Archives

December 2014


Old Dominion University faculty member Nora Noffke has made a name for herself as a geobiologist during the past decade by producing sedimentary evidence that prokaryote biofilms existed on Earth billions of years ago.

UT Arlington astrophysicist offers new method for finding regions favorable for life in stellar binary systems.

A new analysis of a Martian rock that meteorite hunters plucked from an Antarctic ice field 30 years ago this month reveals a record of the planet's climate billions of years ago, back when water likely washed across its surface and any life that ever formed there might have emerged.

A new study from University of Missouri and Virginia Tech researchers is challenging accepted ideas about how ancient soft-bodied organisms become part of the fossil record.

A quantum change in our understanding of how much of Earth's crust may be habitable.

The extinction of the dinosaurs 66 million years ago is thought to have paved the way for mammals to dominate, but a new study shows that many mammals died off alongside the dinosaurs.

An MIT study finds an exoplanet, tilted on its side, could still be habitable if covered in ocean.

A new study is helping to answer a longstanding question that has recently moved to the forefront of earth science: Did our planet make its own water through geologic processes, or did water come to us via icy comets from the far reaches of the solar system?

The vast collecting area of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), harnessed by sensitive receivers, flexible digital electronics and increased computational capacity, could permit the most sensitive and exhaustive search for technologically-produced radio emission from advanced extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) ever performed.

We describe three useful applications of asteroseismology in the context of exoplanet science: (1) the detailed characterisation of exoplanet host stars; (2) the measurement of stellar inclinations; and (3) the determination of orbital eccentricity from transit duration making use of asteroseismic stellar densities.

The quantity η⊕, the number density of planets per star per logarithmic planetary radius per logarithmic orbital period at one Earth radius and one year period, describes the occurrence of Earth-like extrasolar planets.

Research over the past four decades has shown a rich variety of complex organic molecular content in some meteorites.

NASA's Mars Curiosity rover has measured a tenfold spike in methane, an organic chemical, in the atmosphere around it and detected other organic molecules in a rock-powder sample collected by the robotic laboratory's drill.

New research published today in the journal Physical Review Letters describes how recreating isotopes that occur when a star explodes, can help physicists understand where life-supporting elements may be found in space.

In 2012 the Mars Science Laboratory landed in the fascinating Gale crater. The Gale crater is of such great interest because of the 5.5 km high mountain of layered materials in the middle.

Many aspects of planet formation are controlled by the amount of gas remaining in the natal protoplanetary disk (PPDs).

We calculate the pre-main-sequence HZ for stars of spectral classes F to M. The spatial distribution of liquid water and its change during the pre-main-sequence phase of protoplanetary systems is important in understanding how planets become habitable.

Among the billions and billions of stars in the sky, where should astronomers look for infant Earths where life might develop?

The data recently accumulated by the Kepler mission have demonstrated that small planets are quite common and that a significant fraction of all stars may have an Earth-like planet within their Habitable Zone.

Determining planetary habitability is a complex matter, as the interplay between a planet's physical and atmospheric properties with stellar insolation has to be studied in a self consistent manner.

A key discovery of the Kepler mission is of the circumbinary planets known as "Tatooines", which appear to be well aligned with their host stars' orbits.

Planets orbiting close to low-mass stars - easily the most common stars in the universe - are prime targets in the search for extraterrestrial life.

Today's atmosphere likely bears little trace of its primordial self: Geochemical evidence suggests that Earth's atmosphere may have been completely obliterated at least twice since its formation more than 4 billion years ago.

We study the spatial distribution and chemistry of small hydrocarbons in the Orion Bar PDR.

Our knowledge of planets' orbital dynamics, which was based on Solar System studies, has been challenged by the diversity of exoplanetary systems.

Astronomers have measured the passing of a super-Earth in front of a bright, nearby Sun-like star using a ground-based telescope for the first time.

We report the first ground-based detections of the shallow transit of the super-Earth exoplanet 55 Cnc e using a 2-meter-class telescope.

To date, 17 circumbinary planets have been discovered. In this paper, we focus our attention on the stability of the Kepler circumbinary planetary systems with only one planet, i.e. Kepler-16, Kepler-34, Kepler-35, Kepler-38, Kepler-64 and Kepler-413.

We show that terrestrial planets in the habitable zones of M dwarfs older than ∼ 1 Gyr could have been in runaway greenhouses for several hundred Myr following their formation due to the star's extended pre-main sequence phase, provided they form with abundant surface water.