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Life, Unbounded

The Grand Texture of Planets

color_etopo1_ice_low

              In an idle moment, while staring at a set of solar system data, it occurred to me that it might be interesting to display a set of planetary surfaces on an equal footing, where the overall texture of these worlds was visible (although topography is probably a more [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Have we got Solar System Habitability Backwards?

(NASA)

Enceladus, Europa, Ganymede, Titan, Triton, Pluto, Eris…they may all have, or have had, large oceans of liquid water trapped beneath a frozen crust. That poses some interesting questions. I’ve written before on these pages (and elsewhere) about the wealth of evidence for internal bodies of liquid water in our solar system. Since the Pioneer, and [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Jupiter’s Moons Ascending

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Some natural phenomena need few words to explain why they’re fascinating. Eclipses, transits, and phases in astronomy tend to fall into that category. Here’s a stunning sequence of images captured by the Hubble Space Telescope’s Wide Field Camera 3 showing the triple conjunction and transit of the large Jovian moons Europa, Callisto, and Io over [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Will We Find Extraterrestrial Life In 2015?

ESO

Probably not, but just possibly yes. One of the reasons that the search for life elsewhere in the universe is so exciting is that it would take only one chance discovery, one lucky break, for all the walls to come tumbling down. But where is that revolution going to come from? Perhaps the best news [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Water Erupts Across the Solar System

Europa erupts (Credit: NASA/ESA/K. Retherford/SWRI)

Reading the scientific headlines recently one would be forgiven for thinking that we’re experiencing a bout of interplanetary gastrointestinal distress. First, Saturn’s diminutive moon Enceladus continues to spew what we think are giant sprays of salty water from gnarled creases in its southern icy surface – captured in glorious imagery by the Cassini spacecraft over [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Astrobiology Roundup

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                      Lots of new scientific results in the past couple of weeks feed directly into the central questions of astrobiology – from the search for life, to the environment of interplanetary and interstellar space, and the grand cosmological terrain we find ourselves in. No Methane [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Europa Gives Up Some Of Its Secrets

Europa: as the human eye might see it (colors adjusted, Credit: NASA/JPL/Ted Stryk)

Jupiter’s enigmatic moon Europa has long been thought to contain a huge ocean beneath its icy crust, but what is in that ocean and does it ever come to the surface? Since the Voyager and Galileo probes explored the Jovian system, its moons have presented an extraordinary and fascinating puzzle. The largest of the 67 [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Lake Vostok is (Almost) Breached After 20 Million Years

Satellite composite showing location of Vostok within the Antarctic continent (NASA)

Two and a half miles beneath the surface of Antarctica’s central Eastern ice sheet is a body of water 160 miles by 30 miles across known as Lake Vostok, after the Vostok research station above it, built by the former Soviet Union in 1957 and now operated by Russia. Even by Antarctic standards it’s a [...]

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Observations

Looking for Life in Our Soggy Solar System

Hubble Space Telescope data revealing Ganymede's ultraviolet aurorae overlays a visible-light image of the icy moon taken by NASA's Galileo orbiter. The ultraviolet aurorae are rocking back and forth in synchrony with Jupiter's magnetic field, suggesting the presence of a large ocean beneath Ganymede's surface. Credit: NASA/ESA/J. Saur/JPL/The Galileo Project

Scientists are finding liquid water, the cornerstone for life as we know it, in surprising nooks and crannies of the solar system. Following Wednesday’s news that there seem to be hydrothermal vents churning away in the warm, alkaline seas inside Saturn’s moon Enceladus, researchers announced airtight evidence yesterday that Jupiter’s moon Ganymede also has a [...]

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