Wonderful news from the Sea Shepherd!

(I donate to these noble warriors of the ocean – will you? Even the smallest contribution makes a difference!)

Dear Patricia,
As you read this, all whaling operations in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary have been shut down 100% by Sea Shepherd. Thanks to support from people like you, we have become and are widely recognized as one of the most effective defenders of marine wildlife in the world. We get the job done! And we are getting the job done right now saving whales!

During Operation No Compromise, more whales have been saved than in any year before by any organization trying to save whales off the coast of Antarctica! We are only able to be successful because of the generosity of caring people like you. Day in and day out, your donations truly make a difference! Please donate today and help us continue to get the job done. Thank you for your support. It is our lifeblood.

Whaling Operations Currently Shut Down

Operation No Compromise just keeps getting better! The Gojira and the Bob Barker have intercepted the whale processing vessel, the Nisshin Maru, and have interrupted its illegal operations.

The Bob Barker has placed itself immediately aft to the stern slipway of the Nisshin Maru. By blocking the stern slipway, the factory ship is unable to load dead whales from the harpoon vessels. If the harpoon vessels cannot offload their catch, they cannot catch more whales. This means that whaling operations have been shut down in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary as of present.

The Steve Irwin Refuel Successful and Departs for the Sanctuary
Our flagship vessel, the Steve Irwin, has successfully completed its much-needed resupply mission to Wellington, New Zealand and is now en route to the Southern Ocean to rejoin its fleet.

Within a week, the Steve Irwin will be back with our other two ships on the trail of the Japanese whaling fleet, fully supplied, and with the ability to take our campaign to the end of the whaling season in March. (more)

Narrow Escape for the Gojira

Last week saw an incident in the Southern Ocean that brought back not-so-distant memories of the Ady Gil collision last January!

The Yushin Maru No. 3 deliberately turned into the Gojira in an attempt to ram and destroy the fast multi hulled vessel. The Gojira narrowly escaped being sliced in two.

Exposing the Entire Season of the Annual Dolphin Slaughter

Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians are keeping watch on the killing Cove of Taiji, Japan and documenting the seven-month annual slaughter of dolphins with blogs, photos, and videos.

With so much going on in our campaigns right now, we are busy planning for the year ahead, as well. Last year saw more Sea Shepherd campaigns than ever before and this year we intend to keep the momentum up and save as many sea creatures and their environments as possible!

The fact is – it is expensive to save a life. It would (financially) cost nothing for you and me to ignore the exploitation and slaughter of the wonderful creatures with whom we share this planet, but I can do no such thing and I know that you can’t either. I know the cost future generations will incur if our generation stands idly by and does nothing. Consider donating today and help us stand against the costly exploitation of our oceans. Thank-you!

For the oceans,

Captain Paul Watson
Founder and President
E-mail: captainwatson@seashepherd.org
Tel: +1 (360) 370-5650
Fax: +1 (360) 370-5651
Website: www.seashepherd.org

ASA spots 54 potentially life-friendly planets


An orbiting NASA telescope is finding whole new worlds of possibilities in the search for alien life, spotting more than 50 potential planets that appear to be in the habitable zone.

In just a year of peering out at a small slice of the galaxy, the Kepler telescope has discovered 1,235 possible planets outside our solar system. Amazingly, 54 of them are seemingly in the zone that could be hospitable to life — that is, not too hot or too cold, Kepler chief scientist William Borucki said.

Until now, only two planets outside our solar system were even thought to be in the “Goldilocks zone.” And both those discoveries are highly disputed.

Fifty-four possibilities is “an enormous amount, an inconceivable amount,” Borucki said. “It’s amazing to see this huge number because up to now, we’ve had zero.”

The more than 1,200 newfound celestial bodies are not confirmed as planets yet, but Borucki estimates 80 percent of them will eventually be verified. At least one other astronomer believes Kepler could be 90 percent accurate.

