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Life, Unbounded

Life, Unbounded

Discussion and news about planets, exoplanets, and astrobiology

Walk Tall, but Please Tread Softly, SpaceX

A Falcon 9 launches the Dragon spacecraft - which orbited and then reentered the atmosphere to splashdown in the Pacific in December 2010 (SpaceX/Chris Thompson) We live in interesting times...

February 13, 2012 — Caleb A. Scharf

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 brutal place, with the dubious honor of holding the record for the lowest measured temperature anywhere on the planet, a mind-if-not-body numbing -129 F or -89 C...

February 6, 2012 — Caleb A. Scharf

Astrobiology: We are the Aliens

Bacterial aliens (NASA) A funny thing happened recently on the way to Mars.A few days after the successful launch of NASA's behemoth Curiosity rover with its Mars Science Laboratory instruments on November 26th 2011, a somewhat muted piece of news came out admitting that the strict biological planetary protection rules had not been adhered to quite as everyone expected...

February 6, 2012 — Caleb A. Scharf

Aurorae from Earth, Space, and on Other Worlds

Southern aurora (aurora australis) composited with NASA imagery As we're in the midst of experiencing some particularly stormy solar weather it seems appropriate to make a quick post with some nifty auroral images and time-lapse movies (see below)...

January 25, 2012 — Caleb A. Scharf

Encounter at Dawn: Stephen Hawking, me, and an ATM

A black hole lenses the light of the Milky Way in the background (Credit: Ute Kraus amd Axel Mellinger) This weekend Stephen Hawking turns 70, an extraordinary physical accomplishment to add to an extraordinary list of physics accomplishments...

January 6, 2012 — Caleb A. Scharf
The Austere Beauty of Other Worlds

The Austere Beauty of Other Worlds

In the northern winter months we are surrounded by the stark beauty of chilled landscapes. From the darkness of the far north, broken perhaps only by starlight and the glow of aurora, to the brisk grey streets of Manhattan and its now skeletal trees with their claw-like limbs and knobbly stubs pressed to the skies, [...]..

December 30, 2011 — Caleb A. Scharf

Solstice, Periapsis, and the Hades Orbit

The Sun rising above the Arctic plain (H. D. Nygren, NOAA Corps.) As our spinning globe of rock and metal tracks its steady path around the Sun, we find ourselves crossing once again through the winter solstice, the point at which Earth's northern pole is pointed as far from our fierce stellar parent as it can be (this year at a coordinated universal time of 5.30 am on December the 22nd, almost the same as 5.30 am Greenwich Mean Time)...

December 21, 2011 — Caleb A. Scharf

A Planet on Fire

A strange chemical reaction 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...

December 14, 2011 — Caleb A. Scharf

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Scientific American Health & Medicine

Scientific American Health & Medicine