We all know what water is. And what rock is. The difference is crystal clear. Well, here on Earth it is.
But on other worlds? The difference might not be so clear.
Continue reading “Deep Down in Ocean Worlds, it’s Difficult to Tell Where the Oceans End and the Rock Begins”
At first glance, Jupiter’s moon Europa doesn’t seem much like Earth. It’s a moon, not a planet, and it’s covered in ice. But it does have one important thing in common with Earth: a warm, salty ocean.
Now there’s even more evidence that Europa’s sub-surface ocean is habitable.
Continue reading “More Evidence that Europa’s Oceans Could be Habitable”
A black hole as a source of energy?
We know black holes as powerful singularities, regions in space time where gravity is so overwhelming that nothing—not even light itself—can escape.
About 50 years ago, British physicist Roger Penrose proposed that black holes could be a source of energy. Now, researchers at the University of Glasgow in Scotland have demonstrated that it may be possible.
Continue reading “How an Advanced Civilization Could Exploit a Black Hole for Nearly Limitless Energy”
Newborn exoplanets can have a tough life. They may form an atmosphere, but that atmosphere can be doomed. Their stars can emit intense X-ray and UV radiation, stripping away those atmospheres and laying their surfaces bare.
A team of researchers from the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics looked at a family of four newborn sibling planets, and tried to understand how their star strips away their gaseous envelopes.
Continue reading “Newborn Exoplanets can be Completely Stripped of Their Atmosphere by Stars”
It looks like the InSight Lander’s Mole instrument is making some progress. After months of perseverance, the team operating the instrument has succeeded in getting the Mole at least some distance into the ground.
That’s a victory in itself, considering all the setbacks there’ve been. But it’s too soon to celebrate: there’s quite a ways to go before the Mole can deliver any science.
Continue reading “Finally! Mars InSight’s Mole is Now Underground”
The Chandra X-Ray Observatory has spotted a distant black hole shooting out jets of material, at close to the speed of light. No worries, this beast is about 10,000 light years away from us. It’s more of a spectacle than a danger.
But it’s a spectacle laden with scientific insights.
Continue reading “Black Hole Seen Blasting Out Jets at Close to the Speed of Light”
We’ve found thousands and thousands of exoplanets now. And spacecraft like TESS will likely find thousands and thousands more of them. But most exoplanets are gassy giants, molten hell-holes, or frozen wastes. How can we find those needles-in-the-haystack habitable worlds that may be out there? How can we narrow our search?
Well, first of all, we need to find water. Oceans, preferably, since that’s where life began on Earth. And according to a new study, those oceans need to circulate in particular ways to support life.
Continue reading “Ocean Circulation Might Be the Key to Finding Habitable Exoplanets”
One of the most fascinating things about planet Earth is the way that life shapes the Earth and the Earth shapes life. We only have to look back to the Great Oxygenation Event (GOE) of 2.4 billion years ago to see how lifeforms have shaped the Earth. In that event, phytoplanktons called cyanobacteria pumped the atmosphere with oxygen, extinguishing most life on Earth, and paving the way for the development of multicellular life.
Early Earth satisfied the initial conditions for life to appear, and now, lifeforms shape the atmosphere, the landscape, and the oceans in many different ways.
At the base of many of these changes is phytoplankton.
Continue reading “New Data Show How Phytoplankton Pumps Carbon Out of the Atmosphere at an Enormous Scale”
The full ramifications of the recent novel coronavirus pandemic are not yet known, and probably won’t be known or even felt for quite some time. Entire industries have been shifted and shuttered over the course of only a few tumultuous weeks due to Covid-19. Some industries and professions have been able to adapt quickly, some have had to close down or to send their workers home, while others are faltering and collapsing.
Continue reading “How Will Covid-19 affect the Future of Science?”
The CHEOPS (CHaracterising ExOPlanets Satellite) spacecraft just opened the cover on its telescope. The spacecraft was launched on December 18th 2019 and has so far performed flawlessly. In one or two weeks we could get our first images from the instrument.
Continue reading “CHEOPS Just Opened Its Eyes to Start Studying Known Exoplanets, We Should See the First Picture in a Few Weeks”