New Study Shows the Earth and Moon are not so Similar After All

According to the most widely-accepted theory, the Moon formed roughly 4.5 billion years ago when a Mars-sized object named Theia collided with Earth (aka. the Giant Impact Hypothesis). This impact threw up considerable amounts of debris which gradually coalesced to form Earth’s only natural satellite. One of the most compelling proofs for this theory is the fact that the Earth and the Moon are remarkably similar in terms of composition.

However, previous studies involving computer simulations have shown that if the Moon were created by a giant impact, it should have retained more material from the impactor itself. But according to a new study conducted by a team from the University of New Mexico, it is possible that the Earth and the Moon are not as similar as previously thought.

Continue reading “New Study Shows the Earth and Moon are not so Similar After All”

70 Million Years Ago, Days Were 30 Minutes Shorter, According to this Ancient Clam

Has humanity been doing it all wrong? We’re busy staring off into space with our futuristic, ultra-powerful telescopes, mesmerized by ethereal nebulae and other wondrous objects, and trying to tease out the Universe’s well-kept secrets. Turns out, humble, ancient clams have something to tell us, too.

Continue reading “70 Million Years Ago, Days Were 30 Minutes Shorter, According to this Ancient Clam”

Phew, Earth-Watching DSCOVR is Operational Again

Rejoice! If you’ve missed your daily fix of seeing views of our rotating Earth from space, NOAA announced that its Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) is now back in action. The deep space satellite, which produces incredible full-disk images of our Blue Marble, has been offline since June 27, 2019 because of a problem with the spacecraft’s attitude control system. But NOAA and NASA engineers developed and uploaded a software patch to restore DSCOVR’s operations.

Continue reading “Phew, Earth-Watching DSCOVR is Operational Again”

3 Billion Years Ago, the World Might Have Been a Waterworld, With No Continents At All

Artist's depiction of a waterworld. A new study suggests that Earth is in a minority when it comes to planets, and that most habitable planets may be greater than 90% ocean. Credit: David A. Aguilar (CfA)

Evidence from an ancient section of the Earth’s crust suggest that Earth was once a water-world, some three billion years ago. If true, it’ll mean scientists need to reconsider some thinking around exoplanets and habitability. They’ll also need to reconsider their understanding of how life began on our planet.

Continue reading “3 Billion Years Ago, the World Might Have Been a Waterworld, With No Continents At All”

A Picture of Earth’s New Temporary Moon

With the excitement and interest in the newly discovered ‘mini-moon’ found orbiting Earth, astronomers quickly set their sights on trying to get more details, to determine what this object actually is.

Using the Gemini Observatory in Hawaii, a group of astronomers captured a clearer view of this so-called Temporarily Captured Object (TCO), named 2020 CD3. The image, above, was obtained on February 24, 2020. It shows a tiny pinpoint of light against trailing stars.

Continue reading “A Picture of Earth’s New Temporary Moon”

Solar Storms Might Confuse Whale Navigation, and Make Them More Likely to Strand Themselves

The Gray Whale is the 10th largest creature alive today, and the 9 creatures larger than it are all whales, too. Gray Whales are known for their epic migration routes, sometimes covering more than 16,000 km (10,000 miles) on their two-way trips between their feeding grounds and their breeding grounds. Researchers don’t have a complete understanding of how whales navigate these great distances, but some evidence suggests that Earth’s magnetism has something to do with it.

Continue reading “Solar Storms Might Confuse Whale Navigation, and Make Them More Likely to Strand Themselves”

Nutrient-Poor and Energy-Starved. How Life Might Survive at the Extremes in the Solar System

Our growing understanding of extremophiles here on Earth has opened up new possibilities in astrobiology. Scientists are taking another look at resource-poor worlds that appeared like they could never support life. One team of researchers is studying a nutrient-poor region of Mexico to try to understand how organisms thrive in challenging environments.

Continue reading “Nutrient-Poor and Energy-Starved. How Life Might Survive at the Extremes in the Solar System”

The Pale Blue Dot: Now New and Improved

Thirty years have now passed since the Voyager 1 spacecraft snapped one of the most iconic and memorable pictures in spaceflight history. Known as the “Pale Blue Dot,” the heart-rending view shows planet Earth as a single, bright blue pixel in the vastness of space, as seen from the outer reaches of the solar system.

Now, NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory have provided a new and improved version, using state of the art image-processing software and techniques to reprocess the thirty-year-old image. JPL software engineer and image processor Kevin Gill, whose images we feature often on Universe Today, led the effort.

Continue reading “The Pale Blue Dot: Now New and Improved”