Science Saturday: Mars 500 + Asteroid Flyby + New Element Names + New ET Search + More

This week in Science Saturday: Welcome the Mars 500 crew out of their 520-day simulated Mars mission, watch a huge asteroid whiz close by Earth, add three elements to the periodic table, and find alien life by searching for night lights. All this and more, plus our (weird) gadget of the week: the USB eye warmer.


Mars 500 Crew Emerges After Their 520-day “Mission” to Mars
1.5 years ago, a multi-national crew of six volunteers was selected by the European Space Agency to be the first to embark on a simulated mission to Mars that would last a record 500 days. In the end, simulated complications meant that the journey was a total of 520 days. That’s a year and a half of isolation, eating dried food, breathing recycled air, and having very limited communication with the outside world. They even had to do scientific studies and deal with simulated emergency situations. Three of them even did a simulated walk on the “Martian” surface. This week, the brave men emerged from their cramped “space capsule”. Check out the videos below.

The crew emerge from their capsule

Mars 500: 520 days in 15 minutes

Huge Asteroid to whiz by Earth This Tuesday
This November 8th, a 1,300 foot (400 meter) space rock known as Asteroid 2005 YU55 will make an impressively close pass by our planet Earth. The asteroid will pass inside of the moon’s orbit, within about 0.85 lunar distances (that’s 85% of the way from the Earth to the Moon), but scientists say there is no danger that it will smash into us for the next hundred years or so. An extensive monitoring campaign using radio, visual, and infrared telescopes is planned for the asteroid’s flyby.

Welcome to the Periodic Table: 3 New Elements Get Names
We’d like to welcome Darmstadtium (Ds), Roentgenium (Rg), and Copernicium (Cn) as elements 110, 111, and 112 on the periodic table of the elements. Darmstadtium is named after the town in which it was discovered, Roentgenium is named after the discoverer of X-rays Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen, and Copernicium is obviously named after the famous Polish astronomer Copernicus. All of the elements are man-made and do not occur in nature, and none of them last very long after their created.

Copernicus approves

Alien City Lights Could be Detected Across Interstellar Space
We might find alien civilizations by looking for their city lights during the nighttime say Avi Loeb of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and Edwin Turner of Princeton University. Loeb and Turner say that it would be easy enough to detect lit-up areas of a planet’s dark side, but that to detect planets in another solar system we’d need more advance telescopes. According to calculations, current telescopes could detect a city the size of Tokyo as far away as our Solar System’s Kuiper belt. The researchers suggest that telescope technology will advance quickly allowing them to do their study soon. “Looking for alien cities would be a long shot, but wouldn’t require extra resources. And if we succeed, it would change our perception of our place in the universe,” says Loeb.

More hope to find ET

(Weird) Gadget of the Week: USB Eye Warmer
Today’s (Weird) Gadget of the Week comes from Thanko, makers of the USB cat face mask. Japan is always coming out with strange inventions, and this is just one more to add to the list. It’s the USB powered eye warmer. What? Yes. Apparently, Thanko thinks that cold eyes are a problem for people and that the best solution allows the wearer to stay near their computer (even though, while wearing the eye warmers, YOU CAN’T SEE).

Thanks, Thanko. Now I won’t have… cold eyes?

Upcoming Events

Check out these science-related events happening soon:

  • Launch of Phobos-Grunt and Yinghuo-1
    November 8th
    The Russians are launching a Russian sample return lander and a Chinese orbiter probe to the Martian moon of Phobos. This is the first sample-return mission from a moon other than our own.
    More info

  • Close FlyBy of Asteroid 2005 YU55
    Night of November 8th
    Look to the skies!

  • Launch of Mars Science Laboratory
    November 25th, 10:21am PST
    Watch live on NASA TV as NASA launches the next generation Mars Rover!

Science Bytes
Not enough science for you? Here’s a warp-speed look at some more science tid-bits that are worth a peek.


Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

What, no Unobtainium?

What, no women on Mars? (I could live w/o the Unobtainium.)

I think we’ll find Space-Tokyo or Space-Beijing first. Dang, they like their nightlife.

Thanks, Kayla!
(and welcome back)

what about a Harry Ballz warmer?

wait for it……

Thanks Kayla .
Welcome back!

