Arctic Sea Ice

This here map from the NASA shows that despite cold and snowy winters in North America the north pole ice cap didn’t grow as much as it usually does in January.

This image shows the average Arctic sea ice concentration for January 2011, based on observations from the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer for EOS (AMSR-E) aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite. Blue indicates open water; white indicates high sea ice concentrations; and turquoise indicates loosely packed sea ice. The yellow line shows the average sea ice extent for January from 1979 through 2000.

On a lighter (warmer) note, this here astronaut photograph from the NASA shows that as it gets hotter, crop-circle-like islands pop up for peeps to vacation. If you have the money, if you have the will, the bottom four islands/fish have not begun construction.

At the southern end of Bahrain Island, at the furthest point from the cities of the kingdom, a new complex of 14 artificial islands has risen out of the sea. Designed for residential living and tourism, and aimed at a cosmopolitan clientele, the Durrat Al Bahrain includes 21 square kilometers (8 square miles) of new surface area for more than 1,000 residences, luxury hotels, and shopping malls. The complex has been designed to include: The Islands (six “atolls” leading off five fish-shaped “petals”), The Crescent, Hotel Island, and Durrat Marina in the north.

Goldilocks Zone

Astronomers found a new planet 20 light years away, one that is 3x the size of Earth, and one that can possibly have water, which is real good for life.

Discover Magazine reports:

If you’re too close to a star, it’s too hot to support liquid water. If you’re too far, it freezes. This defines a rough region from the star — the Goldilocks Zone, for obvious reasons — where liquid water can exist on the surface of a planet. This depends on the star, of course, but also on other factors like the planet’s atmosphere; Venus could have liquid water, but its super-thick atmosphere produces a runaway greenhouse effect which has heated it to 460° C (900° F). If Mars had a thick atmosphere, it might support liquid water! So the planet itself matters here too.

Gliese 581g, as the new planet is called, is in the zone where the temperature is just right. And with a mass of just three times that of the Earth, it’s unlikely to be a gas giant.

Due to the nature of science and evidence based experimentation, the scientists that published their discovery warn that more has to be done. This is not conclusive evidence of a habitable planet only 20 light years away.

From the journal article ms_press-1 [PDF]

Finally, it is important to keep in mind that, though all 6 planets presented here are

well-supported by the calculated reduced chi-squared statistics and also by several different

variants of FAP statistics, and the entire 6-planet system is consistent with the combined

data set from both teams, caution is warranted as most of the signals are small. And there

may yet be unknown systematic errors in either or both data sets.

This is the good news, and not only because it is easier to read: (again from Discover Magazine)

But perhaps the most interesting and exciting aspect of all this is what it implies. The Milky Way galaxy is composed of about 200 billion stars, and is 100,000 light years across. The fact that we found a planet that is even anything like the Earth at all orbiting another star only 20 light years away makes meextremely optimistic that earthlike planets are everywhere in our galaxy. 20 light years is practically in our lap compared to the vast size of our galaxy, so statistically speaking, it seems very likely it’s not unique. I don’t want to extrapolate from a data set of two (us and them), but if this is typical, there could be millions of such planets in the galaxy. Millions.