How we detected water on a potentially habitable exoplanet for the first time

Angelos Tsiaras, UCL With more than 4,000 exoplanets – planets orbiting stars other than our sun – discovered so far, it may seem like we are on the cusp of finding out whether we are alone in the universe. Sadly though, we don’t know much about these planets – in most cases just their mass […]

The end of the world: a history of how a silent cosmos led humans to fear the worst

Thomas Moynihan, University of Oxford It is 1950 and a group of scientists are walking to lunch against the majestic backdrop of the Rocky Mountains. They are about to have a conversation that will become a scientific legend. The scientists are at the Los Alamos Ranch School, the site for the Manhattan Project, where each […]

In space, there really might be no place like home

Few topics in science command as much attention as the discovery of extrasolar planets – those as-yet-unseen worlds, light years beyond our own Sun. In the quest to learn whether we are alone in the cosmos, astronomers are teasing out subtle wobbles and periodic dimmings of distant stars: telltale signs that a planet, much too […]

8 Things that make Life on Earth Possible

Earth, our blue planet is a tiny oasis in the vast, cold, and dark space. It is the only planet we know of that can support life. The fossil record tells us that life on Earth has lasted at least 3.5 billion years (the Earth is about 4.54 billion years old), with the oldest physical […]

Moon Plants: Another historic first by China’s Lunar Lander

Scientists from the China National Space Administration (CNSA) has confirmed that the seedlings taken to the far side of the moon with Chang’e 4 lunar lander have started sprouting. Or to put it another way: this is the first time something has been grown on an astronomical body outside of the Earth! Now we have […]

There is most probably no Kardashev Type III civilization in the Universe. Here’s why

In 1964, Russian astrophysicist Nikolai Kardashev (born April 25, 1932) defined three levels of civilizations, based on the order of magnitude of power available to them (known as the Kardashev scale):

Proof of life: how would we recognise an alien if we saw one?

What would convince you that aliens existed? The question came up recently at a conference on astrobiology, held at Stanford University in California. Several ideas were tossed around – unusual gases in a planet’s atmosphere, strange heat gradients on its surface. But none felt persuasive. Finally, one scientist offered the solution: a photograph. There was […]

To find aliens, we must think of life as we don’t know it

From blob-like jellyfish to rock-like lichens, our planet teems with such diversity of life that it is difficult to recognise some organisms as even being alive. That complexity hints at the challenge of searching for life as we don’t know it – the alien biology that might have taken hold on other planets, where conditions […]

We May Have Already Detected Signs of Alien Microbes on Saturn’s Moon Enceladus

According to a new study, microbes like those found in Earth’s deep ocean could potentially thrive in the underground ocean of Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus. Both molecular hydrogen (H2) and methane (CH4) already have been detected in the plume. Researchers have shown that Methanothermococcus okinawensis, a methanogenic archaeon first isolated from a deep-sea hydrothermal vent […]

The oldest fossils suggest that life should be common in the Universe

Are we alone in the Universe? Or any other life forms exist out there? A new study, published on the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) Notes 1 suggests that life emerged so early on Earth – it should be widespread. In other words, the Universe should be […]