Showing posts with label exobiology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label exobiology. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Here's an astonishingly clever Disney animation depicting hypothetical plants and animals on the surface of Mars. (One of my favorites is the organic flying saucer that fries its prey before enveloping the carcass.)

(Thanks to John Shirley for the tip.)

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Of perchlorates and Martians

More Researchers Say Liquid Water Present on Mars Now

Some salts, like perchlorates, lower the freezing point substantially. It turns out that the temperature for the liquid phase of magnesium perchlorate -- 206 degrees Kelvin -- is a temperature found on Mars at the Phoenix landing site. Based on temperature findings from the Phoenix lander, conditions would allow this perchlorate solution to be present in liquid form for a few hours each day during the summer.

"The window for liquid is very small," Hanley said. Nevertheless, this finding further supports the possibility of finding life on Mars.

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

What's in store?

Kepler Observations Begin (Centauri Dreams)

Expect the first discoveries to be gas giants close to their stars, easiest to spot and confirm using Kepler's transit methods. Then things get even more interesting. This is a mission that should be able to find terrestrial worlds in the ultimate sense; i.e., planets that not only approximate ours in size but are also roughly at the distance required for liquid water to exist at the surface. We still call that distance the 'habitable zone' even though it's becoming clear, as witness the case around Jupiter, that tidal forces can provide immense energies that could extend a different kind of habitable zone much farther from its star.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Mars and the probability of life

Life Beyond Earth in 10 Years or Less?

Peter Smith feels pretty certain we'll be finding life on Mars within the next decade.

Smith, the University of Arizona professor who led NASA's Phoenix Mars Mission, made his predictions to a spellbound audience during a lecture at the University of Delaware earlier this month, and he discussed his ideas by phone on Thursday. He carries a "sense of optimism" about finding life on Mars, he said, because of the tantalizing clues Phoenix sent to Earth.

[. . .]

"I think the next decade is a very active time for searching for signatures on Mars," he said, "and my personal belief is we'll find them."

I'll make an even bolder statement: If we haven't conclusively established the presence of life on Mars within the next decade it won't be because it's not there; it will simply indicate that we're not trying hard enough.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Are they accepting colonists yet?

Lightest exoplanet yet discovered

Well-known exoplanet researcher Michel Mayor today announced the discovery of the lightest exoplanet found so far. The planet, "e", in the famous system Gliese 581, is only about twice the mass of our Earth. The team also refined the orbit of the planet Gliese 581 d, first discovered in 2007, placing it well within the habitable zone, where liquid water oceans could exist. These amazing discoveries are the outcome of more than four years of observations using the most successful low-mass-exoplanet hunter in the world, the HARPS spectrograph attached to the 3.6-metre ESO telescope at La Silla, Chile.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

A world on ice

LPSC 2009: Little asteroids on Mars lead to ice

But the gist of the work is worth repeating: members of the MRO HiRise team are using fresh impact craters as probes of the subsurface, and are finding ice farther south than anyone has thought possible.

[. . .]

The authors watched the ice sublimate away over subsequent weeks, and used calculations from that to show that this ice is solid and nearly pure, not just a little bit of pore ice mixed in with the soil. And since these craters lie around 45 degrees north, it means that the subsurface ice that Mars Odyssey spotted (providing the raison d'etre for Phoenix) extends further south than previously thought.


DNA analysis may be done on Mars for first time

Chemical signs of life can be ambiguous, but Ruvkun and his team hope to find its unequivocal signature by sending a DNA amplifier and sequencer to Mars in the next decade. They're betting that any life on the Red Planet shares an evolutionary heritage with life on Earth, and therefore contains a similar genetic code -- a requirement that other scientists say is too narrowly focused, since Martian life may have evolved independently and therefore may have very different chemistry.

Friday, March 06, 2009

The Ceres solution*

Life on Ceres: Could the Dwarf Planet be the Root of Panspermia?

You may be forgiven in thinking that the search for life in the Solar System has gone a little crazy, after all, we haven't found life anywhere else apart from our own planet. However, if we do discover life on other planetary bodies apart from Earth, perhaps the panspermia hypothesis is more than just an academic curiosity. So why is Ceres suddenly so interesting? Firstly, it probably has water. Secondly, the ex-asteroid is so small that fragments of Ceres could have been kicked into space by meteorite impacts more readily than other larger planetary bodies, making it a prime candidate for seeding life on Earth . . .

*"The Ceres Solution" is a novel by the late Bob Shaw.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Sinkers, floaters and hunters

Carl Sagan paints a breathtaking portrait of truly alien life eking out an aerial existence in the cloudscape of a Jovian world:

(Thanks to Centauri Dreams.)

