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So there has been some excitement and confusion lately over a signal discovered by SETI researchers after they aimed one of their radio telescopes toward “objects of interest” discovered by the Kepler mission. These are possible exoplanet discoveries, but they’ve yet to be confirmed by other telescopes. (These are called Kepler Objects of Interest, or KOIs.) Until now, SETI researchers have been blindly aiming their telescopes all over they sky listening for possible alien radio signals. Now that the Kepler team has a few KOIs that might be habitable, it makes sense for SETI to narrow their search and start listening specifically in the direction of those KOIs. Well, they did just that, and they found an interesting signal! One that is clearly not just natural background noise. But, that signal is almost definitely interference from one of our own satellites, because the signal still shows up even when they aim the radio telescopes away from the exoplanets. So, don’t let anyone fool you- SETI has NOT discovered an alien radio signal.

As he always does, Dr. Phil Plait of Bad Astronomy lays out the truth on this. Universe Today has an excellent post on it as well.

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Credit: NASA

Space Shuttle Discovery touched down for the final time this morning just before noon at Kennedy Space Center. The shuttle has spent a total of 365 days in space and traveled a total of 148 million miles on 39 missions. It is the oldest shuttle in the fleet and has always been considered NASA’s workhorse. Universe Today has a post with a crop of great photos from this last mission, as does the NASA website of course. Some cool facts from my own knowledge as well as tweets from Astrophysicist Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson: the shuttle is traveling roughly 17,500 mph while in orbit, but it’s de-orbit thrusters slow it by only 188 mph. That’s enough to allow it to slowly drop into the upper reaches of earth’s atmosphere, at which point the air begins to take over the slowing process. The drag from the earth’s atmosphere is the only thing that slows the shuttle down from then on, including on the runway because the shuttle has no brakes, just a parachute that deploys just after it touches down. Everything in the re-entry process is meticulously calculated because they only have one chance at it. The shuttle has no power- it’s only a glider once back in the atmosphere, so everything has to be absolutely perfectly executed. The pilot is assisted by lots of powerful onboard computers that take care of most of the difficult fine-tuned adjustments, but the pilot must be able to take over if something goes wrong- the skill level required is immense. On April 12th, NASA is expected to announce the final destinations of the three remaining orbiters after their retirement. Discovery is expected to go to the Smithsonian, but that is not certain until the announcement is made. More on that at Space.com.

I feel I must also mention the alien bacteria craziness that happened over the weekend and earlier this week. NASA scientist Richard Hoover had a paper published that claimed that he had found evidence of extraterrestrial bacteria in a meteorite. Well, basically everyone else in the science community is saying he’s wrong, and I’m inclined to agree. There are a host of reasons why his claim is probably bogus, not the least of which is the fact that contamination of a meteorite by earthly bacteria is all but inevitable. Also, the paper had not completed a peer-review process before it was published, not to mention that it was published in a less-than-reputable journal that has a history of publishing error-laden work. NASA even issued a statement saying that they had nothing to do with Hoover’s paper or his claim. Most of this info comes from Phil Plait’s analysis of the situation. Get the whole story from him.

On a lighter note, enjoy this animated GIF gem, also from Plait’s Bad Astronomy blog:

Photo by Steve Cross

Photo by Steve Cross

I’m slowly getting back enough will power to blog again. I was so drained by Bonnaroo that I just didn’t feel like posting yesterday. You can see all of my photo slideshows at the Scene’s website. There are a ton of them, so plan out some time if you want to actually see them all. I guess the best parts of it for me were getting approved to photograph Springsteen (only 20 photogs out of the 100 or so got approved), and also getting to photograph the last Nine Inch Nails show in the U.S. Ever.

Honestly though, I must say the biggest surprise for me came from Raphael Saadiq. The former member of Tony! Toni! Tone! released a solo album late last year called The Way I See It and you can bet that I’ll be grabbing it a soon as possible. His music is nothing like the early 90’s jock-jams that TTT was known for. This is a throwback to the R&B sounds of the 60’s. I haven’t heard the full album yet, but as my friend and fellow Scene freelancer Sean Maloney put it during our drive back, “…it sounds like it could’ve come straight outta Detroit in 1967.” Their cover of the Stooges’ Search & Destroy officially blew my mind.

On to some non-Bonnaroo stuff:

Conor Oberst, Jim James, and M. Ward have finally released details of their collaborative album called Monsters of Folk. Yea, the named is kinda weird, but let’s hope the actual songs are better. It would be hard to go wrong with such a powerful combination of musicians, but it wouldn’t be the first time a “supergroup” failed to even equal the sum of its parts. Via A.V. Club

Apparently Steven Spielberg is taking his love of aliens to the networks. I read in this io9 article that he’s currently working on the new unnamed T.V. series and has tapped ER’s Noah Wyle for the star role. Check the article for more deets.

Ironic Sans isn’t updated very often, but when it is, it’s almost always something clever and intriguing. His latest post details an idea for solving the problem of that pesky mess of cables behind your T.V./entertainment center. Answer- make the whole wall out of outlets.

This is old news, but NASA delayed the launch of Space Shuttle Endeavour on Saturday due to a Hydrogen leak. They’ve rescheduled the launch for tomorrow at 5:40am EDT. UGH. That’s 4:40am my time. If you’re crazy and want to get up early enough to watch the coverage, you can do so at NASA TV.

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