Saturn’s moon Titan may harbour simple life forms – and reveal how organisms first formed on Earth

Saturn’s moon Titan may harbour simple life forms – and reveal how organisms first formed on Earth

How chemical reactions on a lifeless planet floating around in the cold darkness of space can suddenly give rise to living organisms is one of the biggest questions in science. We don’t even know whether the molecular building blocks of life on Earth were created here or whether they were brought here by comets and meteorites.

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Galactic David and Goliath

Galactic David and Goliath

The gravitational dance between two galaxies in our local neighbourhood has led to intriguing visual features in both as witnessed in this new NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image. The tiny NGC 1510 and its colossal neighbour NGC 1512 are at the beginning of a lengthy merger, a crucial process in galaxy evolution. Despite its diminutive size, NGC 1510 has had a significant effect on NGC 1512’s structure and amount of star formation.

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A Tale of Three Stellar Cities

A Tale of Three Stellar Cities

Using new observations from ESO’s VLT Survey Telescope, astronomers have discovered three different populations of young stars within the Orion Nebula Cluster. This unexpected discovery adds very valuable new insights for the understanding of how such clusters form. It suggests that star formation might proceed in bursts, where each burst occurs on a much faster time-scale than previously thought.

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Cassini finds that Titan is building the chemicals that might have led to life on earth

Cassini finds that Titan is building the chemicals that might have led to life on earth

Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, has been a source of mystery ever since scientists began studying it over a century ago. These mysteries have only deepened with the arrival of the Cassini-Huygens mission in the system back in 2004. In addition to finding evidence of a methane cycle, prebiotic conditions and organic chemistry, the Cassini-Huygens mission has also discovered that Titan may have the ingredient that help give rise to life.

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The Dark Side of the Crater: How Light Looks Different on the Moon and What NASA Is Doing About It

The Dark Side of the Crater: How Light Looks Different on the Moon and What NASA Is Doing About It

Things look different on the Moon. Literally.Because the Moon isn't big enough to hold a significant atmosphere, there is no air and there are no particles in the air to reflect and scatter sunlight. On Earth, shadows in otherwise bright environments are dimly lit with indirect light from these tiny reflections. That lighting provides enough detail that we get an idea of shapes, holes and other features that could be obstacles to someone – or some robot – trying to maneuver in shadow.

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Breakthrough lofts the smallest satellites ever, not interstellar yet, but a step forward

Breakthrough lofts the smallest satellites ever, not interstellar yet, but a step forward

In 2015, Russian billionaire Yuri Milner established Breakthrough Initiatives, a non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI). In April of the following year, he and the organization be founded announced the creation of Breakthrough Starshot, a program to create a lightsail-driven “wafercraft” that would make the journey to the nearest star system – Alpha Centauri – within our lifetime.

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The Secret of Magnetic Cycles in Stars

The Secret of Magnetic Cycles in Stars

Using new numerical simulations and observations, scientists may now be able to explain why the Sun's magnetic field reverses every eleven years. This significant discovery explains how the duration of the magnetic cycle of a star depends on its rotation, and may help us understand violent space weather phenomena around the Sun and similar stars.

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Good news for future moon bases. There's water inside the moon

Good news for future moon bases. There's water inside the moon

Since the Apollo program wrapped up in the early 1970s, people all around the world have dreamed of the day when we might return to the Moon, and stay there. And in recent years, however, that actual proposals for a lunar settlement have begun to take shape. As a result, a great deal of attention and research has been focused on whether or not the Moon has indigenous sources of water.

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New insights into the early universe’s galaxy clusters

New insights into the early universe’s galaxy clusters

Molecular gas is the raw material which fuels star formation throughout the universe. Now, using the revolutionary Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) telescope, an international team of scientists has conducted one of the largest studies of molecular gas in distant galaxy clusters — rare conglomerations containing hundreds of galaxies, trillions of stars, and dark matter.  

