Astrobiology Magazine 14 May 2018, 16:00 UTC A Multiverse - where our Universe is only one of many - might not be as inhospitable to life as previously thought, according to new research.
Scientific American 14 May 2018, 15:00 UTC Ever since 2012, when astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope first spied inconclusive hints of watery plumes emanating from the subsurface ocean of Jupiter’s large, icy moon Europa, space scientists have fiercely debated the claim. Previous estimates had suggested the moon’s crust might be tens if not hundreds of kilometers thick—too thick, that is, to allow direct exploration of its potentially life-friendly ocean anytime soon. A plume venting some of Europa’s ocean water into space where it could be sampled by an orbiting spacecraft would change the whole equation—it seemed, in short, too good to be true. Now, however, a new analysis of 21-year-old data from NASA’s Galileo spacecraft, which orbited Jupiter from 1995 to 2003, has found strong independent evidence in favor of the plume.
Scientific American 14 May 2018, 12:00 UTC The Himalayas distort Earth's contour only about as much as a human hair would that of a billiard ball. Discerning such a minuscule bump on a planet orbiting a distant star might seem laughably impossible, but two astronomers have proposed a way to detect mountains and other surface features on exoplanets.
Astronomy Now 13 May 2018, 06:00 UTC A team of astronomers led by Dutch researchers at Leiden University have found a small, mysterious companion in a binary star system they were observing with the Very Large Telescope. They suspect it is a young planet, albeit a big one, with a possible dust disk of its own.
EarthSky Blog 12 May 2018, 10:00 UTC Asteroid 2010 WC9 will safely pass at about half’s the moon’s distance on Tuesday, May 15, 2018. Estimates of its size range from 197 to 427 feet (60-130 meters), making the May 15 pass one of the closest approaches ever observed of an asteroid of this size. This asteroid was “lost” and then found again. The Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona first detected it on November 30, 2010, and astronomers watched it until December 1, when it became too faint to see. They didn’t enough observations to track its orbit fully and so predict its return. On May 8, 2018 – almost eight years later – astronomers discovered an asteroid and gave it the temporary designation ZJ99C60. Then they realized it was asteroid 2010 WC9, returning.
NASA Space Station Blog 11 May 2018, 17:50 UTC The International Space Station will be orbiting a little higher this weekend to prepare for the departure of three Expedition 55 crew members and the arrival of a new Russian cargo craft. The docked Russian Progress 69 resupply ship will fire its engines Saturday at 6:07 p.m. EDT for two minutes and 52 seconds slightly boosting the orbital lab’s altitude.
Centauri Dreams 11 May 2018, 15:22 UTC The definition of a habitable zone is under constant refinement, an important line of research as we choose which exoplanets to focus on in our search for life. Centauri Dreams regular Alex Tolley today looks at the question as it involves the presence of methane. With planetary warming already known to vary depending on the spectral type of the host star, we now learn that the presence of methane can produce thermal inversions and surface cooling on M-star exoplanets, impacting the outer limits of the habitable zone. The work of Ramses Ramirez (Tokyo Institute of Technology) and Lisa Kaltenegger (Carl Sagan Institute, Cornell University), the paper also suggests a possible biosignature near the outer habitable zone edge of hotter stars, one of several results that Alex explores in today’s essay.
SPACE.com 11 May 2018, 11:25 UTC NASA and the Cassini team have given us another gorgeous blast from Saturn's past. The Cassini spacecraft orbited Saturn from the summer of 2004 until Sept. 15, 2017, when the low-on-fuel probe performed an intentional death dive into the ringed planet's cloud tops.