After that, it’s another big step in proving that a confirmed planet has some of the basic conditions needed to support life, such as the proper size, composition, temperature and distance from its star. More advanced aspects of habitability such as atmospheric conditions and the presence of water and carbon require telescopes that aren’t built yet.

Just because a planet is in the habitable zone doesn’t mean it has life. Mars is a good example of that. And even if some these planets are found to contain life, it may not be intelligent life; it could be bacteria or mold or some kind of life form people can’t even imagine.

All the celestial bodies Kepler looks at are in our Milky Way galaxy, but they are so far away that traveling there is not a realistic option. In some cases it would take many millions of years with current technology.

But what Kepler is finding in distant parts of the galaxy could be applied to exploring closer stars, astronomers say.
“Our grandchildren will have to decide what’s the next step,” Borucki said at a NASA news conference. “Do they want to go there? Do they want to send a robot?”

Before Wednesday, the count of confirmed planets outside the solar system stood at 519. That means Kepler could triple the number. And those findings are from Kepler’s scanning of just one four-hundredth of the night sky, so the actual number of planets out there is presumably hundreds of times greater, Borucki said.That is exciting to astronomers, since the more planets there are, the greater the odds that life exists elsewhere in the universe.

Yale University astronomer Debra Fischer, who wasn’t part of the Kepler team but serves as an outside expert for NASA, said the new information “gives us a much firmer footing” to hope for worlds that could harbor life.

“I feel different today, knowing these new Kepler results, than I did a week ago,” Fischer said. She said Kepler “has blown the lid off of everything we know about extrasolar planets.”

Another outside astronomer, Lisa Kaltenegger of Harvard University, called the findings “exciting good news.”

Kepler also found that there are many more relatively small planets than there are giant planets. That is encouraging, too: Astronomers think a planet needs to be solid — rocky like Earth or Mars — for life to develop. And very large planets are unlikely to be solid; they are more prone to be gas behemoths like Jupiter.

Sixty-eight of the planet candidates Kepler found are considered Earth-sized, including the first ones ever discovered to be smaller than Earth. An additional 288 planets were less than twice the size of Earth, which is still in that optimum zone for life.

Only five of the 54 potentially habitable celestial bodies are close to the size of Earth, while the rest approach the gassy girths of Neptune or Jupiter, Borucki said.

To be in the habitable zone, a planet has to be the proper distance from its star so that it could have liquid water on its surface, at least sometimes. NASA considers habitable-zone temperatures to be roughly between 0 degrees and 200 degrees Fahrenheit. The proper distance varies by star; smaller, weaker stars, for example, would require planets to be closer to be habitable.

Because of the various factors that could make planets more prone to life, University of California Santa Cruz astronomer Greg Laughlin created a formula that puts a dollar value on these far-off planets with the idea that the first planet that is incredibly similar to Earth would have a value of $1 million.

Until Wednesday, the highest value Laughlin assigned to an exoplanet, which is what astronomers call a planet outside our solar system, was a measly $158. One of Kepler’s new discoveries is worth nearly a quarter-million dollars, Laughlin figures.

Kepler was launched in 2009 and orbits the sun between Earth and Mars. It needs time to find planets, identifying them by watching them repeatedly move past the star they orbit.

Kepler scientists are strict about calling candidate planets confirmed. Of 400 candidate planets announced last year, only nine of Kepler’s discoveries had been confirmed before Wednesday.

Of the more than 800 new candidates, both in and out of the habitable zone, only six are confirmed, all way too hot for life. And they are strange — all densely packed and circling a single star. Five of them are closer to their star than Mercury is to our sun, and they move in precise circular and stable orbits.

That strange star system is 2,000 light years from Earth, according to a separate study published Wednesday in the journal Nature. A light year is nearly 6 trillion miles.
NASA’s Kepler mission: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/kepler/main/index.html
Nature: http://www.nature.com/nature