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How Earth´s Orbital Shift Shaped the Sahara
Topic: Earth
A change in the Earth´s orbit, many scientists believe, transformed the "Green Sahara" into what is now the largest desert on the planet. While scientists are still trying to find out if the slow shift in orbit had rapid or gradual environmental consequences, they say Earth´s orbit will continue to change today and into the future.

Asking About Arsenic
Topic: Extreme Life
On December 2, NASA held a press conference to announce the discovery of a bacterium that has a novel biochemistry. The research made headlines around the world and sparked a great deal of scientific debate.

The Day the Algae Died
Topic: Origin & Evolution of Life
The P-T mass extinction may have been instigated by populations of algae dying. According to one group of scientists, this die-off of large numbers of relatively simple life forms caused a crash in the ocean's entire food web.

The Three Ages of Mars
Topic: Extreme Life
While no place on Earth is exactly like Mars, various spots are quite similar to the red planet at different times in its past. A new study details the martian ages and the places on Earth that best resemble them.

Thriving on Arsenic
Topic: Extreme Life
Geomicrobiologist Felisa Wolfe-Simon has discovered a bacterium that appears able to use arsenic instead of phosphorus in its DNA. The definition of life on Earth may need to be rewritten.

Can We Grow Crops on Other Planets?
Topic: Moon to Mars
A new study suggests that the surfaces of Mars, Venus and the Moon could be suitable for farming, moving one step closer to the next phase in space exploration: colonizing other planets.

A Strategy to Search for Life on Mars
Topic: Mars
One of the reasons NASA sends so many missions to Mars is because of the planet´s potential for life. Current missions search for factors thought to be necessary for life, such as liquid water and organic molecules, but some scientists now say the search for life itself should be the highest priority for the next decade of Mars robotic probes.

Close Encounter with Comet Hartley 2
Topic: Meteorites, Comets and Asteroids
NASA's EPOXI spacecraft flew by comet Hartley 2, and the images it captured show a peanut-shaped nucleus with many jets of gas spewing from its surface. Studying comets like Hartley 2 can help astrobiologists determine if comets played a role in the origin of life on Earth.

Thawing a Planet-Sized Snowball
Topic: Earth
The Earth has plunged into a deep freeze several times in the past, with ice covering the land and sea for millions of years. Researchers are studying how the planet eventually escaped these cold spells, and whether Earth-like planets elsewhere in the galaxy may be susceptible to the same climate catastrophe.

The Continuing Controversy of the Mars Meteorite
Topic: Mars
The fight continues over a meteorite that some say contains evidence of past life on Mars. Both sides claim to wield Occam's razor, believing that biology – or anything but – provides the simplest explanation of the Mars rock´s many strange features.
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