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Extraterrestrial

According to a survey conducted by astronomers at Cornell University, the Milky Way may be...

A survey conducted by astronomers at Cornell University has taken into account the characteristics of 637 known exoplanets and elaborated a Biological Complexity Index (BCI) to assess the relative probability of finding complex life on them. Their data supports the view that as many as one hundred million planets scattered around the Milky Way, and perhaps more, could support life beyond the microbial stage.  Read More

On Earth, every aspect of our homes has been an evolving process for generations whereas o...

With a projected settlement date of 2025, the Mars One project has received over 200,000 applications for the one way trip to the Red Planet. But creating a living, sustainable community on the distant planet for the select inhabitants will require not only unique technological and engineering solutions, but also novel architectural systems. Bryan Versteeg is a conceptual designer who’s been working with the Mars One team in anticipation of the planet’s eventual colonization.  Read More

Image of Enceladus taken by Cassini depicting the moon's telltale ice/water vapor jets (Ph...

With the use of its Cassini spacecraft and the Deep Space Orbiting Network, NASA has potentially discovered evidence for the presence of an ocean of liquid water locked away beneath the thick, icy crust of Saturn's moon, Enceladus.  Read More

Artistic rendering of a planet's transmission spectrum (Image: Christine Daniloff/MIT, Jul...

A team of MIT researchers has described a new method for finding the mass of exoplanets by studying the spectra of light passing through the planet's atmosphere. Because a planet's mass can tell us a lot about its potential for harboring life, this development could provide an important tool in solving the puzzle of whether or not we're alone in the universe.  Read More

Europa (Image: NASA/JPL/Ted Stryk)

It's an icy inhospitable world, a little smaller than our own Moon: Europa. It's one of Jupiter's four largest satellites, the Galilean moons named after the polymath astronomer who discovered them in 1610. At the surface, the temperature never climbs above about -160º C (-256º F), yet it's thought that beneath the frozen epidermis there could be a liquid saltwater ocean. Were that the case, Europa would be about the best candidate for extraterrestrial life in the Solar System, albeit life in microbial form. That Europa could harbor life isn't news. That NASA is now considering landing a robot on Europa's surface is, and the agency has one or two ideas about what a robot should do when it gets there.  Read More

JWST's golden mirrors

NASA astronomers involved in the mission of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) say the successor to the Hubble and Spitzer telescopes will likely enable mankind to finally answer the existential question "Are we alone?" within this generation. That was one of the clear themes in a recent panel discussion on the telescope at the South By Southwest Interactive festival in Austin, Texas, where a full scale model of the JWST was also on display outdoors all week long.  Read More

Artist's conception of the five-planet Tau Ceti system (Photo: J. Pinfield/RoPACS/Universi...

Our stellar neighborhood is becoming crowded courtesy of some newly discovered real estate. Astronomers have uncovered evidence buried in the noise of apparently empty data showing that five super-Earths are orbiting the nearby Tau Ceti – a star chosen as one of the targets in the pioneering 1960 Project OZMA search for extraterrestrial life because of its strong similarity to the Sun. Better yet, the two outermost of Tau Ceti's planets appear to be in the star's habitable zone, making them the closest known potentially habitable exoplanets.  Read More

The Earth's lights from space (Image: NASA)

It's difficult to look at the night sky and not wonder whether intelligent life exists out there. Indeed, the odds are very much in favor of there being countless civilizations scattered throughout the heavens, but the challenge remains in proving it. Recently, two scientists hit upon the novel but common-sense idea of searching for city lights on the dark side of distant worlds- a task advanced next-gen earth and space-based telescopes will likely be able to tackle in the not-too-distant future.  Read More

Do we earthlings share some DNA with Marvin the Martian (Image: Ken's Oven via Flickr)

Men are from Mars and women are from Venus. That's one theory ... another is that all life on Earth descended from organisms that originated on the Red Planet before hitching an interplanetary journey aboard meteorites to Earth. In an effort to provide a definitive answer, researchers at MIT and Harvard are developing an instrument to compare the genetic makeup of Martian microbes with that of terrestrial life. If they find correlations between the two it could prove that we are all descended from Martians, which would make us invaders from Mars.  Read More

The GFAJ-1 bacteria, grown on arsenic

In a press conference held today, scientists working with NASA announced the discovery of a new microorganism right here on Earth that employs a survival strategy never seen before in any other life form. Found in Northern California’s highly-saline Mono Lake, the GFAJ-1 bacteria exists in an environment that has very little phosphorous, an element that had previously been considered essential for all living things in order to build DNA. To cope with this problem, the bacteria is able to substitute highly-toxic arsenic for phosphorous, in its cell components. The fact that a microbe is able to survive in such a fashion opens up the possibilities for where life could exist on other planets, and will require a rethink on NASA’s part regarding its search for extraterrestrial life forms.  Read More

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