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The discovery of more than 330 planets outside our solar system in recent years has helped refine the number of life forms that are likely to exist. The current research estimates that there are at least 361 intelligent civilisations in our Galaxy and possibly as many as 38,000.
 philosophy life extraterrestrial astronomy
It is enchanting, spectacular and - at 3.5m in diameter - it will soon become the biggest telescope mirror in space, surpassing that of Hubble.... It will take up a vantage point a million-and-a-half kilometres from Earth, to open up what scientists expect to be an utterly fascinating new vista on the Universe. Unlike Hubble, which is tuned to see the cosmos in the same light that is visible to our eyes, Herschel will go after much longer...


 astronomy universe Herschel Planck ESA telescope space
The Antikythera Mechanism, discovered more than 100 years ago in a Roman shipwreck, was used by ancient Greeks to display astronomical cycles.


The Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) is an instrument on board the Mars Odyssey spacecraft. It combines a 5-wavelength visual imaging system with a 9-wavelength infrared imaging system. The orbiter launched from Kennedy Space Center on April 7, 2001 and arrived at Mars on October 24, 2001.
 Mars astronomy maps thermal cartography
The first stage of the switch-on of one of the world's most powerful stargazing systems has got under way. Seven radio telescopes around the UK have been linked with optical fibres, allowing scientists to probe deeper into the Universe than ever before. The new data-link upgrade has replaced the older microwave technology that once connected the telescopes...


 astronomy telescope
It might not look like much, but this image represents one of the most distant objects astronomers have ever seen, 12.9 billion light years away. It is a "Lyman-alpha blob" and is 55,000 light years across - as large as present-day galaxies...


 cosmology galaxy astronomy astrophysics
Formic acid, a molecule implicated in the origins of life, has been found at record levels on a meteorite that fell into a Canadian lake in 2000.


 meteorite evolution astronomy life space biology organic panspermia
When the world's most powerful laser facility flicks the switch on its first full-scale experiments later this month, a tiny star will be born on Earth...


 physics laser fusion astronomy nuclear star diamond energy
Spiral galaxy M51. ... It is a composite of images taken by Europe's Herschel space observatory and the Hubble Space Telescope...


 galaxy Herschel Hubble Space Telescope astronomy