Alien life, Astronomy

101 Dalmatians ?! Probe counts and maps the geysers on Enceladus

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The geysers on the surface of Saturn’s moon Enceladus have been counted and mapped, strengthening theories that Enceladus is one of the best extraterrestrial places in our solar system to look for life. Earth is not the only place in our solar system which holds water. For example, Enceladus also has liquid oceans – albeit ones covered by a thick layer of ice. Researchers believe that the oceans are kept liquid by heat generated by the gravitational stress which Saturn holds on its satellite. The tectonics of Enceladus is also surprisingly active, and one of the results are the 101 geysers on its surface. Scientists are fairly sure that the…

Alien life, Astronomy, Interviews

Scientist Interviews: Marie-Eve Naud [Astrobiology]

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A while ago, we were telling you about the discovery of a huge exoplanet – a gas giant, found just 155 light years away from Earth. The head researcher behind that study was Marie-Eve Naud. Her main research field is the detection and characterization of exoplanets, with a focus on astrobiology. She was kind enough to talk to us and shed some light on what she studies, and what’s it like to be in such an exciting field! You can read the interview below: ZME Science (Andrei): I read that you directly imaged the planet in infrared. How did you find it, is it like looking for a needle in a hay stack,…

Alien life, Space

Astrobiologists testify before Congress that alien life will be encountered by 2034

SETI's Alien Telescope Array (ATA) listens day and night for a signal from space (SETI) Read more: http://www.universetoday.com/95409/aliens-dont-want-to-eat-us-says-former-seti-director/#ixzz32ouVKYsE

This past week, a few scientists took the bench and gave the U.S. Congress a relative date by which they expect we’ll have discovered signs of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. According to their estimates, by 2034 we should make first contact or 30 years ahead of Star Trek’s first contact. Whether this was just a stunt, a ploy meant to convince Congress to up SETI’s budget, or a genuine estimate is difficult to tell. Aliens: we’ll find them soon enough The claim was made during a hearing of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. Astronomers shuffled in front of the US officials and assured them that…

Alien life, Space, Space flight

Mars could become colonized by stowaway Earthling tiny space travelers

Electron micrographs of Bacillus pumilus SAFR-032 spores on aluminum before and after exposure to space conditions. [Reproduced with permission from P. Vaishampayan et al., Survival of Bacillus pumilus Spores for a Prolonged Period of Time in Real Space Conditions. Astrobiology Vol 12, No 5, 2012.] Image Credit: P. Vaishampayan, et al./Astrobiology

Whenever alien invasions are concerned, most people tend to image extraterrestrial spaceships landing on Earth, not the other way around. In reality, this alien invasion most likely will happen or already has happen in reverse, as Earth-based life forms could reach distant asteroids or planets, like Mars, hitching rides on human spaceship. To assess this possibility, NASA researchers published three studies that looked at the survival capability of microorganisms, particularly adapted to extreme conditions like those found in deep space travel. Surviving in space Contamination with Earth-based organisms is a huge concern for NASA and other space  programs investigating life harboring conditions on other worlds. The Curiosity rover, the most…

Alien life, Biology, News, Observations, Space

Vitamin B may have come from space – what does this mean for origin of life?

Residue from a laboratory experiment simulating the conditions of interstellar space. The residue contained vitamin B3 (and related compounds) and may help explain meteorite chemistry. Image Credit: Karen Smith

After analyzing samples from eight different carbon-rich meteorites, researchers at Pennsylvania State Universities found these contained niacin, also known as vitamin B3 and the more pristine the meteorite, the higher the concentration. What this means is that the ancient Earth had a steady supply of vitamin B3 during its early years when it was frequently bombarded by cosmic objects, possibly aiding in the creation of life as we know it. Previously, researchers proved that ancient Earth had the right conditions for vitamin B3 to form natively, however the present findings suggest that the extraterrestrial B3 could have provided a nice kick and boost life forming processes. Niacin or nicotinic acid…

Alien life, Space

NASA reports the first Earth-sized Exoplanet in the Habitable Zone

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Remember a few days ago, when I was telling you about the big conference NASA had planned for today? Well, they sure didn’t disappoint! The team of astrophysicists from the SETI Institute and NASA’s Ames Research Center have just reported a major milestone: for the first time, they have found an Earth-sized planet at the right distance from its star – right enough to potentially sustain water, in the so-called habitable zone. “This is a historic discovery,” says Geoff Marcy, an astronomer at the University of California, Berkeley who was not involved in the research, “it’s the best case for a habitable planet yet found.” The discovery was made using the Kepler…

Alien life, News, Observations, Space

Curiosity spots what looks like a Martian camp fire, alas it’s nothing of the sorts

curiosity rover imaging camera

The photo right above was captured by the Curiosity Rover’s right-hand navigation camera , currently deployed on Mars and on route to Mount Sharp, which shows a striking flare of light seemingly torching near the horizon. Taken on April 4th, the photo somehow made its way to the general public (bad idea NASA) and stirred international turmoil back on Earth, where ufologists dissected and scrambled the photo on all its sides. Clearly, this is proof that artificial light sources exist on Mars, and who else than Martian could have made them? The truth may actually be much simpler. [READ] Mars covered in water: what the planet must have looked like billions…

Alien life, Astrophysics

Ocean discovered on Enceladus may be best place to look for alien life

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Earth is not the only place in the solar system to hold watery oceans: Enceladus, one of Saturn’s moons also holds a liquid ocean, albeit one that is covered by ice. However, Enceladus is still an extremely exciting place to find extraterrestrial life – not only because of the water it holds, but because water is in contact with the moon’s rocky core, so elements useful for life, such as phosphorus, sulfur and potassium, will leach into the ocean – making it a potential habitat for life. Enceladus is the sixth-largest of the moons of Saturn, with a mean radius of 252 km (156 miles). In 2005, the Cassini spacecraft…

Alien life, News, Space

US space flight and ISS missions are dependent on Russia. What happens if the country pulls a squeeze?

Soyuz Spacecraft Russia

Following Russia’s invasion of Crimea, the world political scene has been suddenly turned upside down. Many were surprised by this move, and harsh words and threats from the west were thrown down Putin’s alley. Talks of economic sanctions for Russia, in hope its military presence in Ukraine might be withdrawn, have been publically made. ZME Science has often chosen to stay away from political matters, however the present crisis can have dramatic consequences on scientific efforts. Nevermind there’s the distinct possibility of a second Cold War,  the simplest cutting of ties between Russia and the west could spell disaster for the world’s space programs, this includes commercial satellite launches, national…

Alien life, Astrophysics

Water detected in a planet outside our solar system

An artist's conception of a hot-Jupiter extrasolar planet orbiting a star similar to tau Boötes.
Credit: David Aguilar, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

Astronomers have recently discovered water in the atmosphere of a planet outside our solar system, using a novel technique – they believe that this new method could reveal more and more planets which feature water; so far, all life as we know it, is based on water. They made their discovery on a Jupiter-like planet that is orbiting the nearby star tau Boötis. Researchers had already discovered water vapor on a handful of planets – but there were only two ways of doing this, both pretty limited: – the first one worked only if the studied planet has an orbit that passes it in front of its star, when viewed…