Feature Stories

  • What Does ET Look Like from 40 Light Years Away?
    The Terrestrial Planet Finder (TPF) mission will have the technology to look for signs of life in the light reflected or emitted by planets orbiting nearby stars. But nobody knows exactly what signals life would emit. Clues from studies of Earth's early atmosphere are guiding
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  • Ancient Fossils – or Just Plain Rocks?
    How the 3.5 billion year history of Earth gets written depends on proposed fossilized bacteria found in rocks from Western Australia. If life did exist that early then biological beginnings predated significant atmospheric oxygen by about a billion years. The debaters have just
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  • Weird Life on the Mats
    The fossil record is full of animals with bizarre body shapes. Do these extinct species represent failed evolutionary experiments, or were they simply well-adapted to an environment that no longer exists?
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  • Water Worlds
    Italian astronomers report on a method for water detection on extrasolar planets and cometary clouds, and their shortlist of candidates with promising initial findings from the 32-meter Medicina radio telescope.
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  • Roses for the Red Planet
    At a conference on terraforming Mars, one topic of discussion was the importance - and the risks - of seeding the Red Planet.
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  • Gravity’s Telescope
    Using a technique known as "gravitational microlensing", astronomers hope to find planets in Earth-like orbits around stars halfway across the galaxy.
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  • Evolution’s Sweet Tooth
    How did intelligence evolve? A scientist studying differences between humans and great apes may have found a biochemical step in that direction.
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  • The Driest Place on Earth
    How much water does life need to survive? Chile's Atacama desert hold some interesting clues - clues that may help researchers in the hunt for life on Mars.
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  • Europa: Chewy or Crunchy?
    For geophysicist William B. Moore, the question of whether life exists on Jupiter's moon Europa boils down to whether the moon's center is chewy or crunchy.
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  • Build Your Own Planet
    Build your own virtual planet, complete with weather, habitable tropics and a tunable thermostat. In reality, changing an entire biosphere would dwarf the limits of engineers' most grand projects: Hoover Dam, Suez and Panama Canals, or hurricane cloud-seeding.
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  • Minimalist Life
    Microbiologist Karl Stetter travels the world hunting game, small game. In May, he revealed the discovery of a new archaean, at 400 nanometers so small it rides the surface of another merely normally small archaean.
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  • Scouting for Martian Molecules
    Mars Scout finalists are this week's selections for the Extreme Explorers' Hall of Fame.
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  • Sunset on Io
    Jupiter's closest moon, Io, is revealed in new imagery at sunset, giving a stunning glimpse of a mountain nearly as tall as Mount Everest. Io's unique volcanism gives it heat far from the Sun.
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  • Ripples in Time
    Until the last fifteen percent of the Earth's age, the continents were barren, lifeless wastelands. Life had yet to hit the shore. But a kind of molecular clock says the hands of time may have started ticking many billions of years earlier.
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  • Aliens Depend on Time to Grow Brains
    To understand how intelligence develops, we have only one example to study: the development of human intelligence on Earth. Since intelligent life took a long time to develop on Earth, some believe it will take just as long on other worlds.
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