By: Macy Dennon
K2-18: On Sept. 11, Nature Astronomy announced that the James Webb Space Telescope made yet another discovery, and this one could lead to the finding of extraterrestrial life. Orbiting the star K2-18 is exoplanet K2-18b, a planet that contains excess carbon dioxide and methane in its atmosphere. This indicates the presence of an atmosphere full of hydrogen, similar to an atmosphere around a body of water. Along with the carbon-bearing molecules, the telescope discovered what scientists believe to be dimethyl sulfide, which is a compound produced only by lifeforms. However, this is no guarantee of life and researchers, “still aren’t certain that these Hycean planets could sustain life at all,” according to CNN reporter Jackie Wattles.
Luna-25: In other news, Russia launched a spacecraft to the south side of the moon that did not make a smooth landing on the surface. Luna-25 was part of a race to the South side between Russia and an Indian space company. The craft was on track to be the first to reach the South Pole of the moon to conduct important research on possible signs of water as an imminent fuel source for future explorers, but after collecting some data and a photo of the moon, the craft spun into uncontrolled orbit. Vitaly Egorov, a Russian space analyst, told The Associated Press, “Luna 25 showed important progress. It flew toward the Moon, carried out orbit correction, and tested onboard electronics and scientific tools…Russian cosmonautics was not at this level before. But then, an error occurred somehow.”
UAP Panel: In 2022, NASA commissioned a panel of 16 experts, including former Astronaut Scott Kelly, to analyze Unidentified Anomalous Phenomenon (UAPs), formerly known as Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs). On Sept. 15, 2023 the team reported their findings for the first time. Though some people thought the panel would detail the findings of extraterrestrial life, the panel simply discussed what NASA needs to do to make answers possible. Among their recommendations was access to higher quality unclassified data. The conference stressed that jumping to conclusions not entirely backed by evidence is a waste of time. During a post-meeting teleconference, David Spergel, astrophysicist,chair of the study group, and former member of the NASA Advisory Council, explained, “To make the claim that we’ve seen something that is evidence of non-human intelligence, it would require extraordinary evidence. And we have not seen that. I think that’s important to make clear.”
(Sources: NASA, CNN, Space.com, AP News, Youtube)