April 2016

The Curiosity rover recently detected a background of 0.7 ppb and spikes of 7 ppb of methane on Mars. This in situ measurement reorients our understanding of the Martian environment and its potential for life, as the current theories do not entail any geological source or sink of methane that varies sub-annually.

Circumstellar debris disks are the extrasolar analogues of the asteroid belt and the Kuiper belt. They consist of comets and leftover planetesimals that continuously collide and produce circumstellar dust that can be observed as infrared excess or in resolved imaging.

Solar photospheric abundances of refractory elements mirror the Earth's to within ~10 mol% when normalized to the dominant terrestrial planet-forming elements Mg, Si and Fe. This allows for the adoption of Solar composition as an order-of-magnitude proxy for Earth's.

We humans might not be the only ones to ponder our place in the universe. If intelligent aliens do roam the cosmos, they too might ask a question that has gripped humans for centuries: Are we alone?

Are humans unique and alone in the vast universe? This question-- summed up in the famous Drake equation--has for a half-century been one of the most intractable and uncertain in science.

We report the discovery of three new substellar companions to solar-type stars, HD191806, HD214823, and HD221585, based on radial velocity measurements obtained at the Haute-Provence Observatory.

The young star beta Pictoris is well known for its dusty debris disk, produced through the grinding down by collisions of planetesimals, kilometre-sized bodies in orbit around the star.

The Danakil Depression in Ethiopia is one of the most inhospitable places on Earth.

Saturn's largest moon is covered in seas and lakes of liquid hydrocarbons and one sea has now been found to be filled with pure methane, with a seabed covered by a sludge of organic-rich material, and possibly surrounded by wetlands.

In order to identify inhabited worlds beyond the Solar System, scientists are exploring the possibility of detecting gases that could serve as biosignatures in the atmospheres of extrasolar planets.

Contrary to Earth, which has a small orbital eccentricity, some exoplanets discovered in the insolation habitable zone (HZ) have high orbital eccentricities (e.g., up to an eccentricity of ∼0.97 for HD~20782~b).

Characterizing the atmospheres of extrasolar planets is the new frontier in exoplanetary science. The last two decades of exoplanet discoveries have revealed that exoplanets are very common and extremely diverse in their orbital and bulk properties.

As planets are being discovered around other stars by the thousands, several scientific disciplines that traditionally exist in parallel are converging, including astronomy, planetary science, and biochemistry.

We use the existence of habitable planets to impose anthropic requirements on the fine structure constant, α. To this effect, we present two considerations that restrict its value to be very near the one observed.

Stellar activity and rotation frustrate the detection of exoplanets through the radial velocity technique. This effect is particularly of concern for M dwarfs, which can remain magnetically active for billions of years.

We evaluate the extent of the regions within the α Centauri AB star system where small planets are able to orbit for billion-year timescales, and we calculate the positions on the sky plane where planets on stable orbits about either stellar component may appear.

Stability of planetary orbits around GJ 832 star system, which contains inner (GJ 832c) and outer (GJ 832b) planets, is investigated numerically and the detailed phase-space analysis are performed.

The direct detection of reflected light from exoplanets is an excellent probe for the characterization of their atmospheres.

Complex Organic Molecules (COMs) have been detected in the interstellar medium (ISM). However, it is not clear whether their synthesis occurs on the icy surfaces of interstellar grains or via a series of gas-phase reactions.

The search for life on the planets outside the Solar System can be broadly classified into the following: looking for Earth-like conditions or the planets similar to the Earth (Earth similarity), and looking for the possibility of life in a form known or unknown to us (habitability).

We present an isolated Milky Way-like simulation in GADGET2 N-body SPH code. The Galactic disk star formation rate (SFR) surface densities and stellar mass indicative of Solar neighbourhood are used as thresholds to model the distribution of stellar mass in life friendly environments.

Researchers have for the first time shown that ribose, a sugar that is one of the building blocks of genetic material in living organisms, may have formed in cometary ices.

The salt levels of oceans on distant Earth-like planets could have a major effect on their climates - according to new research from the Centre for Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of East Anglia.

The bombardment of Mars some 4 billion years ago by comets and asteroids as large as West Virginia likely enhanced climate conditions enough to make the planet more conducive to life, at least for a time, says a new University of Colorado Boulder study.

Determining the habitability of Europa's subsurface ocean is one of the key priorities for astrobiology in our Solar System.

There is currently no evidence for life on any known exoplanet. Here, we propose a form of "galactic anthropology" to detect not only the existence of life on transiting exoplanets, but also the existence of environmentalism movements.

After 13 days at sea, chief scientist Dr. Tom Kwasnitschka from GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, along with other members of the team, will depart research vessel Falkor making history.