like something else, it’s the same thing. I realize this is a gross oversimplification, but a cinnamon swirl roll and a galaxy might have identical-appearing spiral structures, yet we know they formed in completely unrelated ways.
Researchers will not only thoroughly review Hoover’s data but will try to repeat his results in their own laboratories. That’s how science works. We wouldn’t expect anything less to validate this amazing claim.
Here a couple links so you can check out the data yourself:
* Original story by Fox
* A skeptical viewpoint by University of Minnesota, Morris biologist and Associate Professor Paul Myers.