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Large, Distant Comets More Common Than Previously Thought

Large, Distant Comets More Common Than Previously Thought

Comets that take more than 200 years to make one revolution around the Sun are notoriously difficult to study. Because they spend most of their time far from our area of the solar system, many "long-period comets" will never approach the Sun in a person's lifetime. In fact, those that travel inward from the Oort Cloud -- a group of icy bodies beginning roughly 186 billion miles (300 billion kilometers) away from the Sun -- can have periods of thousands or even millions of years.

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Booze in space: how the universe is absolutely drowning in the hard stuff

Booze in space: how the universe is absolutely drowning in the hard stuff

A cold beer on a hot day or a whisky nightcap beside a coal fire. A well earned glass can loosen your thinking until you feel able to pierce the mysteries of life, death, love and identity. In moments like these, alcohol and the cosmic can seem intimately entwined.

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Why looking for aliens is good for society (even if there aren’t any)

Why looking for aliens is good for society (even if there aren’t any)

The search for life elsewhere in the universe is one of the most compelling aspects of modern science. Given its scientific importance, significant resources are devoted to this young science of astrobiology, ranging from rovers on Mars to telescopic observations of planets orbiting other stars.

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Messier 51 - The Whirlpool Galaxy

Messier 51 - The Whirlpool Galaxy

During the 18th century, famed French astronomer Charles Messiernoted the presence of several “nebulous objects” in the night sky. Having originally mistaken them for comets, he began compiling a list of them so that others would not make the same mistake he did. In time, this list (known as the Messier Catalog) would come to include 100 of the most fabulous objects in the night sky.

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NASA Mission Surfs through Waves in Space to Understand Space Weather

NASA Mission Surfs through Waves in Space to Understand Space Weather

The space surrounding our planet is full of restless charged particles and roiling electric and magnetic fields, which create waves around Earth. One type of wave, plasmaspheric hiss, is particularly important for removing charged particles from the Van Allen radiation belts, a seething coil of particles encircling Earth, which can interfere with satellites and telecommunications. A new study published in Journal of Geophysical Research using data from NASA’s Van Allen Probes spacecraft has discovered that hiss is more complex than previously understood.

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Scientists find some of Mars’ youngest volcanoes – and discover they could have supported life

Scientists find some of Mars’ youngest volcanoes – and discover they could have supported life

It may seem that Mars was once a much more exciting planet. True, there are dust storms and possible water-seeps occurring today, but billions of years ago it was a dramatic place with huge volcanoes, a giant canyon system and branching river valleys being formed.

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Saturn Surprises As Cassini Continues its Grand Finale

Saturn Surprises As Cassini Continues its Grand Finale

As NASA's Cassini spacecraft makes its unprecedented series of weekly dives between Saturn and its rings, scientists are finding -- so far -- that the planet's magnetic field has no discernible tilt. This surprising observation, which means the true length of Saturn's day is still unknown, is just one of several early insights from the final phase of Cassini's mission, known as the Grand Finale.

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Hubble’s Hunting Dog Galaxy

Hubble’s Hunting Dog Galaxy

Tucked away in the small northern constellation of Canes Venatici (The Hunting Dogs) is the galaxy NGC 4242, shown here as seen by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. The galaxy lies some 30 million light-years from us. At this distance from Earth, actually not all that far on a cosmic scale, NGC 4242 is visible to anyone armed with even a basic telescope, as British astronomer William Herschel found when he discovered the galaxy in 1788.

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Earth-sized planet takes just four hours to orbit its star

Earth-sized planet takes just four hours to orbit its star

The Kepler space observatory has made some interesting finds since it began its mission back in March of 2009. Even after the mission suffered the loss of two reaction wheels, it has continued to make discoveries as part of its K2 mission. All told, the Kepler and K2 missions have detected a total of 5,106 planetary candidates, and confirmed the existence of 2,493 planets.

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Advanced civilizations could build a galactic internet with planetary transits

Advanced civilizations could build a galactic internet with planetary transits

Decades after Enrico Fermi’s uttered his famous words – “Where is everybody?” – the Paradox that bears his name still haunts us. Despite repeated attempts to locate radio signals coming from space and our ongoing efforts to find visible indications of alien civilizations in distant star systems, the search extra-terrestrial intelligence (SETI) has yet to produce anything substantive.

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