life in the universe

Study suggests asteroids and other objects might play key role in spreading the seeds of life

Study suggests asteroids and other objects might play key role in spreading the seeds of life

Picture this: A bacteria-carrying asteroid is ejected from the center of the galaxy into the far reaches of space only to be “captured” by a distant solar system, potentially bringing life to a new world.

The Closest Star to the Sun, Proxima Centauri, has a Planet in the Habitable Zone. Life Could be There Right Now!

The Closest Star to the Sun, Proxima Centauri, has a Planet in the Habitable Zone. Life Could be There Right Now!

In August of 2016, astronomers from the European Southern Observatory (ESO) announced the discovery of an exoplanet in the neighboring system of Proxima Centauri. The news was greeted with consider excitement, as this was the closest rocky planet to our Solar System that also orbited within its star’s habitable zone. Since then, multiple studies have been conducted to determine if this planet could actually support life.

Geothermal Heating Could Make Life Possible on the Super Earth Planet at Barnard’s Star

Geothermal Heating Could Make Life Possible on the Super Earth Planet at Barnard’s Star

In 2018, scientists announced the discovery of a extra-solar planet orbiting Barnard’s star, an M-type (red dwarf) that is just 6 light years away. Using the Radial Velocity method, the research team responsible for the discovery determined that this exoplanet (Barnard’s Star b) was at least 3.2 times as massive as Earth and experienced average surface temperatures of about -170 °C (-274 °F) – making it both a “Super-Earth” and “ice planet”.

The Milky Way Could Be Spreading Life From Star to Star

The Milky Way Could Be Spreading Life From Star to Star

For almost two centuries, scientists have theorized that life may be distributed throughout the Universe by meteoroids, asteroids, planetoids, and other astronomical objects. This theory, known as Panspermia, is based on the idea that microorganisms and the chemical precursors of life are able to survive being transported from one star system to the next.

Europan Space Whales Anyone? Planets Covered by Deep Oceans Can Still Have Life on Them

Europan Space Whales Anyone? Planets Covered by Deep Oceans Can Still Have Life on Them

In recent decades, astronomers have discovered many planets that they believe are “Earth-like” in nature, meaning that they appear to be terrestrial (i.e. rocky) and orbit their stars at the right distance to support the existence of liquid water on their surfaces. Unfortunately, recent research has indicated that many of these planets may in fact be “water worlds“, where water makes up a significant proportion of the planet’s mass.

Exoplanets: how we used chemistry to identify the worlds most likely to host life

Exoplanets: how we used chemistry to identify the worlds most likely to host life

Are we alone in the universe? This question has been with us for thousands of years, but it is only now that science is on the cusp of providing a real answer. We now know of dozens of rocky planets orbiting stars other than our sun where, for all we know, life might exist. And soon, with the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, we will have the first chance to peer into the atmospheres of some of these worlds. 

Complex organic molecules are bubbling up from inside Enceladus

Complex organic molecules are bubbling up from inside Enceladus

The Cassini orbiter revealed many fascinating things about the Saturn system before its mission ended in September of 2017. In addition to revealing much about Saturn’s rings and the surface and atmosphere of Titan (Saturn’s largest moon), it was also responsible for the discovery of water plumes coming from Enceladus‘ southern polar region. The discovery of these plumes triggered a widespread debate about the possible existence of life in the moon’s interior.

NASA Uses Earth as Laboratory to Study Distant Worlds

NASA Uses Earth as Laboratory to Study Distant Worlds

The study of exoplanets -- planets that lie outside our solar system -- could help scientists answer big questions about our place in the universe, and whether life exists beyond Earth. But, these distant worlds are extremely faint and difficult to image directly. A new study uses Earth as a stand-in for an exoplanet, and shows that even with very little light -- as little as one pixel -- it is still possible to measure key characteristics of distant worlds.

One way to find aliens would be to search for artificial rings of satellites: Clarke Belts

One way to find aliens would be to search for artificial rings of satellites: Clarke Belts

When it comes to the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence (SETI) in the Universe, there is the complicated matter of what to be on the lookout for. Beyond the age-old question of whether or not intelligent life exists elsewhere in the Universe (statistically speaking, it is very likely that it does), there’s also the question of whether or not we would be able to recognize it if and when we saw it.

Hubble observes exoplanet atmosphere in more detail than ever before!

Hubble observes exoplanet atmosphere in more detail than ever before!

An international team of scientists has used the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope to study the atmosphere of the hot exoplanet WASP-39b. By combining this new data with older data they created the most complete study yet of an exoplanet atmosphere. The atmospheric composition of WASP-39b hints that the formation processes of exoplanets can be very different from those of our own Solar System giants.

Despite an observable universe sprinkled with several trillion galaxies, each stuffed with a trillion planets, we see no evidence of anyone. No signals, no megastructures, no interstellar rockets. While astronomers routinely uncover puzzling objects in the sky, these always turn out to be manifestations of natural phenomena.

Good news for the search for life, the trappist system might be rich in water!

Good news for the search for life, the trappist system might be rich in water!

When we finally find life somewhere out there beyond Earth, it’ll be at the end of a long search. Life probably won’t announce its presence to us, we’ll have to follow a long chain of clues to find it. Like scientists keep telling us, at the start of that chain of clues is water.

What’ll it take to find life? Searching the universe for biosignatures

What’ll it take to find life? Searching the universe for biosignatures

The supertelescopes are coming, enormous ground and space-based observatories that’ll let us directly observe the atmospheres of distant worlds. We know there’s life on Earth, and our atmosphere tells the tale, so can we do the same thing with extrasolar planets? It turns out, coming up with a single biosignature, a chemical in the atmosphere that tells you that yes, absolutely, there’s life on that world, is really tough.