The Search For Technosignatures

For those familiar with indie space game Stellaris, one of the key moments before encountering ancient intelligent life is finding traces of technology. While the game is a work of science fiction, the concept isn’t  outlandish to those behind the real life search for extraterrestrial life (SETI). According to astronomer Jason Wright, discovering traces of advanced technology, termed technosignatures, from alien civilizations is just as important as looking for biosignatures. He outlines his theory in new paper published online, and while he doesn’t claim there’s existing, direct evidence of aliens, he does wonder if we’re just not looking hard enough – or for the right signs.


Contrary to what some have said, Wright’s paper isn’t saying that there’s already evidence pointing to an alien civilization that existed in the solar system before us. Instead, he merely asked whether we’ve exhausted all possible angles in our search for extraterrestrials.

“There is zero evidence for any prior indigenous technological civilizations,” Wright told Gizmodo. “My paper asks, have we completely foreclosed the possibility, or is there a chance that there could be some evidence we overlooked? [And] if we have overlooked something and we find it in the future, what are the chances it could have come from a prior indigenous technological species versus an interstellar one?”

Currently, the hunt for aliens is focused on finding even the smallest signs of life, or mechanisms that could support life (most notably, the presence of water). These are all good, of course, but Wright suggests that we might also start looking for technosignatures from ancient alien civilizations.


“A ‘technosignature’ is evidence of technology,” he said, which potential could have been left behind by some long-gone alien civilization. In his paper, he explained his point further: “We might conjecture that settlements or bases on [rocky moons or asteroids] would have been built beneath the surface for a variety of reasons, and so still be discoverable today.”

What Are We Really Searching For?

The discovery of a new planet — or even better, a new system in some near or distant galaxy — is always good news for alien hunters. Most recently, the TRAPPIST system presented some possibilities — albeit ones quickly dashed by the intensity of solar flares its planets experience. Another possible candidate is a huge, Earth-like planet dubbed super-Earth LHS 1140b. Inside our own solar system, the planetary satellites of Jupiter and Saturn — particularly Europa and Enceladus — tickle the imagination because of the presence of water. And where there is water, the chance of life is higher.


However, despite the odds seemingly in our favor, we really haven’t found any such example of alien life out there — yet. Fermi Paradox, yes? But, could it be that we’ve been looking at the wrong things? Or are we simply not looking hard enough?

Wright just wants us to explore all possible options: “While all geological records of prior indigenous [extraterrestrial] technological species might be long destroyed, if the species were spacefaring there may be technological artifacts to be found throughout the Solar system.”

Source: This article was published futurism.com By Dom Galeon and Abby Norman

Categorized in Science & Tech

Tabby's star, famous for its inexplicable dips in brightness, is going through one of those dips right now.

As far as weird stars go, few are as strange as KIC 8462852, nicknamed Tabby's star. Tabby's star randomly dims and brightens for apparently no reason, which led some astronomers in 2015 to hypothesize that some sort of 'alien megastructure' was orbiting the star, occasionally blocking the light. Other scientists proposed a large asteroid field or a swarm of comets instead, but we still don't really know what's going on.


All of that might be about to change. Early this morning, astronomers detected one of those characteristic dips that are unique to Tabby's star. All of the other dips that we know of are from historical observations, but this one is happening right now, which gives astronomers a chance to really figure out what's happening.

Tabby's Star has been dimming dramatically over the past few days.


But in order for that to happen, we need to point a telescope—or ideally several—in the direction of Tabby's star as soon as possible. This can be a challenge due to the way that telescope time is proportioned. Telescope time is usually scheduled months or years in advance, and it's not always easy to reschedule something at the last minute.

ALERT:@tsboyajian's star is dipping
This is not a drill.
Astro tweeps on telescopes in the next 48 hours: spectra please!
Jason Wright (@Astro_Wright) May 19, 2017 


If this were any other star, getting even one telescope at such short notice would be nearly impossible. But Tabby's star is not a normal star, and its behavior is such a puzzle that multiple telescopes will be able to fit in at least a few observations. The Swift space telescope has already scheduled multiple observations of the star at various times tomorrow, and a number of other telescopes around the world are planning to squeeze in an observation or two.


