On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.
The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit.
The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.
"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs." --San Antonio Express-News
Using two European-built ground-based telescopes in Chile, astronomers have announced today the discovery of 50 new exoplanets, 16 of which are considered super Earths, one of which is in the habitable zone of its star. You can read the preprint of their research paper here [pdf].
Super Earths have masses from 1 to 10 times that of our Earth. The newly discovered super Earth in the habitable zone, dubbed HD 85512 b and thirty-five light years away, has a mass only 3.6 times that of the Earth, and orbits its star every 59 days at a distance of only about 23 million miles. The planet’s sun is cooler than the Sun, but the exoplanet sits in the inner edge of the star’s habitable zone, so that the amount of energy it receives is only 3% less than Venus’s. “If we are really really lucky this planet could be habitable,” said Lisa Kaltenegger of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany.
Sadly, it will be years before we will be able to do the spectroscopy necessary to tell us whether this planet could be habitable, since the telescope capable of gathering this data is not yet built. Fortunately, some are under construction, such as the Extremely Large Telescope and the Giant Magellan Telescope.
The new data also suggests that more than fifty percent of the observed stars have low mass planets. “Most of the stars have planets, and most have low mass planets,” noted Francesco Pepe of Geneva University. A large number of these are thought to be below 30 times the mass of the Earth, with many less than 10 times the Earth’s mass. They have also found very few planets around 30 times the mass of the Earth: for some reason not yet understood, extrasolar planets appear to be either larger or smaller.
Regardless, all this suggests that in the coming years we will be overwhelmed with the discover of many Earthlike planets orbiting stars both close and far from us. Even more exciting, we will soon know the first stars that humans will want to visit, once interstellar travel becomes possible.
We are now in the third week of my annual July fund-raiser for Behind the Black. My deep thanks to everyone who has so far donated or subscribed. The response this year has been wonderful.
We are not done yet. This monthly fund-raiser is now half over, and I am hoping the second half will result in as many donations as the first half did. If it does, I will remain free to continue my writing as I see fit, unblemished by the efforts of others to squelch my perspective in this increasingly intolerant world.
This year's fund-raising drive is also significant in that it celebrates the 10th anniversary of this website's founding. It is hard to believe, but I have been doing this for a full decade, during which I have written more than 22,000 posts, of which more than 1,000 were essays and almost 2,600 were evening pauses.
Therefore, I hope you will please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar below. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.
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