2 – Even the Japanese couldn’t make anything THAT small.

**runz like hell**

Hey #2. Harry already has one. Her name is Erica. Lol.
520 days in siolation at 8$ an hour. Hmm. Ok I would do it.
Welcome bak Kayla.
Vegas could be seen from space. With all those Lights. Oh and there are 4 Lights!!!!.

Hey CmdrR Wait up. I’m with you. Oh no here comes Harry!!!!!. And Ericka is right behind!!!!

@ 1. CmdrR – “What, no women on Mars?”

Of course not. Everyone has known since 1967 that Mars Needs Women!

#7. Also. Mars needs Moms.

Hey Kayla, you think this story will get to the 500 + response mark like your last one? Haters gonna hate!

Anyway, detecting alien cities? WTF? What would the resolution power have to be to detect a city from just even Alpha Centauri? Dang, I guess the tech exists, but has to be mega expensive.

Here’s a question, speaking of Mars missions: Who would be willing to go to Mars, but never return? Just spend the rest of your days exploring the Red Planet since a return trip might be too expensive. Hell, I’d do it if I didn’t have kids…

We can detect city lights on an alien planet? Cool!

Let’s just hope they aren’t using those energy-saving curly cue light bulbs. Those things are dimmer than a politician in a beauty pageant.

I would have thought that the Harry ballz were more than warm. What is possibly needed is a ballz-cooler…:)

Question: Why would an alien city keep their lights on at night, when everyone would be trying to sleep, presumably? Perhaps they might have more sense and less fear than to have everything lit up like a Christmas tree. Maybe they don’t need artificial light in order to get done what has to be done in one of their days…


Darmstadtium, roentgenium and copernicium aren’t new. The elements themselves were created in 1994, 1994, and 1996 respectively. And the names were approved by IUPAC (the chemists) in 2003, 2004, and 2010.

IOP is a rather useless organization, and IUPAP has no power over element names as much as they wish to believe so. IUPAC is the accepted authority. And I say this as a physicist.

The annoyance of IUPAP (a much lesser organization) trying to claim it authorized the names already long in use though might be useful. IUPAC has been sitting on the expected announcement of the accepted names for Elements 114 and 116: flerovium (Fv) and moscovium (Mc), so perhaps they’ll get off the pot and get those released.

By the way, all the elements through 118 have been discovered now. GSI, RIKEN, and the Dubna/Berkeley consortium are all focused on creating 120, 122 and higher elements now, and filling in longer lived isotopes of 104-118. No dilithium so far!


Perhaps the same reasons we humans have our lights on at night.

Some folks like to go out after dark and eat, see a movie, etc., etc. Businesses like to have lights on. It’s more inviting, and easier on the kneecaps.

“I want to wake up
on a planet that never sleeps…
It’s up to you, New Orc, New Orc!”

Gosh, how on earth (and we were too) did humanity survive all these millenia (thousands of years) WITHOUT our cities and places of residence being CONSTANTLY lit up like Christmas trees ALL YEAR ROUND? It’s a conundrum to be sure and to think that the traditions many of us take for granted like Halloween, Hanukkah, Diwali, along with all the various Pagan festivals (Christmas being a blend of pagan festivities and the Christian celebration of Christ’s birth) etc etc, all beginning and continued long before the electric light was invented.

I’m not saying that I don’t appreciate having resource to the electric light and other things that electricity can provide (I certainly do, at times – I know all about whacking little toes because I didn’t turn on a light or don’t have a torch), but the notion that aliens would necessarily have their societies set up the same way and being now so dependent on this power as we have become, is, well, a little presumptuous perhaps.

As far as sleep goes, Australian Aboriginals believe that sleep is as important as the (day) waking time, because the dreams are part of another equally important reality for that person. But then again, what would such primitive people know what the dynamics of sleep and dreams can have on the maintaining a healthy human psyche? A lot, it turns out…

Hack science authors gotta hack.

A few other science stories that weren’t mentioned here…

– Venerable Thor-Delta rocket family makes final flight after 53 years of service (Oct 28)

– Russian Progress freighter safely launched, returning Soyuz rocket family to service after August launch failure, ending threat of temporarily abandoning the International Space Station (Oct 31)

– China completes its first docking in space (Nov 2) paving way for its own Space Station assembly later this decade

Hi Kayla! Can you write something up about the recent look-see of Uranus (minus the Klingons)? heh heh.


