“Whether we are an extremely rare fluke — a phenomenon that only happens once in a universe — or in a galaxy teeming with life is a very basic question not only of science, but of our existence,” said Dimitar Sasselov, a planetary astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who was not involved in the discovery. It’s “the first time in human history we have a good shot at answering that question, and that’s very exciting.”
Continue reading "NASA's Kepler-Mission Scientists' Insights and Comments on Discovery of 1st Earth-Sized Planet in Habitable Zone" »
“This is really a tip-of-the-iceberg discovery,” said study co-author Jason Rowe, an astronomer at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif., who spent a year analyzing data gathered by NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope that led to finding the planet known as Kepler-186f. "We can infer that other ones are likely to exist. And that’s going to be the job of future missions to find [them].”
Continue reading "Epic Discovery! NASA Announces First Earth-Size Planet Found That Could Support Life" »
Five years ago today, on March 6, 2009, NASA's Kepler Space Telescope rocketed into the night skies to find planets around other stars within a field of view 1/400th the size of the Milky Way in search of potentially habitable worlds. Since then, Kepler has unveiled a whole new side of our galaxy -- one that is teeming with planets. Because of Kepler we now know that most stars have planets, Earth-sized planets are common, and planets quite unlike those in our solar system exist.
Continue reading ""Getting Closer and Closer" --Kepler Mission Findings Reveal Alien Star Systems in a Milky Way Teeming with Planets" »
NASA will host a news teleconference at 11 a.m. PDT (2 p.m. EDT) Thursday, April 17, to announce a new discovery made by its planet-hunting mission, the Kepler Space Telescope. The journal Science has embargoed the findings until the time of the news conference. For a detailed background briefing, see our post "Getting Closer and Closer" --Kepler Mission Findings Reveal Alien Star Systems in a Milky Way Teeming with Planets.
Continue reading "New Kepler-Mission Discovery Livestreamed by NASA Today 2 PM EDT --Is It a Twin Earth?" »
Geologists who analyzed 40 meteorites that fell to Earth from Mars unlocked secrets of the Martian atmosphere hidden in the chemical signatures of these ancient rocks. The results will help guide researchers’ next steps in understanding whether life exists, or has ever existed, on Mars and how water—now absent from the Martian surface—flowed there in the past. Their study shows that the atmospheres of Mars and Earth diverged in important ways very early in the 4.6 billion year evolution of our solar system.
Continue reading "Diverging Evolution of Early Earth and Mars Revealed by Meteorites" »
"Perhaps empty space is not completely empty after all, but permeated by an unknown field, similar to the Higgs-field", says Professor Hartmut Abele of the Vienna University of Technology, director of the Atominstitut. These theories are named after Aristotle's "quintessence" – a hypothetical fifth element, in addition to the four classical elements of ancient Greek philosophy.
Continue reading ""The Universe May be Permeated by an as Yet Unknown Field"" »
New findings may have the effect of expanding that perceived habitable zone by 10 to 20 percent, almost doubling the number of potentially habitable planets in our galaxy. A fluctuating tilt in a planet’s orbit does not preclude the possibility of life, according to astronomers at the University of Washington, Utah’s Weber State University and NASA. In fact, sometimes it helps. These " tilt-a-worlds,” as astronomers sometimes call them — turned from their orbital plane by the influence of companion planets — are less likely than fixed-spin planets to freeze over, as heat from their host star is more evenly distributed.
Continue reading ""Number of Potentially Habitable Planets in the Milky Way May Be Double" --NASA" »
"We have not seen anything like this before," said Carl Murray of Queen Mary University of London. "We may be looking at the act of birth, where this object is just leaving the rings and heading off to be a moon in its own right. The theory holds that Saturn long ago had a much more massive ring system capable of giving birth to larger moons," he added. "As the moons formed near the edge, they depleted the rings and evolved, so the ones that formed earliest are the largest and the farthest out."
Continue reading "Saturn's Rings -- "Do They Reveal the Creation of a New Moon?"" »
Massive Earth-like planets that have both continents and oceans may be better at harboring extraterrestrial life than those that are water-only worlds. A new study gives hope for the possibility that many super-Earth planets orbiting distant stars have exposed continents rather than just water-covered surfaces.
Continue reading "SuperEarths with Exposed Continents Boost Probability of Extraterrestrial Life" »
In 1980 and 1981 NASA's Voyager 1 and 2 space probes passed for the first time over the planet Saturn, located 1,500 million km from the Sun. Among their numerous discoveries they observed a strange, hexagon-shaped structure in the planet's uppermost clouds surrounding its north pole. The hexagon remained virtually static, without moving, vis-à-vis the planet's overall rotation that was not accurately known. What is more, the images captured by the Voyager probes found that the clouds were moving rapidly inside the hexagon in an enclosed jet stream and were being dragged by winds travelling at over 400 km/h.
