Confirmed. Fossils That Formed 3.5 billion Years Ago, Really are Fossils. The Oldest Evidence of Life Found So Far

The title of Earth’s Earliest Life has been returned to the fossils in the Pilbara region of Australia. The Pilbara fossils had held that title since the 1980s, until researchers studying ancient rocks in Greenland found evidence of ancient life there. But subsequent research questioned the biological nature of the Greenland evidence, which put the whole issue into question again.

Now a new study of the Pilbara fossils has identified the presence of preserved organic matter in those fossils, and handed the ‘Ancient Life’ crown back to them.

Continue reading “Confirmed. Fossils That Formed 3.5 billion Years Ago, Really are Fossils. The Oldest Evidence of Life Found So Far”

Astronauts Explore Caves on Earth, Learning the Skills They’ll Need for the Moon and Mars

We’re accustomed to astronauts pulling off their missions without a hitch. They head up to the International Space Station for months at a time and do what they do, then come home. But upcoming missions to the surface of the Moon, and maybe Mars, present a whole new set of challenges.

One way astronauts are preparing for those challenges is by exploring the extreme environment inside caves.

Continue reading “Astronauts Explore Caves on Earth, Learning the Skills They’ll Need for the Moon and Mars”

A Distant Asteroid Collision Gave Earthly Biodiversity An Ancient Boost

About 466 million years ago, there was an asteroid collision in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. The collision caused the breakup of a major asteroid, creating a shower of dust throughout the inner Solar System. That event is called the Ordovician Meteor Event, and its dust caused an ice age here on Earth.

That ice age contributed to an enormous boost in biodiversity on ancient Earth.

Continue reading “A Distant Asteroid Collision Gave Earthly Biodiversity An Ancient Boost”

All Life on Earth is Made up of the Same 20 Amino Acids. Scientist Now Think They Know Why

The question of how life on Earth first emerged is one that humans have been asking themselves since time immemorial. While scientists are relatively confident about when it happened, there has been no definitive answer as to why it did. How did amino acids, the chemical building blocks of life, come together roughly four billion years ago to create the first protein molecules?

While that question is still unanswered, scientists are making new discoveries that could help narrow it down. For instance, a team of researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Center for Chemical Evolution (CCT) recently conducted a study that showed how some of the earliest predecessors of the protein molecule may have spontaneously linked up to form a chain.

Continue reading “All Life on Earth is Made up of the Same 20 Amino Acids. Scientist Now Think They Know Why”

Fossilized Clams Had Evidence of a Meteorite Impact Inside Them

When an extraterrestrial object slams into the Earth, it sends molten rock high into the atmosphere. That debris cools and re-crystallizes and falls back down to Earth. Tiny glass beads that form in this process are called microtektites, and researchers in Florida have found microtektites inside fossilized clams.

Continue reading “Fossilized Clams Had Evidence of a Meteorite Impact Inside Them”

New Study Shows How Breaching “Carbon Threshold” Could Trigger Mass Extinction in Earth’s Oceans

This view of Earth’s horizon was taken by an Expedition 7 crewmember onboard the International Space Station, using a wide-angle lens while the Station was over the Pacific Ocean. A new study suggests that Earth's water didn't all come from comets. Credit: NASA

Between the scientific community, governments, humanitarian organizations, and even military planners, climate change is considered to be the single greatest threat facing humanity today. Between the increases in famine, disease, flooding, displacement, extreme weather, and chaos that result, it is clear that the way we are causing our planet to get warmer is having dire consequences.

But there a number of scenarios where the harm being done now could result in a runaway effect leading to mass extinctions. This possibility was illustrated in a recent study conducted by MIT professor Daniel Rothman with the support of NASA and the National Science Foundation (NSF). According to Rothman, we are in danger of breaching a “carbon threshold” that could lead to a runaway effect with Earth’s oceans.

Continue reading “New Study Shows How Breaching “Carbon Threshold” Could Trigger Mass Extinction in Earth’s Oceans”

Airplane Contrails are Contributing to Global Warming Too

To the scientifically uninitiated, it might seem like a frivolous idea: That those slight, wispy clouds that trail behind jet aircraft at such high altitudes could contribute to climate change. But they do.

Scientists love to measure things, and when they measured these contrails, which is short for condensation trails, they found bad news. Though they look kind of beautiful and ephemeral on a summer day, they pack an oversize punch when it comes to their warming effect.

Continue reading “Airplane Contrails are Contributing to Global Warming Too”

Eruption of the Raikoke Volcano, Seen From Space

The Raikoke Volcano, dormant for a very long time, has awoken from its slumber. The volcanic island is in the Kuril Island chain, near the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia. Unlike its more volcanically active neighbours, Raikoke has been dormant since 1924.

Thanks to astronauts on the International Space Station, we have gorgeous photos of the eruption.

Continue reading “Eruption of the Raikoke Volcano, Seen From Space”