Feature Stories

  • The Extrasolar Planets Catalog now has over 1,000 planets listed in their database. The milestone was reached October 22, and their current count of planets discovered beyond our solar system now sits at 1,010.
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  • A child’s toy was the inspiration for a new spacecraft design concept to explore the murky surface of Saturn's moon Titan.
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  • Fran Bagenal is a Co-Investigator on NASA's New Horizons mission, which is set to arrive at Pluto and Charon in 2015.
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  • A new paper suggests a large impact in the ocean 570 million years ago caused a re-organization of Earth’s environment, setting the stage for the emergence of complex life.
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  • How long can civilization last? That question has long been asked by astronomers searching for intelligent alien life, and recently was the focus of a symposium in the Library of Congress.
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  • Astrobiologists have revealed new information about the structure of RNA molecules found in the ribosome of cells. The study indicates that long-accepted models of ribosomal RNA, which are used to study how ribosomes function, require some major updating.
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  • Researchers have found that, under the right conditions, the yeast S. pombe doesn’t grow old. The discovery provides insight into our understanding of aging, and shows that even some of the best-studied life forms can still have surprising qualities.
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  • New models could allow today's telescopes to discern what elements and compounds are harbored in the atmospheres of mysterious, larger-than-Earth worlds.
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  • As the oldest evidence for life in the fossil record, stromatolites provide insights into the early evolution of life on Earth and serve as potential "biosignatures" when looking for life elsewhere. A recent paper highlights a different kind of microbe-created structure similar to stromatolites.
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  • Terrence Deacon at the SETI Institute recently gave a talk that summarized how autogenesis could have bridged the gap between prebiotic and biotic systems. This process would need to start in conditions only present on the gas giants before being transferred to Earth, suggesting
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