Archives

June 2022


Stars provide an enormous gain for interstellar communications at their gravitational focus, perhaps as part of an interstellar network. If the Sun is part of such a network, there should be probes at the gravitational foci of nearby stars.

Researchers at University College Cork (UCC) and the Swedish Museum of Natural History examined the end-Permian mass extinction (252 million years ago) that eliminated almost every species on Earth, with entire ecosystems collapsing.

On icy worlds, the ice shell and subsurface ocean form a coupled system -- heat and salinity flux from the ice shell induced by the ice thickness gradient drives circulation in the ocean, and in turn, the heat transport by ocean circulation shapes the ice shell.

Many of us have probably already - literally - handled the chemical compound iso-propanol: it can used as an antiseptic, a solvent or a cleaning agent. But this substance is not only found on Earth: researchers led by Arnaud Belloche from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn have now detected the molecule in interstellar space for the first time.

On the heels of a successful launch on June 26, NASA is set to launch two more sounding rockets from northern Australia during the first half of July.

It is reasonable to assume that the structure of a planet and the interior distribution of its components are determined by its formation history. We thus follow the growth of a planet from a small embryo through its subsequent evolution.

Planetary systems such as our own are formed after a long process where matter condenses from diffuse clouds to stars, planets, asteroids, comets and residual dust, undergoing dramatic changes in physical and chemical state in less than a few million years.

Terrestrial and marine habitats have been considered the ecosystems with the highest primary production on earth by far, i.e., the conversion of inorganic to organic carbon.

The atmospheres of exoplanets harbor critical information about their habitability. However, extracting and interpreting that information requires both high-quality spectroscopic data and a comparative analysis to characterize the findings.

We examine the observed properties of the Nili Fossae olivine-clay-carbonate lithology from orbital data and in situ by the Mars 2020 rover at the Séítah unit in Jezero crater, including: 1) composition (Liu, 2022) 2) grain size (Tice, 2022) 3) inferred viscosity (calculated based on geochemistry collected by SuperCam (Wiens, 2022)).

Someday, a swarm of cellphone-size robots could whisk through the water beneath the miles-thick icy shell of Jupiter's moon Europa or Saturn's moon Enceladus, looking for signs of alien life. Packed inside a narrow ice-melting probe that would tunnel through the frozen crust, the tiny robots would be released underwater, swimming far from their mothercraft to take the measure of a new world.

Cold super-Earths which retain their primordial, H-He dominated atmosphere could have surfaces that are warm enough to host liquid water. This would be due to the collision induced absorption (CIA) of infra-red light by hydrogen, which increases with pressure.

Using light-capturing proteins in living microbes, scientists have reconstructed what life was like for some of Earth's earliest organisms. These efforts could help us recognize signs of life on other planets, whose atmospheres may more closely resemble our pre-oxygen planet.

Phosphorus is a necessary element for life on Earth, but at present we have limited constraints on its chemistry in star- and planet-forming regions: to date, phosphorus carriers have only been detected towards a few low-mass protostars.

The first discovery of viruses infecting a group of microbes that may include the ancestors of all complex life has been found, researchers at The University of Texas at Austin report in Nature Microbiology.

Two papers on which Planetary Science Institute Research Scientist Alexander Morgan is an author help explain what happened to water on Mars.

Liquid water is an important prerequisite for life to develop on a planet. As researchers from the University of Bern, the University of Zurich and the National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) PlanetS report in a new study, liquid water could also exist for billions of years on planets that are very different from Earth. This calls our currently Earth-centred idea of potentially habitable planets into question.

Results of multiple and complementary lab analyses of minerals found in samples of material from Antarctica could give scientists a better understanding of the surface and subsurface environment of Mars, and indicate locations of potentially habitable subsurface locations, says a new paper by Planetary Science Institute Research Scientist Elizabeth C. Sklute.

Water-rich exoplanet is a type of terrestrial planet that is water-rich and its ocean depth can reach tens of to hundreds of kilo-meters with no exposed continents.

The construction and implementation of atmospheric model grids is a popular tool in exoplanet characterisation. These typically vary a number of parameters linearly, containing one model for every combination of parameter values.

Water (H2O) ice is ubiquitous component of the universe, having been detected in a variety of interstellar and Solar System environments where radiation plays an important role in its physico-chemical transformations.

The habitability of exoplanets can be strongly influenced by the presence of an exomoon, and in some cases the exomoon itself could be a possible place for life to develop. For moons outside of the habitable zone, significant tidal heating may raise their surface temperature enough to be considered habitable.

At first glance, the slightly murky waters in the tube look like a scoop of stormwater, complete with leaves, debris, and even lighter threads in the mix. But in the Petri dish, the thin vermicelli-like threads floating delicately above the leaf debris are revealed to be single bacterial cells, visible to the naked eye.

A Southwest Research Institute-led team used the Hubble Space Telescope to observe Jupiter's moon, Europa, at ultraviolet wavelengths, filling in a "gap" in the various wavelengths used to observe this icy water world. The team's near-global UV maps show concentrations of sulfur dioxide on Europa's trailing side.

Using the high angular resolution provided by the ALMA interferometre we want to resolve the COM emission in the hot molecular core Sagittarius B2(N1) and thereby shed light on the desorption process of Complex Organic Molecules (COMs) in hot cores.

The extremely salty, very cold, and almost oxygen-free environment under the permafrost of Lost Hammer Spring in Canada's High Arctic is the one that most closely resembles certain areas on Mars.

Microlensing is proving to be one of the best techniques to detect distant, low-mass planets around the most common stars in the Galaxy.

The transmission spectra of exoplanet atmospheres observed with the Hubble Space Telescope in the near-infrared range (1.1-1.65μm) frequently show evidence for some combination of clouds and hazes.