Continue reading "Saturn's Enigmatic Hexagon --"Yields Clues to the Hydrogen-Gas Giant's Hidden Atmosphere"" »
During a lunch at Los Alamos in 1950, physicist Enrico Fermi asked his colleagues working on the Manhattan Project, "Don't you ever wonder where everybody is?" Fermi argued that given the large number of stars and planetary systems in the Milky Way and their old age, life should have arose and acquired technology that would be far more advanced than ours.
Continue reading ""Where Are They?" --Will Enrico Fermi's Question Be Answered Soon? (VIDEO)" »
"We haven't found strange stars yet," explains Prashanth Jaikumar at the Argonne National Laboratory. "But that doesn't mean they don't exist. Maybe we have found them. Maybe some of these neutron stars are really strange stars. According to our theory, it would be very difficult to tell a strange star from a neutron star."
Continue reading "Strange Quark Stars --Does One Actually Exist in a Nearby Supernova?" »
Since Curiosity landed on Mars in 2012, there have been several rumors that evidence has been found of Martian life in the forms of fossils, statues and even a carved alien skull and that NASA has "covered up" the existence of alien life on the planet.
Continue reading "NASA Refutes Rumors that Source of Mars' Flash of Light is Alien Life" »
Join the 303,000 Daily Galaxy fans around the world who follow us via their Twitter page. Our followers include many of the planet's leading astronomers and scientists, astronauts, space observatories, news organizations, universities and governmental space organizations such as NASA, JPL, ESO, SETI, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) and Royal Astronomy Society members. Follow us daily at twitter.com/dailygalaxy.
Continue reading "The 'Daily Galaxy' Twitter Followers Soar Above 300,000!" »
Gusev Crater once held a lake, according to a team of Mars scientists. If desert mirages occur on Mars, "Lake Gusev" belongs among them. This come-and-go body of ancient water has come and gone more than once, at least in the eyes of Mars scientists. Now, however, it's finally shifting into sharper focus, thanks to a new analysis of old data by a team led by Steve Ruff, associate research professor at Arizona State University's Mars Space Flight Facility in the School of Earth and Space Exploration. The team's report was just published in the April 2014 issue of the journal Geology.
Continue reading "Mars' Crater Landing Site for NASA's Spirit Rover --Harbored an Ancient Lake" »
The discovery of dark matter means we would have identified the dominant form of matter in the universe that seeded structure and led to galaxies, solar systems and planets, and ultimately to our Earth with intelligent life. In late February, dark matter hunters from around the world gathered at the University of California, Los Angeles for “Dark Matter 2014” --the unknown stuff that makes up more than a quarter of the universe yet remains a mystery.
Continue reading ""The Quest for Dark Matter" --World's Leading Experts Discuss Their Search" »
Astronomers using ESO’s Very Large Telescope in Chile have captured this eye-catching image of planetary nebula PN A66 33 — usually known as Abell 33. Created when an aging star blew off its outer layers, this beautiful blue bubble is, by chance, aligned with a foreground star, and bears an uncanny resemblance to a diamond ring. This cosmic gem is unusually symmetric, appearing to be almost circular on the sky.
Continue reading "Image of the Day: Sparkling Blue Ring of Cosmic Relics" »
Thirteen billion years ago our universe was dark. There were neither stars nor galaxies; there was only hydrogen gas left over after the Big Bang. This early universe was hot and ionized. But as the universe expanded, it cooled, and 380,000 years after the Big Bang, protons joined electrons to make neutral hydrogen atoms, which block light. As stars and galaxies evolved whose radiation ionized the universe anew, allowing light to speed through space unimpeded. Eventually that mysterious time came to an end as the first stars ignited and their radiation transformed the nearby gas atoms into ions. This phase of the universe's history is called the Epoch of Reionization (EoR), and is linked to many fundamental unanswered questions in cosmology.
Continue reading "Extinct Galaxy Observed Orbiting Milky Way --"A Fossil of the Early Universe"" »
Quasars are young galaxies powered by massive black holes, extremely bright, extremely distant, and thus highly redshifted. The Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS), the largest component of the third Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS-III), pioneered the use of quasars to map density variations in intergalactic gas at high redshifts, tracing the structure of the young universe. BOSS charts the history of the universe's expansion in order to illuminate the nature of dark energy, and new measures of large-scale structure have yielded the most precise measurement of expansion since galaxies first formed.
