Archives

April 2021


In a novel laboratory investigation of the initial atmospheres of Earth-like rocky planets, researchers at UC Santa Cruz heated pristine meteorite samples in a high-temperature furnace and analyzed the gases released.

Almost half a century ago the creators of Star Wars imagined a life-sustaining planet, Tatooine, orbiting a pair of stars. Now, 44 years later, scientists have found new evidence that that five known systems with multiple stars, Kepler-34, -35, -38, -64 and -413, are possible candidates for supporting life.

Millimeter and centimeter observations are discovering an increasing number of interstellar complex organic molecules (iCOMs) in a large variety of star forming sites, from the earliest stages of star formation to protoplanetary disks and in comets.

Hydrocarbons are observed in the gas or solid phases of solar system objects, including comets, Trans-Neptunian Objects, planets and their moons. In the presence of water ice in these environments, hydrocarbons-bearing clathrate hydrates could form.

Remote and in-situ observations of cometary gases have revealed the presence of a wealth of complex organic molecules, including carbon chains, alcohols, imines and the amino acid glycine.

The thermodynamic structure of protoplanetary discs is determined by the dust opacities which depend on the size of the dust grains and their chemical composition.

Oxygen is a promising exoplanet biosignature due to the evolutionary advantage conferred by harnessing starlight for photosynthesis, and the apparent low likelihood of maintaining oxygen-rich atmospheres without life.

Of profound astrobiological interest is that not only does Enceladus have a water ocean, but it also appears to be salty, important for its likely habitability.

The modern search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) began with the seminal publications of Cocconi & Morrison (1959) and Schwartz & Townes (1961), who proposed to search for narrow-band signals in the radio spectrum, and for optical laser pulses.

We present a brief overview of the main effects by which a star will have an impact (positive or negative) on the surface habitability of planets in orbit around it.

Understanding when global glaciations occur on Earth-like planets is a major challenge in climate evolution research. Most models of how greenhouse gases like CO2 evolve with time on terrestrial planets are deterministic, but the complex, nonlinear nature of Earth's climate history motivates study of non-deterministic climate models.

In the search for life on other planets, the presence of oxygen in a planet's atmosphere is one potential sign of biological activity that might be detected by future telescopes.

A team led by University of Minnesota researchers has discovered that deep-sea bacteria dissolve carbon-containing rocks, releasing excess carbon into the ocean and atmosphere.

Looking at the night sky, one's thoughts might be drawn to astrochemistry. What molecules inhabit the vast spaces between the stars? Would we see the same molecules that surround us here on Earth? Or would some of them be more exotic--something rarely observed or even unknown?

The search for life on other planets has received a major boost after scientists revealed the spectral signatures of almost 1000 atmospheric molecules that may be involved in the production or consumption of phosphine, a study led by UNSW Sydney revealed.

A large fraction of known terrestrial-size exoplanets located in the Habitable Zone of M-dwarfs are expected to be tidally-locked. Numerous efforts have been conducted to study the climate of such planets, using in particular 3-D Global Climate Models (GCM).

Ariel, the Atmospheric Remote-sensing Infrared Exoplanet Large-survey, was adopted as the fourth medium-class mission in ESA's Cosmic Vision programme to be launched in 2029.

An international group of scientists led by the RIKEN Cluster for Pioneering Research have studied the chemical composition of 50 protoplanetary-disk forming regions in the Perseus Molecular Cloud, and found that despite being in the same cloud, the amounts of complex organic molecules they contain are quite different.

Dutch astronomer Ewine van Dishoeck (Leiden University, the Netherlands), together with an international team of colleagues, has written an overview of everything we know about water in interstellar clouds thanks to the Herschel space observatory.

Below the verdant surface and organic rich soil, life extends kilometers into Earth's deep rocky crust. The continental deep subsurface is likely one of the largest reservoirs of bacteria and archaea on Earth, many forming biofilms - like a microbial coating of the rock surface.

It's like something out of science fiction. Research led by Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences has revealed that a group of microbes, which feed off chemical reactions triggered by radioactivity, have been at an evolutionary standstill for millions of years.

The atmospheres of gaseous giant exoplanets orbiting close to their parent stars (hot Jupiters) have been probed for nearly two decades.

Every year, our planet encounters dust from comets and asteroids. These interplanetary dust particles pass through our atmosphere and give rise to shooting stars. Some of them reach the ground in the form of micrometeorites.

A technique for scanning Mars rocks for microscopic fossils of ancient life is also being developed to hunt for microbes in the deep ice of Enceladus, Titan, and Europa.

As NASA plans long-duration missions to the Moon and Mars, a key factor is figuring out how to feed crews during their weeks, months, and even years in space.

What is habitability? Can we quantify it? What do we mean under the term habitable or potentially habitable planet?

Carbon is an essential element for life but its behavior during Earth's accretion is not well understood.

Raindrops on other planets and moons are close to the size of raindrops on Earth despite having different chemical compositions and falling through vastly different atmospheres, a new study finds.

Nagoya University scientists in Japan have demonstrated how DNA-like molecules could have come together as a precursor to the origins of life.

We are made of stardust, the saying goes, and a pair of studies including University of Michigan research finds that may be more true than we previously thought.

It is not currently possible to create a living organism ab initio due to the overwhelming complexity of biological systems.

On 14th September 2020, the Royal Astronomical Society made an official statement coupled with a webminar on the discovery of phosphine on Venus.

Oxygenic photosynthesis is the most important biochemical process in Earth biosphere and likely very common on other habitable terrestrial planets, given the general availability of its input chemical ingredients and of light as source of energy.

The nearly logarithmic radiative impact of CO2 means that planets near the outer edge of the liquid water habitable zone (HZ) require ∼106x more CO2 to maintain temperatures conducive to standing liquid water on the planetary surface than their counterparts near the inner edge.

New research shows the permanent rise of oxygen in our atmosphere, which set the stage for life as we know it, happened 100 million years later than previously thought.

Microbial life already had the necessary conditions to exist on our planet 3.5 billion years ago. This was the conclusion reached by a research team after studying microscopic fluid inclusions in barium sulfate (barite) from the Dresser Mine in Marble Bar, Australia.

Roughly five years ago, Institute Head Prof. Dr. William (Bill) Martin and his team introduced the last universal common ancestor of all living organisms and named it "LUCA". It lived approximately 3.8 billion years ago in hot deep sea hydrothermal vents.