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Life, Unbounded

Exoplanet Size: It’s Elementary

(Credit NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech)

Since quite early in the history of the discovery of planets around other stars it’s been apparent that the likelihood of certain types of planets around a star is related to the abundance of heavy elements in that system. Specifically, astronomers can study the spectrum of light from a star and deduce the mix of [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Exomoons Can Spoof Exoplanet Biosignatures

earth-titan.001

Astronomers hope that one day soon we’ll obtain a spectrum of light that might tell us whether or not an Earth-sized exoplanet harbors life. This spectrum could be of starlight filtered through the planetary atmosphere, or of reflected and emitted radiation. In either case it would probe the chemical composition of an alien world. The [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Dust to Dust: A Disintegrating Exoplanet?

Through the skies darky - a planet turning to dust (Credit: NASA)

A significant number of exoplanets orbit their parent stars far more closely than anything does in our solar system. From hot Jupiters to hot-Neptunes, and hot super-Earths, there is quite an array of worlds in devilishly close proximity to the blazing radiation of a star. In some cases we have been able to measure the [...]

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Life, Unbounded

A Planet on Fire

modis

Imagine, if you will, a planet with atmosphere, oceans, rocks and life. On this planet, most chemical reactions are either slow and geophysical, or quick and biological but very localized. There is, however, an exception. Because of the particular nature of this world there is the ever-present potential for a type of chemical reaction that [...]

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Life, Unbounded

The X Factor: Solar storms and life as we know it

Aurora seen from Space Shuttle Discovery in 1991 (NASA)

Back in February 2011 the Sun underwent a so-called X class solar flare event, prompting the following Life, Unbounded post. I thought I’d bring it out to air again in light of the solar flare events happening right now, and the potential for some disruption of our Earthly activities. There are also interesting implications for [...]

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Observations

Earth-Like Planets Fill the Galaxy

Kepler telescope

LONG BEACH, Calif.—Look up on a starry night. Almost every one of those tiny pricks of light is home to an unseen world. Our Milky Way galaxy is full of planets—100 billion or more—and many of those planets are Earth-like rocks (although our solar system still appears to be an oddball). Such are the major [...]

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