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Mysterious Light at the Edge of the Galaxy

It may not be blue, but it's THERE: At the border between our solar system and the rest of the galaxy, NASA's new Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) spacecraft, launched in October, has spotted a band of mysterious high-energy emissions.

On the Skywatchers website, Clara Moskowitz quotes IBEX investigator David mcComas as saying, "The IBEX results are truly remarkable, with emissions not resembling any of the current theories or models of this never-before-seen region. We expected to see small, gradual spatial variations at the interstellar boundary, some 10 billion miles away. However, IBEX is showing us a very narrow ribbon that is two to three times brighter than anything else in the sky."

This makes sense, since scientists now say there are PLENTY of Earth-like planets out there. 32 new ones have just been discovered and some of them are "Super Earths," which have a mass a few times bigger than our planet and thus could have the same environment (meaning they could also harbor life). With all the wars going on here on Earth, the idea of a new (and more peaceful?) world is alluring, as long as they don't come visit us.

In Wired.com, Hadley Leggett quotes astronomer Xavier Bonfils as saying, "By targeting M dwarfs and harnessing the precision of HARPS, we have been able to search for exoplanets in the mass and temperature regime of super-Earths, some even close to or inside the habitable zone around the star."

To learn more, click here and here.

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