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Aliens in the closet

Not exactly an original concept, but not without a strange appeal:

Arizona Scientist: We Could All Be Martians

As long as we’re still pondering human origins, we may as well entertain the idea that our ancestor microbes came from Mars.

And Jay Melosh, a planetary scientist from the University of Arizona in Tucson, is ready with a geologically plausible explanation.


"Biological exchange between the planets of our solar system seem not only possible, but inevitable," because of meteorite exchanges between the planets, Melosh said. "Life could have originated on the planet Mars and then traveled to Earth."

Monday, February 16, 2009

Alien shores

Galaxy has 'billions of Earths'

"Not only are they probably habitable but they probably are also going to be inhabited," Dr Boss told BBC News. "But I think that most likely the nearby 'Earths' are going to be inhabited with things which are perhaps more common to what Earth was like three or four billion years ago."

Friday, January 16, 2009

Mars strategy shift eyed as methane boosts odds for life

The Mars Science Laboratory rover may be retargeted to land near a methane vent on Mars to specifically seek direct evidence of current Martian life.

Yeah, that might be a good idea. Better have some committees look into it.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Mars Methane: Geology or Biology?

My money's on biology.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Top 5 Bets for Extraterrestrial Life in the Solar System

Saturday, January 10, 2009

I acquired the footage below only at great difficulty, as NASA is inexplicably intent on denying its existence (if not outright destruction of the original film stock). Make of it what you will.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Rock varnish: A promising habitat for Martian bacteria

As scientists search for life on Mars, they should take a close look at rock varnish, according to a paper in the current issue of the "Journal of Geophysical Research."

The paper describes how a research team led by Kimberly R. Kuhlman, of the Tucson-based Planetary Science Institute, found bacteria associated with rock varnish in an area where the surrounding soils were essentially devoid of life. The study suggests that rock varnish could provide a niche habitat for microbial life on Mars and in other extraterrestrial environments devoid of liquid water.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Europa: Tides of Life?

We've speculated that Europa experiences enough tidal flex from Jupiter to create possible energy sources for life. What Tyler is saying is that the moon may experience not just internal pressures but large waves pushing through the submerged ocean. These waves, of course, could be a way of distributing heat and dissipating tidal energies.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Simulation Shows Bacteria Could Live on Mars

Now, building on a tradition of ground-based simulation that extends back to 1958, a new series of experiments, conducted by an interdisciplinary research team from the Faculty of Natural Sciences of the University of Aarhus, Denmark, suggests that indeed bacteria could survive beneath the martian soil.

Why I Hope There's No Life on Mars

Why am I such a spoilsport? Because life on Mars would make life on Earth a lot more complicated. First, imagine that there’s no life on Mars. That means we can go there, as we did on lunar missions, with no serious worries about bringing back deadly germs. (We initially quarantined Apollo astronauts upon their return to Earth. But by Apollo 15 NASA had concluded that the moon was as lifeless as, well, the moon.) No concerns about bringing deadly bacteria home, and none about contaminating the moon with earthly bacteria that might mess up its biospheric ecology.

(Both items sighted at The Keyhoe Report.)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Sweet! Galactic Molecule Could Point to Alien Life

Glycolaldehyde has previously only been detected near the center of our galaxy, where conditions are extreme compared to the rest of the galaxy. But its discovery in an area far from the galactic center in an area known as 'G31.41+0.31' suggests that the production of this key ingredient for life could be common throughout the galaxy. This is good news in our search for alien life, because a wide spread of the molecule improves the chances of its existing alongside other molecules vital to life, and in regions where Earth-like planets may exist.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Why the universe may be teeming with aliens

As astronomers explore newly discovered planets and create computer simulations of virtual worlds, they are discovering that water, and life, might exist on all manner of weird worlds where conditions are very different from those on Earth. And that means there could be vastly more habitable planets out there than we thought possible. "It's like science fiction, only better," says Raymond Pierrehumbert, a climate scientist at the University of Chicago, who studies planets inside and outside of our solar system.

(Via The Anomalist.)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Mars Phoenix Lander Runs Out of Juice

Originally slated for a mere 90 days near the Martian north pole, clever NASA power engineers kept the Lander doing science for nearly two months beyond that goal. But now mission officials are certain: The lander has run out of power for its internal heater and is presumed to be frozen on the arctic plane.


Has Mars Science Laboratory Made the Discovery of the Decade?

NASA team leader Michael Mumma puts forward the idea that subterranean bacteria could be producing the noxious fumes, which periodically percolate to the surface in short lived bursts. But it could also be a geological source deep below the surface.