Monday, December 21, 2009


James Cameron's science fiction Avatar may become fact in the coming years, says a leading US astronomer who believes there is every chance a real-life version of habitable alien moons like the one depicted in the movie exists and will soon is found.
The 3D blockbuster shows a race of blue skinned giants inhabits an Earth-like moon called Pandora, which orbits a gas giant planet similar to Jupiter that cannot support life. "If Pandora existed, we potentially could detect it and study its atmosphere in the next decade," said Lisa Kaltenegger, an astronomer from the Harvard Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Kaltenegger, who has conducted research showing that a planned new space telescope will be able to identify nearby "exomoons" and discover if they are habitable, said hundreds of Jupiter-sized gas giants orbiting stars have already been spotted, but none have conditions suitable for Earth-type life, The Telegraph reported.

However, a rocky moon orbiting a gas giant could harbor life if it was in the parent star's "habitable zone" -- the region where temperatures are just right for liquid water, she said.

"All of the gas giant planets in our solar system have rocky and icy moons. That raises the possibility that alien Jupiter’s will also have moons. Some of those may be Earth-sized and able to hold onto an atmosphere," she said.

A Pandora-type moon could be identified when its planet "transits" across the face of the parent star. If the moon has an atmosphere, it will absorb a tiny amount of light from the star, leaving a spectrographic fingerprint of its composition.

Dr Kaltenegger calculated that Alpha Centauri A, the star featured in Avatar, would provide an excellent target for astronomers hunting habitable moons.

Alpha Centauri is the closest star system to the Sun, being only 4.37 light years away. It consists of three stars, the largest being Alpha Centauri A, which is slightly brighter than the Sun.


In an effort to harness the energy, imagination and initiative of the world's young denizens in overcoming the challenges facing humanity, the United Nations (UN) has declared 2010 as the International Year of Youth, starting Aug 12.

'The International Year is about advancing the full and effective participation of youth in all aspects of society,' UN Focal Point on Youth, Nicola Shepherd, said in a statement Monday.

'We encourage all sectors of society to work in partnership with youth and youth organizations to better understand their needs and concerns and to recognize the contributions that they can make to society,' she added.

The announcement was made on Dec 18.

In its resolution proclaiming the Year, the General Assembly called on governments, civil society, individuals and communities worldwide to support activities at local and international levels to mark the event.

Under the theme 'Dialogue and Mutual Understanding', the Year aims to encourage dialogue and understanding across generations and promote the ideals of peace, respect for human rights, freedom and solidarity.

It also encourages youth to dedicate them to fostering progress, including the attainment of the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which seek to remove a host of social ills, ranging from extreme poverty and hunger to maternal and infant mortality to lack of access to education and health care, by 2015.

Several international events are already scheduled throughout the year, including the Fifth World Youth Congress from July 31 to Aug 13 in Istanbul, and the World Conference for Youth in Mexico City from Aug 24-27.

Both gatherings will focus on youth and sustainable development in the context of the MDGs.
From Aug 14 to 26, Singapore will hold the international Youth Olympic Games, the statement added.

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