Researchers at the University of Washington’s Virtual Planetary Laboratory have devised a new habitability index for judging how suitable alien planets might be for life. The point of the exercise is to help scientists prioritize future targets for close-ups from NASA’s yet-to-be-launched James Webb Space Telescope… »
Yesterday, NASA reignited our hopes of finding alien life when it announced the first direct evidence of liquid water on Mars. But before we start indulging in fantasies of space crabs and reptilian beings, we ought to remember that Mars is a frigid world with a thin atmosphere. And that raises an obvious question:… »
After a weekend of rampant speculation, NASA has confirmed our suspicions: There’s probably liquid water on Mars today. The landmark finding makes the notion of life on the Red Planet all the more plausible. »
Discovering life on another planet, only to contaminate that world with our own pesky microbes, is one of NASA’s nightmare scenarios. To find out whether single-celled Earthlings can hitchhike to Mars and survive on the Red Planet’s surface, NASA is going to see how they like it 120,000 feet up.
Jupiter’s moon Io is an eruptive mystery. Based on scientific models, the tiny Jovian moon’s volcanoes flare up in the “wrong” places. How could that be? Well apparently, our models didn’t account for a massive subsurface ocean of lava. »
If you hopped in the Tardis and traveled back four billion years, you’d find yourself on a hot, miserable wasteland of a planet with nary an oxygen molecule to breathe. Earth used to be an asphyxiating hellscape, but over the eons, tiny green microbes filled the air with oxygen. New research finds they’ve been at it… »
Europa’s fabled ocean has inspired science fiction movies and actual space missions alike — and yet we aren’t even sure it exists. NASA has gotten so curious, it recently greenlit a mission to Europa that’ll hopefully settle the matter once and for all. And the space agency has just produced an excellent video… »
It’s generally assumed that we will eventually find signs of life in the galaxy. But rarely do we consider searching for advanced civilizations that have destroyed themselves. Here’s how we could do it—and what the search for dead aliens could tell us about our own future. »
Curious about how life got started on Earth 3.8 billion years ago? Here’s a thought: Why not recreate ancient hydrothermal vents in the lab, and see if they produce enough juice to power a lightbulb? That, at least, is what a bunch of scientists at the Jet Propulsion Lab decided to do—and the electrifying results are… »
Last week, a slew of scientific papers told the story of comet lander Philae’s bumpy touchdown, comet 67P’s surprisingly fluffy surface, and — most exciting — the discovery of life’s building blocks there. We haven’t found life. But we may have found part of life’s origin story, buried on this icy rock.
Last week, the human race met its very first Earth-like planet orbiting a Sun-like star in the habitable zone. Kepler-452b’s discovery was met with resounding excitement, but the news was bittersweet. Because life on this distant world — if it exists at all — could be facing imminent extinction.
Yesterday, NASA’s Kepler team announced the discovery of the most Earth-like planet yet. It may be larger than Earth, but this exoplanet is situated firmly within its star’s habitable zone—and it’s been there for a while. So could it actually sustain life? »
Given the vastness of space, it may only be a matter of time before we make contact with intelligent extraterrestrials. But how might an alien civilization react to such a monumental meet-and-greet, and can we possibly know their intentions? Here’s what we might expect. »
When we think “ancient Mars,” we often picture roaring rivers, warm oceans, and if we’re being optimistic, perhaps some simple life forms. But it’s also possible the Mars of eons past was not a water-covered paradise at all. It may, in fact, have resembled a giant, dirty snowball. »
Twenty years ago, discovering another Earth sounded like a science fictional dream. But within a generation, astronomers now believe we might do just that. »
SimEarth was right about one thing. The best way to wet up a planet? Hurl a bunch of icy asteroids at it. »