In recent years, astronomers have pondered the search for biosignatures, or signs of life, in the atmospheres of distant exoplanets. Will the James Webb Space Telescope – due to launch in 2021 – be able to detect them? A new technique says yes.
About 21% of Earth's atmosphere is composed of oxygen. On our planet, it is produced by organisms such as plants, algae, and cyanobacteria. Image via Shutterstock/ The Conversation.
The building blocks of life as we know it require chemical reactions involving phosphorus. But phosphorus is scarce on Earth. Where did enough of it come from to fuel life’s start? Carbonate-rich lakes, like Mono Lake in California, might hold a clue.
Mono Lake in Eastern California. This salty lake - with salt pillars - is rich in carbonates, similar to lakes that scientists involved in the new study think helped with the evolution of life on Earth billions of years ago. Image via Matthew Dillon/ Flickr/ Washington University.
The Earth might be crawling with undiscovered alien creatures whose biochemistry is very different from life as we know it. An astrobiologist explains.
They probably won’t look anything like this. Image via Martina Badini/ Shutterstock/ The Conversation.
According to independent analyses by both NASA and NOAA, Earth’s global surface temperatures in 2019 ranked 2nd-warmest since 1880.
This animation shows monthly global temperatures compared to the 1981-2010 average for January through December 2019. The last slide shows the departure from average for the entire year. Image via NOAA NCE/ NOAA Climate.gov.
According to the UK’s Met Office, each decade from the 1980s has been successively warmer than all the decades that came before. 2019 concludes the warmest ‘cardinal’ decade (those spanning years ending 0-9) in records that stretch back to the mid-19th century.
No one knows precisely when global warming began. Since C02 in the atmosphere causes increased warming we can assume it began after the Industrial Revolution started in the late 1700s. As this graphic shows, global warming was underway by the mid- to late 1800s. Some research by climate experts - for example, this 2016 paper in the journal Nature
- suggests warming can be seen a few decades earlier than that, in the early 1800s. Graphic via the Met Office.
Recent speculation that Betelgeuse might be on the verge of going supernova prompted many to ask: how far away is it? But getting a distance measurement for this star has been no easy task.
An image of Betelgeuse taken at sub-millimeter wavelengths by the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA). It shows a section of hot gas slightly protruding from the red giant star’s extended atmosphere. Some of the data used to compute the latest parallax for Betelgeuse came from observations by ALMA. Image via ALMA
Betelgeuse has dimmed recently, prompting some to wonder if it’s about to explode. An explosion might trigger a gravitational wave burst. Betelgeuse is still there. The nearby gravitational wave burst probably means nothing for this star. Still …
Gravitational waves are 'ripples' in space-time caused by some of the most violent and energetic processes in the universe. Image via LIGO
It’s difficult to see objects whose orbits are within that of Venus, because those objects always stay near the sun in our sky. Now, though, astronomers have spotted one!
The scientists call them “xenobots.” They are tiny living robots assembled from the cells of frogs. Their creators promise advances from drug delivery to toxic waste clean-up.
A manufactured quadruped (4-footed) organism, 650-750 microns in diameter (a micron is a millionth of a meter). The scientists described this creature (if we can call it a creature) as "a bit smaller than a pinhead." Image via Douglas Blackiston/ Tufts University/ University of Vermont