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Comment Survival rate under-estimated? (Score 4, Interesting) 239

If people who die in a wheel well always have their dead bodies discovered, while *some* of the people who survive a wheel-well journey don't -- they sneak out on the tarmac undetected -- then the survival rate of 25 percent must be an under-estimate, or at least is potentially an under-estimate.

Submission + - NASA considering moving GALEX astrophysics satellite to private ownership (

hogghogg writes: "The GALEX spacecraft (surveying the Universe in ultraviolet wavelengths at which the atmosphere is close to opaque) is coming to the end of its budget life, but it hasn't finished imaging the entire sky and is still (fairly) functional. A group at Caltech wants to keep it running, so NASA is considering transfer of ownership under the Stevenson-Wydler Technology Innovation Act which "allows the transfer of government-owned excess research equipment to educational institutions and non-profit organizations". Many NASA missions are terminated for budget reasons at the end of a prescribed period, even while the hardware is still highly functional. Although this is the first-ever transfer from NASA of a functioning satellite, maybe this is just the start for a class of privately run astronomical and Earth-observing facilities in space?"

Comment Re:Not really planets (Score 1) 181

Tch, they're not really planets, right? I mean, if they're not orbiting a star, then they can't have "cleared the neighborhood of their orbit". Yet one more reason the IAU's current definition is so idiotic. (Besides the fact that it suggests that Mercury is more like Jupiter than it is like Ceres.)

Yes, they are planets most likely, because they probably formed around a star and then got kicked out dynamically. This is expected generically in models of how solar systems form and evolve (in particular we think it happened multiple times in our own Solar System).

Comment generically expected; great if found (Score 4, Interesting) 181

Free-floating planets are generically expected: Essentially all models for how solar systems like ours (and the others we now know) involve dynamical interactions that would kick out planets at high velocity, leaving them unbound. Astronomers have expected to find these for decades, but have been unable to do so because a planet not warmed by a nearby star gets cold fast (hundreds of thousands to millions of years) and therefore invisible even in the infrared. This result is very important if correct, because gravitational lensing is an emission-insensitive way to find the planets. And yes, IAAA! (ps As for whether they are "spacecraft": I love that idea, but the "people" onboard probably wouldn't give the planet an impulse themselves (way, way, espensivo), they would make use of a free-floater passing by and hitch the ride.)

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