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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.

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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.

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Is this the first photo of a planet being born?

Near-infrared image from the Very Large Telescope showing the still-forming protoplanet, the bright blob, near its star (which has been blocked out by the telescope to reduce the star's bright light). Credit: ESO

Near-infrared image from the Very Large Telescope showing the still-forming protoplanet, the bright blob, near its star (which has been blocked out by the telescope to reduce the star’s bright light). Credit: ESO

Astronomers have taken the first photo of what is thought to be a giant planet still in the process of forming near its star.

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Inspiration Mars: manned flyby mission planned for 2018

Artist's conception of the Inspiration Mars spacecraft during its flyby of Mars. Credit: Inspiration Mars Foundation

Artist’s conception of the Inspiration Mars spacecraft during its flyby of Mars.
Credit: Inspiration Mars Foundation

The long-held dream of sending humans to Mars may have moved closer to becoming reality – the Inspiration Mars Foundation announced today its plans to send two American astronauts to the Red Planet in 2018.

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When it rains on the sun

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The sun is a very dynamic place, a constantly churning ball of immense energy that can put on dazzling displays of flares, sunspots and the like. But did you know that it also rains there?

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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.

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Kepler discovers tiny moon-sized exoplanet

Artist's conception of Kepler-37b, which is smaller than Mercury and only slightly larger than our Moon. Credit: NASA / Ames / JPL-Caltech

Artist’s conception of Kepler-37b, which is smaller than Mercury and only slightly larger than our moon. Credit: NASA / Ames / JPL-Caltech

The Kepler space telescope has added another significant discovery to its growing list - the smallest exoplanet found so far (again) orbiting a sun-like star, it was announced on Wednesday.

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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?

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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!

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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.

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