The astronomical detection of formamide (NH2CHO) toward various star-forming regions and in cometary material implies that the simplest amide might have an early origin in dark molecular clouds at low temperatures.

The Gl 486 system consists of a very nearby, relatively bright, weakly active M3.5 V star at just 8 pc with a warm transiting rocky planet of about 1.3 R_Terra and 3.0 M_Terra that is ideal for both transmission and emission spectroscopy and for testing interior models of telluric planets.

The famous "Wow" signal detected in 1977 remains arguably the most compelling SETI signal ever found. The original Big Ear data requires that the signal turned on/off over the span of ~3 minutes (time difference between the dual antennae), yet persisted for 72 seconds (duration of a single beam sweep).

The "Search for life", which may be extinct or extant on other planetary bodies is one of the major goals of NASA planetary exploration missions. Finding such evidence of biological residue in a vast planetary landscape is an enormous challenge.

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope team continues to work its way through the 17 science instrument modes.

In the mid-1980s, the discovery of complex carbon molecules drifting through the interstellar medium garnered significant attention, with possibly the most famous examples being Buckminsterfullerene, or "buckyballs" - spheres consisting of 60 or 70 carbon atoms. However, scientists have struggled to understand how these molecules can form in space.

Predicted ET planets in comparison with Kepler's discoveries (see section 5). For sub- and
super-Earth, ET will increase the sample size by a factor of ∼10 in the near future (before 2030s).

The unusual behaviour of sulphur in Venus' atmosphere cannot be explained by an 'aerial' form of extra-terrestrial life, according to a new study.

Life in the clouds of Venus, if present in sufficiently high abundance, must be affecting the atmospheric chemistry. It has been proposed that abundant Venusian life could obtain energy from its environment using three possible sulfur energy-metabolisms.

While wildfires over recent years have raged across much of the western United States and pose significant hazards to wildlife and local populations, wildfires have been a long-standing part of Earth's systems without the influence of humans for hundreds of millions of years.

What did the Earth look like 2.7 billion years ago and what were the differences compared to today? What was the chemical composition of the oceans and atmosphere? When did life evolve on Earth, that produced enough oxygen to permanently change the environment? How did the interaction of the Earth's mantle and crust work? These are all crucial questions for understanding our planet.

Accurately measuring and modeling the Lyman-α (Lyα; λ1215.67 Å) emission line from low mass stars is vital for our ability to build predictive high energy stellar spectra, yet interstellar medium (ISM) absorption of this line typically prevents model-measurement comparisons.

Water droplets simply roll off - and clean the surface and reduce infestation with fungal spores, for example. But not only plants have the "lotus effect," which Professor Wilhelm Barthlott of the University of Bonn discovered four decades ago.

Unicellular magnetic microorganisms include magnetotactic bacteria and some protist species. Although magnetosome magnetite in bacteria (prokaryotes) is well studied, little is known regarding the characteristics and origin of magnetic minerals in protists (eukaryotes).

The latest Virtual Issue from Genome Biology and Evolution highlights articles that provide new insight into the deep evolutionary relationships among organisms and the origin of eukaryotes.

In almost every human cell, two metres-long DNA has to fit within a nucleus that is just 8 millionths of a metre wide. Like wool around a spool, the extreme space challenge requires DNA to wrap around structural proteins called histones. This coiled genetic architecture, known as chromatin, protects DNA from damage and has a key role in gene regulation.

Asteroids and comets represent the material that was left over after the formation of the planets that orbit the Sun.

The SETI Ellipsoid is a geometric method for prioritizing technosignature observations based on the strategy of receiving signals synchronized to conspicuous astronomical events.

Solid body tides provide key information on the interior structure, evolution, and origin of the planetary bodies.

The agency's mission to explore Jupiter's icy moon Europa takes a big step forward as engineers deliver a major component of the spacecraft.

Key research finding - The composition of the atmosphere, especially the abundance of greenhouse gases, influences Earth's climate. Researchers at Purdue University, led by Stephanie Olson, assistant professor of earth, atmospheric, and planetary sciences, have recently found that the presence of salt in seawater can also have a major impact on the habitability of Earth and other planets.

In its long-duration observation phase, the PLATO satellite will observe two non-overlapping fields for a total of 4 yr. The exact duration of each pointing will be determined 2 yr before launch.

An international research team including the University of Göttingen has investigated the chances of survival of kombucha cultures under Mars-like conditions.

Globally ice-covered oceans have been found on multiple moons in the solar system and may also have been a feature of Earth's past. However, relatively little is understood about the dynamics of these ice-covered oceans, which affect not only the physical environment but also any potential life and its detectability.

Recent interstellar detections include a significant number of molecules containing vinyl (C2H3) and ethyl (C2H5) groups in their structure.

Nitriles play a key role as molecular precursors in prebiotic experiments based on the RNA-world scenario for the origin of life.

Early Mars had rivers, but the cause of Mars' wet-to-dry transition remains unknown. Past climate on Mars can be probed using the spatial distribution of climate-sensitive landforms.

Technosignatures refer to observational manifestations of technology that could be detected through astronomical means. Most previous searches for technosignatures have focused on searches for radio signals, but many current and future observing facilities could also constrain the prevalence of some non-radio technosignatures.

Saturn's Moon Titan receives volatiles into the top of its atmosphere-including atomic oxygen-sourced from cryovolcanoes on Enceladus.

Water has been stored in the Martian mantle since its formation, primarily in nominally anhydrous minerals. The short-lived early hydrosphere and intermittently flowing water on the Martian surface may have been supplied and replenished by magmatic degassing of water from the mantle.