Feature Stories

  • 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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  • Tiny minerals leftover from many small meteorites could provide the geological evidence needed to show how rocks falling from the sky often changed the course of life’s evolution on Earth.
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  • Chemical reactions once thought to be 'impossible' in the incredible coldness of space can actually occur thanks to a phenomenon called ‘quantum tunnelling.’ This also could mean that biochemical reactions occur in places once considered too frigid for life, like Saturn’s moon Titan.
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  • A new model could indicate whether an exoplanet has a light but extended atmosphere, or a relatively thin and heavy atmosphere. This knowledge could help refine the targets in the search for planets like Earth capable of sustaining life.
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  • When NASA's Dawn mission investigates the potentially icy dwarf planet Ceres, it may find more than originally expected. The closest frozen body to Earth, Ceres may be as promising when it comes to hosting life than the more distant moons of the gas giants.
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  • Previous studies suggested that planets in the habitable zone of red dwarfs should be dry, but more recent work refreshes the possibility of water on these distant worlds.
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  • In 2006, a multinational crew of scientists discovered methane seeps in the Pacific that were unlike seeps seen anywhere else. The sites support a unique food web dominated by worms that feed on methane-filtering microbes.
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  • From a solid icy Earth to a slushy planet, scientists’ understanding of the most dramatic ice ages have evolved over two decades.
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