Continue reading "Massive Galaxies of Early Universe Powered by Black Holes --"Reveal the Nature of Dark Energy"" »
A new approach can distinguish between two subtly different scenarios that could explain the genetic similarities shared by Neandertals and modern humans from Europe and Asia. Technical objections to the idea that Neandertals interbred with the ancestors of Eurasians have been overcome, thanks to this new genome analysis method described in the April 2014 issue of the journal Genetics. The technique can more confidently detect the genetic signatures of interbreeding than previous approaches and will be useful for evolutionary studies of other ancient or rare DNA samples.
Continue reading "Is There a Neandertal in Your DNA? --New Confirmation of Interbreeding" »
A cold gas cloud named G2, about three times the mass of Earth, will pass near Sgr A** in 2014 and already is being affected by tides from the black hole's powerful gravitational field. Astronomers expect G2 will swing so close to the black hole during the second quarter of the year that it will heat up to the point where it produces X-rays.
Continue reading "Cloud 3-Times Mass of Earth and Rare Neutron Star Found in Orbit Around Milky Way's Supermassive Black Hole" »
In last night's Episode 4, Hiding in the Light, Neil deGrasse Tyson took us on a tour de force of light and its central impact on our existence. Our human window on the Universe is within a stunningly small range of wavelengths. "With our eyes we see wavelengths between 0.00004 and 0.00008 of a centimeter (where, not so oddly, the Sun and stars emit most of their energy). The human visual spectrum from violet to red is but one octave on an imaginary electromagnetic piano with a keyboard hundreds of kilometers long," says James Kaler, astronomer and author of "Heavens Gate: From Killer Stars to the Seeds of Life, How We are Connected to the Universe."
Continue reading "Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey --"Hiding in the Light" (More In-Depth on Episode 5)" »
If all organisms on Earth synthesize L-amino acids, where do D-amino acids come from? Amino acids have the property of being able to spontaneously flip from one form to another, a process called racemization. Racemization is very slow. Most organisms do not live long enough for this process to kill the proteins and, ultimately, the organisms themselves. In soils, however, amino acids can be sequestered for thousands or even millions of years, allowing racemization to accumulate. Eventually, the concentrated D-amino acids are released into the environments – to the waiting bacteria, rather than poisoning plant and animal life.
Continue reading "New Bacteria Discovery --"Implications for Organisms on Earth and Worlds Beyond"" »
Astronomers discovered a massive cluster of young galaxies forming in the distant universe. The growing galactic metropolis, named COSMOS-AzTEC3, is the most distant known massive "proto-cluster" of galaxies, lying about 12.6 billion light-years away from Earth. Members of the developing cluster are shown here, circled in white, in this image taken by Japan's Subaru telescope atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii. The cluster was discovered by a suite of multi-wavelength telescopes, including NASA's Spitzer, Chandra and Hubble space observatories, Subaru and the W.M. Keck Observatory, also atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii.
Continue reading "Image of the Day: Galactic City at the Edge of the Universe" »
What happens inside a dying star? A recent experiment at CERN’s REX accelerator offers clues that could help astrophysicists to recalculate the ages of some of the largest explosions in the universe. Core-collapse supernovae are spectacular stellar explosions that can briefly outshine an entire galaxy. They occur when massive stars – stars that are more than eight times as massive as our sun – collapse upon themselves. Huge amounts of matter and energy are ejected into space during these events. The cores of such stars then rapidly collapse and go on to form a neutron star or a black hole.
Continue reading "CERN Accelerator Provides Clues to Ages of Largest Explosions in the Universe" »
Our galactic center teems with gamma-ray sources, from interacting binary systems and isolated pulsars to supernova remnants and particles colliding with interstellar gas. It's also where astronomers expect to find the galaxy's highest density of dark matter, which only affects normal matter and radiation through its gravity. Large amounts of dark matter attract normal matter, forming a foundation upon which visible structures, like galaxies, are built.
Continue reading "Mystery Signal from Center of Milky Way --Does It Come from Dark Matter Sources?" »
Mercury is the last of the classical planets, the planets known to the astronomers of Egypt and Greece and Rome and the Far East. It’s an object that has captivated the imagination and the attention of astronomers for millennia. Mercury has always been a bit of an oddball as the only planet in the Solar System that does not follow a basically circular orbit.
Continue reading "Mercury's Volcanic Activity Lasted Billions of Years --A Surprising New Finding" »
Last week, 60 scientists met at ESA’s European Space Astronomy Centre near Madrid, and selected four potential landing sites for a European rover designed to search for preserved organic matter that, on the surface, might have been destroyed by harsh radiation. The 300-kilogram ExoMars rover, fitted with a drill that can bore 2 metres into rock, is part of a joint mission of the European Space Agency (ESA) and Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos, is scheduled to land on Mars in early 2019.
Continue reading "ESA's ExoMars Landing Sites Narrowed to Four --In Search for Ancient Organic Matter" »