June 2014

The Kepler Space Telescope has discovered a large number of planets up to one year periods and down to terrestrial sizes.

We present an all-sky catalog of 2970 nearby (d≲50 pc), bright ( J<9 ) M- or late K-type dwarf stars, 86% of which have been confirmed by spectroscopy.

Infrared spectra of carbon-rich objects which have evolved off the asymptotic giant branch reveal a range of dust properties, including fullerenes, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), aliphatic hydrocarbons, and several unidentified features, including the 21 um emission feature.

Complex Organic Molecules (COMs) are considered crucial molecules, since they are connected with organic chemistry, at the basis of the terrestrial life.

Stanley Miller, the chemist whose landmark experiment published in 1953 showed how some of the molecules of life could have formed on a young Earth, left behind boxes of experimental samples that he never analyzed. The first-ever analysis of some of Miller's old samples has revealed another way that important molecules could have formed on early Earth.

We report the detection of GJ 832c, a super-Earth orbiting near the inner edge of the habitable zone of GJ 832, an M dwarf previously known to host a Jupiter analog in a nearly-circular 9.4-year orbit.

Transit and radial velocity searches are two techniques for identifying nearby extrasolar planets to Earth that transit bright stars.

The past twenty years have revealed the diversity of planets that exist in the Universe. It turned out that most of exoplanets are different from the planets of our Solar System and thus, everything about them needs to be explored.

Roy Price first heard about the hydrothermal vents in New Caledonia's Bay of Prony a decade ago. Being a scuba diver and a geologist, he was fascinated by the pictures of a 38-meter-high calcite "chimney" that had precipitated out of the highly-alkaline vent fluid.

Using ESA's Herschel space observatory, astronomers have discovered that a molecule vital for creating water exists in the burning embers of dying Sun-like stars.

A UNSW Australia-led team of researchers has discovered how algae that survive in very low levels of light are able to switch on and off a weird quantum phenomenon that occurs during photosynthesis.

NASA scientists have created a new recipe that captures key flavors of the brownish-orange atmosphere around Saturn's largest moon, Titan.

Researchers from the University of New Mexico and Northwestern University report evidence for potentially oceans worth of water deep beneath the United States. Though not in the familiar liquid form - the ingredients for water are bound up in rock deep in the Earth's mantle - the discovery may represent the planet's largest water reservoir.

Detecting biomarkers, such as molecular oxygen, in the atmospheres of transiting exoplanets has been a major focus in the search for alien life.

No true extrasolar Earth analog is known. Hundreds of planets have been found around Sun-like stars that are either Earth-sized but on shorter periods, or else on year-long orbits but somewhat larger.

Biological molecules are characterized by an intrinsic asymmetry known as homochirality. The result is optical activity of biological materials and circular polarization in the light scattered by microorganisms, cells of living organisms, as well as molecules (e.g. amino acids) of biological origin.

High altitude clouds and hazes are integral to understanding exoplanet observations, and are proposed to explain observed featureless transit spectra.

NASA has posted a position in the Science Mission Directorate for the Planetary Protection Officer. It has a very short response time, with applications due by June 25, 2014.

The first ecological study of an entire glacier has found that microbes drastically reduce surface reflectivity and have a non-negligible impact on the amount of sunlight that is reflected into space.

Geochemists have calculated a huge rise in atmospheric CO2 was only avoided by the formation of a vast mountain range in the middle of the ancient supercontinent, Pangea. This work is being presented to the Goldschmidt geochemistry conference in Sacramento, California.

Zunli Lu and Xiaoli Zhou, an assistant professor and Ph.D. student, respectively, in the Department of Earth Sciences, are part of an international team of researchers whose findings have been published by the journal Geology (Geological Society of America, 2014).

For planet hunters, this has been a bountiful year. A team lead of astronomers at the SETI Institute and NASA Ames Research Center have used data from NASA's Kepler space telescope to uncover 715 new exoplanets.

After more than two months on national televison NASA's Astrobiology Insitute has yet to utter a single word about "Cosmos". This is baffling. It is also simply unacceptable.

The cratering record on the Earth and Moon shows that our planet has been exposed to high velocity impacts for much or all of its existence. Some of these craters were produced by the impact of long period comets (LPCs).

We present medium resolution optical and NIR spectral data for components of the newly discovered WISE J104915.57-531906.1AB (Luhman 16AB) brown dwarf binary.

We study the magnetospheric structure and the ionospheric Joule Heating of planets orbiting M-dwarf stars in the habitable zone using a set of magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) models.

Approximately half of the extrasolar planets (exoplanets) with radii less than four Earth radii are in orbits with short periods. Despite their sheer abundance, the compositions of such planets are largely unknown.

Given the central role of carbon in the chemistry of life, it is a fundamental question as to how carbon is supplied to the Earth, in what form and when.

The birth environment of the Sun will have influenced the conditions in the pre-solar nebula, including the attainable chemical complexity, important for prebiotic chemistry.

Exoplanets of a few Earth masses can be now detected around nearby low-mass stars using Doppler spectroscopy. In this paper, we investigate the radial velocity variations of Kapteyn's star, which is both a sub-dwarf M-star and the nearest halo object to the Sun.

Life in the universe might be even rarer than we thought. Recently, astronomers looking for potentially habitable worlds have targeted red dwarf stars because they are the most common type of star, comprising 80 percent of the stars in the universe. But a new study shows that harsh space weather might strip the atmosphere of any rocky planet orbiting in a red dwarf's habitable zone.

Astronomers announced today that they have discovered a new type of planet - a rocky world weighing 17 times as much as Earth. Theorists believed such a world couldn't form because anything so hefty would grab hydrogen gas as it grew and become a Jupiter-like gas giant. This planet, though, is all solids and much bigger than previously discovered "super-Earths," making it a "mega-Earth."