If the Universe has adolescent galaxies, they’re the ones that formed about 2 to 3 billion years after the Big Bang. New research based on the James Webb Space Telescope shows that these teenage galaxies are unusually hot. Not only that, but they contain some unexpected chemical elements. The most surprising element found in these galaxies is nickel.Continue reading “Adolescent Galaxies are Incandescent and Contain Unexpected Elements”
Nature doesn’t conform to our ideas of neatly-contained categories. Many things in nature blur the lines we try to draw around them. That’s true of Jupiter’s moon Ganymede, the largest moon in the Solar System.
The JWST took a closer look at Ganymede, the moon that’s kind of like a planet, to understand its surface better.Continue reading “JWST Takes a Detailed Look at Jupiter’s Moon Ganymede”
Most planets and moons in the Solar System are clearly dead and totally unsuitable for life. Earth is the only exception. But there are a few worlds where there are intriguing possibilities of life.
Chief among them is Jupiter’s moon Europa, and the JWST just discovered carbon there. That makes the moon and its subsurface ocean an even more desirable target in the search for life.Continue reading “The JWST Just Found Carbon on Europa, Boosting the Moon’s Potential Habitability”
Supermassive Black Holes (SMBHs) are impossible to ignore. They can be billions of times more massive than the Sun, and when they’re actively consuming stars and gas, they become luminous active galactic nuclei (AGN.) A galaxy’s center is a busy place, with the activity centred on the SMBH.
New research provides strong evidence that while going about their business, SMBHs alter their host galaxy’s chemistry.Continue reading “Strong Evidence that Supermassive Black Holes Affect Their Host Galaxy’s Chemistry”
Astronomers have spotted barium in the atmosphere of a distant exoplanet. With its 56 protons, you have to run your finger further down the periodic table than astronomers usually do to find barium. What does finding such a heavy element in an exoplanet atmosphere mean?
It means we’re still learning how strange exoplanets can be.Continue reading “The Heaviest Element Ever Seen in an Exoplanet’s Atmosphere: Barium”
Finding oxygen in an exoplanet’s atmosphere is a clue that life may be at work. On Earth, photosynthetic organisms absorb carbon dioxide, sunlight, and water and produce sugars and starches for energy. Oxygen is the byproduct of that process, so if we can detect oxygen elsewhere, it’ll generate excitement. But researchers have also put pressure on the idea that oxygen in an exoplanet’s atmosphere indicates life. It’s only evidence of life if we can rule out other pathways that created the oxygen.
But scientists can’t rule them out.Continue reading “Scientists Discover a New Way Exoplanets Could Make Oxygen; Unfortunately, it Doesn’t Require Life”
When the James Webb Space Telescope aims at exoplanet atmospheres, it’ll use spectroscopy to identify chemical elements. One of the things it’s looking for is methane, a chemical compound that can indicate the presence of life.
Methane is a compelling biosignature. Finding a large amount of methane in an exoplanet’s atmosphere might be our most reliable indication that life’s at work there. There are abiotic sources of methane, but for the most part, methane comes from life.
But to understand methane as a potential biosignature, we need to understand it in a planetary context. A new research letter aims to do that.Continue reading “It’s Not Conclusive, But Methane is Probably the Best Sign of Life on Exoplanets”
Earth formed over 4.5 billion years ago via accretion. Earth’s building blocks were chunks of rock of varying sizes. From dust to planetesimals and everything in between. Many of those chunks of rock were carbonaceous meteorites, which scientists think came from asteroids in the outer reaches of the main asteroid belt.
But some evidence doesn’t line up well behind that conclusion. A new study says that some of the Earth-forming meteorites came from much further out in the Solar System.Continue reading “The Building Blocks of Earth Could Have Come From Farther out in the Solar System”
Will we ever understand life’s origins? Will we ever be able to put our finger on the exact moment and circumstances that lead to living matter? Will we ever pinpoint the spark? Who knows.
But what we can do is find out how widespread the conditions for life are and how widespread the molecular constituents for life are.Continue reading “Even More Complex Organic Molecules Have Been Found in a Protoplanetary Disc. Was Life Inevitable?”
We know a ton about the inside of Earth. We know it has both an inner core and an outer core and that the churning and rotation create a protective magnetosphere that shields life from the Sun’s radiative power. It has a mantle, primarily solid but also home to magma. We know it has a crust, where we live, and plate tectonics that moves the continents around like playthings.
But what about Super-Earths? We know they’re out there; we’ve found them. What do we know about their insides? Earth’s structure, and its ability to support life, are shaped by the extreme pressure and density in its interior. The pressure and temperature inside Super-Earths are even more powerful. How does it shape these planets and affect their habitability?Continue reading “What’s it Like Inside a Super-Earth?”