More evidence that Europa’s ocean is similar to Earth’s

Artist's illustration of how water from Europa's underground ocean can reach the surface. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech
Artist’s illustration of how water from Europa’s underground ocean can reach the surface.
Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

As one of the few places in the solar system other than Earth known to have an ocean, Europa has become one of the most fascinating worlds that we know of. This moon of Jupiter is small, but enticing – beneath its frozen surface of ice is a global ocean of water, making it a primary focus of study, especially in terms of the search for life elsewhere.

Continue reading →

Cassini views Venus from Saturn’s shadow

Cassini's view of Venus, as seen from Saturn. Venus is the bright speck shining through Saturn's rings, which are backlit by the sun in this image. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / Space Science Institute
Cassini’s view of Venus, as seen from Saturn. Venus is the bright speck shining through Saturn’s rings, which are backlit by the sun in this image. Click for larger version.
Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / Space Science Institute

The Cassini spacecraft has been orbiting Saturn for a long time now, taking stunning images of the giant planet and its rings and moons. Some new images, released today, show a different world though, far across the solar system and much closer to the sun -Venus.

Continue reading →

An ancient magma ocean on Mercury?

Mercury as seen by the MESSENGER spacecraft. Did an ancient magma ocean once cover its surface? Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech
Mercury as seen by the MESSENGER spacecraft. Did an ancient magma ocean once cover its surface? Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

As we have explored the solar system, we have found evidence for different kinds of oceans. Earth of course has its water oceans, while some icy moons like Europa have subsurface water oceans and Saturn’s largest moon Titan has seas and lakes of liquid methane.

Continue reading →

Colourful exoplanets may be first to show evidence of alien life

Colourful alien life may be the easiest to find. Credit: Don Johnston / Getty Images
Colourful alien life may be the easiest to find. Credit: Don Johnston / Getty Images

Exoplanets are now being discovered on a regular basis, including ones that may be potentially habitable. But when even the nearest ones are so far away compared to the planets in our own solar system, how could they be studied for possible signs of life? Is that even possible?

Continue reading →

Astronomers estimate 4.5 billion ‘Earth-like’ planets in our galaxy

There are now estimated to be about 4.5 billion "Earth-like" planets orbiting red dwarf stars in our galaxy. Credit: David A. Aguilar (CfA)
There are now estimated to be about 4.5 billion “Earth-like” planets orbiting red dwarf stars in our galaxy. Credit: David A. Aguilar (CfA)

There was more exciting exoplanet-related news this morning – a team of astronomers announced a new study today which estimates that there are likely about 4.5 billion “Earth-like” planets in our galaxy!

Continue reading →

Astronomers redefine the habitable zone for exoplanets

The new definition of a star's habitable zone will affect how we search for habitable exoplanets. Credit: PHL@UPR Arecibo / Rogelio Bernal Andreo
The new definition of a star’s habitable zone will affect how we search for habitable exoplanets.
Credit: PHL@UPR Arecibo / Rogelio Bernal Andreo

When searching for potentially habitable exoplanets, one of the key factors to take into consideration is the habitable zone, the region around a star where temperatures could allow liquid water to exist on the surface of any rocky planets that may orbit them.

Continue reading →