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…
In April, NASA Chief scientist Ellen Stofan predicted we would “have strong indications of life beyond Earth within a decade,” and “definitive evidence within 20 to 30 years.” Assuming this timeline is correct, how do we ensure the life we encounter—which astrobiologists predict will be non-sentient—will be respected?
It’s become a legend of the space age. The brilliant physicist Enrico Fermi, during a lunchtime conversation at Los Alamos National Laboratory in 1950, is supposed to have posed a conundrum for proponents of the existence of extraterrestrial civilizations:
Over fifty years ago, physicist Freeman Dyson proposed an awesome, if slightly insane, idea: That an advanced alien civilization might construct a massive, energy-harvesting sphere around its star, and bunk up inside.
The discovery is a boost for the Panspermia Hypothesis — but it's a potential nightmare for scientists concerned about interplanetary contamination.
Inside the French Space Centre headquarters, a small team consisting of four staffers and a dozen volunteers is tasked with analyzing reports of unidentified flying objects — and sometimes, the agency dispatches trained investigators to visit the locations of the strange sightings. They are the Agents of G.E.I.P.A.N.
Steven Dick, a famed astronomer and historian, has completed a one-year residency at the Library of Congress, researching his next book, How the Discovery of Life Will Transform Our Thinking. In an exclusive interview posted on the Library's blog, he discusses such provocative issues as evolution on a cosmic scale.
There may be as many as 100 million habitable worlds in the Milky Way. But just what, exactly, are the requirements for life? And what are the environmental extremes that life can handle? A new checklist for the habitability of exoplanets attempts to answer these questions.
Shortly after NASA was founded, it sought out expert opinions on the international, legal and economic ramifications of the U.S. space program. The venerable Washington-based think tank, The Brookings Institution, responded with a 1960 report that included thoughts on dealing with aliens.
It looks like it's finally going to happen, an actual mission to Jupiter's icy moon Europa — one of the the solar system's best candidates for hosting alien life.
Scientists from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center recently figured out how to look for extraterrestrial life in tiny samples of space dust using a nanoelectrospray emitter (above, right) that charges molecules into a mass spectrometer (above, left). Previously, they needed large chunks of carbon-rich meteorites to…
Most people take it for granted that we have yet to make contact with an extraterrestrial civilization. Trouble is, the numbers don’t add up. Our Galaxy is so old that every corner of it should have been visited many, many times over by now. No theory to date has satisfactorily explained away this Great Silence, so…
Scientists in Wales are claiming that they may have found fossilized microbes in meteorites that crashed to the ground a few years ago in Sri Lanka. The meteorites have a geological composition characteristic of comets, but when the researchers cracked them open they found something unexpected.
In death, it has been said, there is often life. And while it may sound counterintuitive, this old saw may hold especially true in the search for life of the extraterrestrial variety. NASA's Kepler mission may be just years away from discovering Earth 2.0, but the first signs of life probably won't come from planets…
There is no getting around the fact that a lot of people would be very excited if extraterrestrial life existed. But while plenty of scientists are working hard to find it, others aren't as convinced—and a team of Princeton physicists has gone as far as publishing an academic article explaining exactly why they think…
The Moon is ridiculously big relative to the size of Earth, and this was thought to be a cosmic rarity. Now it looks like rocky planets with huge moons are actually extremely common, which might help us find alien life.
It seems too cruel to believe we're the only technologically advanced species in the cosmos. We couldn't possibly be the only ones, with so many stars and so many habitable planets out there.
NASA is bringing together a geologist, an oceanographer, a biologist, and an ecologist for a press conference on Thursday to talk about an astrobiology discovery that "will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life." Yeah, this could be major.
That's what one scientist is claiming, saying he detected a suspicious light pulse in the vicinity of Gliese 581g two years ago. But the rest of the astronomy community is blasting his claims, accusing him of making a mistake...or worse.
Our species' long-term survival might ultimately rest on our ability to keep existence interesting, and that could prove impossible unless we find aliens to talk to. Without other intelligent lifeforms around, say theorists, humanity's collective intellect might wither and die.