And trolls gotta troll, it seems.

Anyone else think that the alien planet has a goofy grin?


Did you miss this part of the article?

“Looking for alien cities would be a long shot, but wouldn’t require extra resources. And if we succeed, it would change our perception of our place in the universe.”

See, it’s a long shot. They’re taking that into account, but I hope they make you eat your words if and when they find New Las Vegas. Though I wouldn’t recommend eating in the dark. ;)

It’s actually only one old dude on Ceti Alpha V, who likes to walk around his place late at night with the lights on and check out his own pecs in the mirror…

(Or was that Ceti Alpha VI? I always get them confused.)

#21 No, I did not miss that part of the article, but you obviously missed this part of the article –

“We might find alien civilizations by looking for their city lights during the nighttime say Avi Loeb of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and Edwin Turner of Princeton University. Loeb and Turner say that it would be easy enough to detect lit-up areas of a planet’s dark side”

It is the assumption made by the scientists that I was querying.

If you look at this planet by night, it is clear that not all of it is lit up, like a lot of the African continent or much of Australia or NZ. Millions of people live in Africa (most of them impoverished, unfortunately) but not a lot of lights there. I’m just saying that it might be possible for millions of an alien race to be living healthily and successfully without necessarily having to have too many, if any, lights on in their night. How is that hard to understand?

I have no problem eating in the dark. I actually have quite good night vision. I happily wander around in the dark, with the venetian blinds shut etc, so there is not even the glow of a distant street or moonlight and my kneecaps are fine and so are my little toes most of the time. It has something to do with how well the eyes adjust. Our ancestors probably had eyes which were much more adept at adjusting to variations in light intensity than what we have now. It is quite likely that we have developed “lazy” eyes among other things, as well as obesity problems for some, because of long term poor sleep/sleep deprivation, due to there being too much constant light that people, living in big cities especially, are being exposed to. No BS. This also means that it is harder for people to switch, relax and go to sleep.

“but I hope they make you eat your words if and when they find New Las Vegas.”

I suppose finding a new Las Vegas might be a sort of comfort because at least we would know that there are other beings on other worlds who might be just as dumb as we are…;)


Not hard to understand lights on another world. I thought it was just nice scientists are expanding their search criteria.

Sorry for talking to you. I always am.

And they can see the flaming in this chat from Arcturus.

No need to be nasty, Vultan. I can’t recall you talking to me much at all. Don’t say I cause your head to spin as well? Oh dear, what can I say?

I was simply querying the assumptions made by scientists. It was you who queried if I had read the whole article, if I had not missed something and then told me that you hoped “they make me eat my words”.

Sure it is fine that scientists can look for lights on another world and I did not imply that scientists weren’t nice or otherwise. Actually lights on another world could mean anything…


Ah, sorry if it came across as nasty, but it’s been a long time since I came across a member of the Anti Electricity League. You’re with the Kerosene Lamp Association, aren’t you? AREN’T YOU?!!!


#15.. That was exactly what I thought while reading… It is awfully conceited to assume an alien civilization would have their cities lit up like ours… or to assume they would want to live in massive mega cities… maybe they like the dark… maybe they all live in suburban tract housing…. or underground… or use black lights… or infrared…

Nice that you people think of me, but if you’re going to bring up Erica Durance, do you provide a barf bag?

Thanks for another fun science article! Your work is appreciated.

Maybe aliens on other worlds use more environmentally-friendly power sources to light their cities? Or the planet has natural, glow-in-the-dark forests and plants that light up during the night, similar to Pandora from “Avatar”?

“We might find alien civilizations by looking for their city lights during the nighttime say Avi Loeb of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and Edwin Turner of Princeton University”
Statements like this just go to shown how dumbed down the universities have become.

These clowns sound like Packleds, “were gonna see lights, then will go there. Yep, see light first then go”

Our blackops projects already use Star Trek tech its just not discussed. Instead the public is fed tidbits like this garb as a means to show that scientists are learning more about the cosmos each day.
Were gonna look for lights. Lol,,, whata crock.

