In the last few days, there’s been a few interesting surprises in Astrobiology/Astrophysics:
Cassini has confirmed that the surface of Titan is shifting fast, and in a really weird way, which could indicate that the whole surface is floating on top of liquid, ie an ocean. This is a big if, but Titan has always been a favourite speculation for extraterrestrial life anyways, since it’s surface has lots of water ice and simple organics like methane and ethane. It also has surface lakes of methane, which could support life. But if you live in a methane lake, its living, but can you really call it a life? This was all postulated before from satellite data, but since the atmosphere is so thick, so they made these passes a big part of the Cassini mission. Cassini will make its closest pass on Titan on March 25.
Meanwhile, Hubble confirms methane on the atmosphere of an exoplanet, which is getting sexed up by the media as potential extraterrestrial life. The Interviewee for New Scientist stressed that this planet is too close to its sun for what we would call life, but its interesting from the standpoint of planetary models. This planet has way more methane than we would expect from something of its size, indicating that we don’t really understand planetary formation so well.
Lastly, yesterday the SWIFT observatory detected the brightest recorded Gamma Ray Burst ever, with an afterglow in the visual spectrum bright enough to be seen with the naked eye. What’s really cool is that it had a red shift of 0.94, which makes it the most distant object ever observable with human vision alone. The new record is now 7.5 billion light years away, and the previous winner was 2.9 million. They also state it was the most luminous object ever recorded by humans, being “2.5 million times more luminous than the most luminous supernova ever recorded.” It also has the most superlatives attributed to it, like, ever.