Habitable Zone explained by astrophysicist

Elizabeth Tasker (@girlandkat on Twitter), the UK astrophysicist working at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the author of the popular science book “The Planet Factory” Notes 1 says “the habitable zone is the worst name ever in the history of naming anything” in her perfect doodly she published on Twitter.

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 […]

Saturn on steroids: J1407b

If you read Isaac Asimov’s 1986 novel “Foundation and Earth”, you’ll remember how the main characters of the book (Councilman Golan Trevize, historian Janov Pelorat, and Gaian Bliss) were amazed by Saturn’s rings. They were thinking the gas giant with preeminent rings in old stories was just a myth. But after seeing Saturn, they made […]

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 […]

NASA has published the map of 4,000 exoplanets

Even as late as 1991, we had no hard evidence of planets existing outside our solar system, known as “exoplanets”. Today, over 4000 exoplanets are known to exist. NASA has published an amazing video-map showing them in the Milky Way galaxy on the Astronomy Picture of the Day website.

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 […]

Watch: The Milky Way as You’ve Never Seen It Before

In April 2018, the European Space Agency’s Gaia observatory released its second data catalog, which includes the distances to over 1.3 billion stars. In the video published by the American Museum of Natural History, museum’s astrophysicist Jackie Faherty breaks down why this information is so revolutionary and explains how this information is helping scientists and non-scientists […]

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 […]

Earth can be a model for detecting vegetation on exoplanets

Back in December 1990, during its flyby of Earth, NASA’s Galileo spacecraft, which studied the planet Jupiter and its moons, as well as several other Solar System bodies, pointed its instruments towards Earth, at the urging of Carl Sagan. And, it has found evidence of life on our planet. This can be a key to detect […]