Come Celebrate Sagan!


Today is the launch of Kepler Mission’s celebrations of Carl Sagan’s 76th Birthday, to take place on November 9.

To mark the occasion, essays from the general public and articles by invited guests will be published on a daily basis at Kepler’s website.

Today you will find an essay by Sarah O’Sullivan and a special appearance by Seth Shostak.

It is also there that you will be able to find and original musical piece composed by Lyford Rome expressly to this special event.

Go! There is something incredible waiting to be known!



Sagan Day Essay Contest

Sagan Day Essay Contest

Sponsored by NASA’s Kepler Mission and SETI Institute

His words — our words — as beacons for the future.

Theme: “The surface of the Earth is the shore of the cosmic ocean. On this shore, we’ve learned most of what we know. Recently, we’ve waded a little way out, maybe ankle-deep, and the water seems inviting. Some part of our being knows this is where we came from. We long to return, and we can, because the cosmos is also within us. We’re made of star stuff. We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.” – Carl Sagan, Cosmos, 1980 In honor of Carl Sagan’s birthday on November 9th, we invite you to pause and reflect on the imagery that he created for us in his allegory of the Shore of the Cosmic Ocean. We invite you to communicate your thoughts and ideas, your reflections on the past and your visions for the future. We want the written expressions of what you see as you stand on that shore. How did you arrive there with your individual perspective? Where will we go from here? What drives us toward those distant shores? What embodies the spirit of exploration? All ideas inspired by The Shore of the Cosmic Ocean are acceptable.

Please send your contributions to:

Deadline: October 26, 2010

Awards Announced: November 9, 2010

More details here.


When the concept of the Homo Viator Manifest emerged in my mind, it was of something like a tree, with a trunk from where diverse branches would radiate but being part of the same structure.
The first part of it was the fruit of the collaboration between myself and two dear friends, Stuart Atkinson and Nicholas Previsic…h. Since then it served also as inspiration for an audiovisual performance and other artworks. (which you can see here:
Now I would like to invite you, challenge you, to also become part of it. I want the Manifest to grow in as many different directions as possible. Go have a read and, if you feel inclined to write your own part of it, to share your own roadmap, send me an e-mail (rui dot alexandre dot borges at gmail dot com), the doors are open. Let us see in which direction the branches will grow.

When fundamental constants change over space — rethinking physics as we know it [JENAM 2010 Press Release]

Lisbon, 6 September 2010: New research suggests that the supposedly invariant fine-structure constant, which characterises the strength of the electromagnetic force, varies from place to place throughout the Universe. The finding could mean rethinking the fundaments of our current knowledge of physics. These results will be presented tomorrow during the Joint European and National Astronomy Meeting in Lisbon, Portugal, and the scientific article has been submitted to the Physical Review Letters Journal.

A team of astronomers led by John Webb from the University of New South Wales, Australia, have obtained new data by studying quasars, which are very distant galaxies hosting an active black hole in their centre. As the light emitted by quasars travels throughout the cosmos, part of it is absorbed by a variety of atoms present in interstellar clouds, providing astronomers with a natural laboratory to test the laws of physics billions of light-years away from the Earth.

Webb’s results imply that the fine-structure constant, which characterises the strength of the electromagnetic force, might have different values depending on which direction we are looking in the sky, thus being not so ‘constant’ after all.

 “The precision of astrophysical measurements of the fine-structure constant, or alpha, dramatically increased about a decade ago when Victor Flambaum and I introduced the ´Many-Multiplet Method´, and since then evidence started mounting, suggesting this crucial physical quantity might not be the same everywhere in the Universe” says Webb.

The results obtained by Webb’s team suggest that if there is any time-variation, it may be much less than the variation with position in the Universe.  If correct, the new data indicates that new physics will be required to explain something so fundamental. The implications of these results are so resounding that they are likely to cause controversy in the scientific community.

Continue reading

Happy LXXX Neil!

On this same day, year 1930, Neil Armstrong, American astronaut, the first human to set foot on another astronomical body, was born in Wapakoneta, Ohio.

Aim and shoot!

Kepler mission has a new challenge for us Earthlings:

“Kepler saw its first light on 04.08, year 2009. As some of you may recall, there are an estimated 4.5 million stars in that image, more than 150,000 of which were selected as ideal candidates for planet hunting — a true “treasure trove of stars” as William Borucki, science principal investigator for Kepler, described it.
Now, for the sake of palindromes, on 08.04, year 2010, that’s…well…today, we want to see y-o-u-r first light.
What’s the deal? As you wake up and open your eyes, grab a camera and get a snapshot of your first glimpses of that alien world of ours and share it with us in this album. Are you in? We are.”

Aim and shoot!

“I’ve loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night”

“I’ve loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night”
Galileo Galilei

400 years ago, this same day, Galileo Galilei became the first human to observe the rings of Saturn. Today, the centuries-old quest for other worlds like our Earth has been rejuvenated by the intense excitement and popular interest surrounding the discovery of hundreds of planets orbiting other stars.

The challenge now is to find terrestrial planets (i.e., those one half to twice the size of the Earth), especially those in the habitable zone of their stars where liquid water might exist.

The Kepler Mission is proud to be part of this quest. Y-o-u are part of this quest.

Here is our suggestion, our invitation. Let us make this Friday Night, July 30, a “Galilean Night”. Let us wait for our own star to disappear on the horizon, grab a coat, and go outside.

Sit on a rock, lie on the grass, grab a chair, bring the children, call your neighbour, take your dog, your love… and go and stare. All that is required is your curiosity and wonder and your eye for beauty.

Permit yourself a look above. This is your Universe. Contemplate the dark veil of the night sky and the flickering lights of stars as they make their appearance before your eyes, like actors coming from behind a curtain, like bonfires burning in the distance. Let Venus seduce you as she lies down in the West and is replace by a rising gibbous Moon in the East.

See, dream, cogitate about the fact that orbiting those same stars are myriads of planets with such different natures that we can only try to imagine their diversity. Let the imagination flow.
Allow yourself to fantasize. Allow yourself to travel beyond our world, setting sail on your own vessel of discovery through the cosmic sea towards new shores.

Enjoy it. Share it. This is what the experience is about.
When you return from the outdoors, from your journey to the distant stars, we will be here waiting for your travel logs. Your ideas. Thoughts. Insights.
We are all part of the crew, we are all part of the journey.