@19. You are the one who is trolling here. I am stating a fact based on the article last week where the author of this story basically said that anyone who disagreed with her on global warming was a “hater.” Obviously she needs posters such are yourself to defend her comments though, as she is too much of a wuss to respond to directly to a large groups of Trek fans here she insulted. She had demonstrated that she is a “hack author” by her use of a childish slam against a group of people who honestly disagree with her, and I am not going to let her slide by with it. We can no longer trust anything she writes, hence the term “hack science author” is applicable here.

Check the sea level rises from Envisat, the most sophisticated sea level satellite launched in 2012

correction “The 3 cm sea-level rise of the past couple of decades is lost in the noise over the past 25,000 years”






(that happened to be based on an internet meme)

What are you, some kind of (emotionless/humorless**) Vulcan*? Maybe the author does harbor strong feelings about people that disagree on global warming, and backpedaled with the lie that it was all a joke; but maybe NOT. Can we move on please? (and by we, I mean you.)

*This was also a joke.
**This was the explanation of the joke.

@39. WTF?

what’s wrong with Erica Durance, HB? i’d hump her enthusiastically (for science!)

#40. Wait for it!. here comes Harry!.

The laws of physics hold true throughout the universe, so it’s safe to assume that technology on other worlds will be similar to what is here. Electricity there is electricity here….

@Kayla Iacovino, please learn the difference between “their” and “they’re”.

40. “Erica Durance……I’d hump her”

You’re a brave man, admitting that you’re into beastiality!

Hey, whatever floats your boat!

Chris Fawkes- thanks for providing those links, I have put them in my favs as well- Very interesting information!!

I gotta address Phil too. :D I place a great deal of trust with past and current theories physicists, researchers and scientists presently. But one can only speculate that another planet will have nearly identical properties of Earth to be able to utilize the same technologies as we do. Given that planets have different structural make up, ie. atmospheric climates, to the core of a planet (or lack of one) to magnetic fields, etc.

It could be that we are the more technologically advanced compared to other civilizations elsewhere in the universe – who knows?

But dear God I hope not, because we remain very limited in our reaches within our own galaxy in travel, energy use, and above all, human disparities such as famine and lack of shelter, medical applications, both in pharmaceutical and healthcare delivery (remember Bones stating just how barbaric 20th century medicine was when Chekov was injured and was going to go under the knife for a brain injury?) I agree with him even though medicine has made great advancements, it is, at times barbaric!) I’m sure I’ve left some other things out, but I hope you get my point.

Have you noticed with every “advancement” there seems to be another problem accompanying it more times than not? It seems to be a perpetual quandry we are in. But that is at times what it takes to become advanced to what one day will take us to other planets, or further our ability to take better care of Earth and it’s inhabitants.

Lastly, Pensive…. ooh ick. ; P

new technology could help

It is possible that other civilisations out in space may be as technologically advanced as we are. It is just that it could be a different kind and the physiological and psychological make up and cultural imperatives of these people mean that they use the technology in a different way. Maybe they don’t need a lot of night light because they have extremely good night vision, as well as day vision – something to do with how their eyes are formed…who knows? Just speculating. There are a lots of animals on this earth whose vision far exceeds our own and others who have little vision at all. All depends.

On the other hand, there may be worlds that operate very much like earth does now… we just don’t know at this point, for better or worse.

The fact that pyramids were built in ancient Egypt and Central America goes to show that there can be parallel technological developments in different societies (unless Egyptians somehow managed to emigrate to the West and give the Mesoamericans their blueprints).

Anyway, the same could go for electricity and nighttime illumination.
It’s worth a look.

@44 “@Kayla Iacovino, please learn the difference between “their” and “they’re”.”

You know what they say, “hack writers gonna hack.”

And incidentally, “gonna” is not a real word either, Kayla.


Nice try pal. She had recently posted a comment on the previous science article stating that her statement was a joke. Which you probably didn’t bother reading or decided to ignore.

And I find it interesting and ironic (actually hypocritical would be the right word) that you’d refer to Kayla as a hack writer and continually bash her while posting on the very articles she puts up.

So it seems to me that not only are you incredibly hypocritical and arrogant, but you have no problem biting the hand that feeds you.