The most important thing for these telescopes to capture is the spectrum of Tabby's star. The spectrum of a star is all the light that star produces broken down by the color of that light. Looking at the spectrum of a star can tell you what it's made of. For instance, a star containing only hydrogen will be a different color and have a different spectrum than a star burning both hydrogen and helium.

And the spectrum of Tabby's star might be able to tell us what's causing the strange dimming effect. Different materials block different wavelengths of light, so looking at the spectrum of the star before and after the dimming could tell us what's blocking the light. If scientists see more blue light blocked than red light, for instance, that could mean the dimming is caused by lots of dust.

There's also the possibility that the dimming could be caused by comets, or by gas outside the star system entirely. In that case, common components of these materials like water and hydrogen will block specific parts of the spectrum, which we should be able to see. If the dimming is caused by something solid like a planet—or an alien megastructure—then the spectrum will be dimmed evenly across the board.


The Kepler telescope, which scientists used to initially spot Tabby's star's weird dimming, only measures brightness, not spectra. And by the time we realized how weird Tabby's star is, it was too late for us to get the spectrum from another telescope. This is our first chance to really find out what's going on with Tabby's star.

And there's a good chance that with these new observations we'll finally be able to solve this puzzle at last.

Source: This article was published popularmechanics By Avery Thompson

Categorized in Science & Tech


  • Findings will be presented at 2017 Astrobiology Science Conference April 24- 28
  • Will discuss life on earth and search for habitable worlds in our solar system
  • It comes on the heels of last week's reveal about Saturn's moon Enceladus
  • It was found to have hydrogen gas - a potential source of chemical energy for life
  • Discussions will also involve potential science value of a lander on the Europa
  • Europa, one of Jupiter's moons, thought to be a key candidate for potential life

NASA researchers will soon present new findings on topics ranging from the origins and evolution of life on earth to the search for habitable environments and life in our solar system, the space agency has revealed. 


The findings will be presented during the 2017 Astrobiology  Science Conference between April 24 and April 28 in Mesa, Arizona.

The announcement comes on the heels of last week's reveal that Enceladus, one of Saturn's icy moons, was found to have hydrogen - a potential source of chemical energy that could support microbes on its seafloor. 

NASA researchers will soon present new findings on topics ranging from the origins and evolution of life on earth to the search for habitable environments and life in our solar system. The illustration  shows Cassini spacecraft diving through a plume on Enceladus
NASA researchers will soon present new findings on topics ranging from the origins and evolution of life on earth to the search for habitable environments and life in our solar system. The illustration shows Cassini spacecraft diving through a plume on Enceladus


Dr Giada Arney of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, will discuss organic haze on Earthlike planets as possible biosignatures.

Dr Morgan Cable at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, will speak about mechanisms for enrichment of organics in Enceladus plumes.

Dr John Grunsfeld, former NASA astronaut associate administrator for science, will deliver a presentation on next-generation space telescopes for terrestrial exoplanet characterization and the search for biosignatures.

NASA will hold a town hall meeting to obtain feedback from the astrobiology community on the Europa Lander Science Definition Team Report on Sunday, April 23 at the Phoenix Marriott Mesa Hotel from 12:30 to 6pm Pacific Daylight Time. 

The report looks at the potential science value of a lander on the surface of Jupiter's sixth-closest, icy moon Europa, which is a key candidate for potential extraterrestrial life.

It lists three science goals for the mission, with the primary goal being the search for evidence of life on Europa.


The report also aims to assess the habitability of Europa by directly analyzing material from the surface, and to characterize the surface and subsurface to support future robotic exploration of Europa and its ocean.

Europa has long been a high priority for exploration because it has a salty liquid water ocean beneath its icy crust. 
An artist's concept of a plume of water vapour thought to be ejected off the frigid, icy surface of Jupiter's moon Europa, about 500 million miles (800 million km) from the sun
An artist's concept of a plume of water vapour thought to be ejected off the frigid, icy surface of Jupiter's moon Europa, about 500 million miles (800 million km) from the sun

Last year, the Hubble telescope spotted possible water plumes, similar to those of Enceladus, erupting from Europa.

Evidence of a plume was seen at the same location in 2014, and researchers say the new observations are further evidence that these plumes could be real, and experience intermittent flare-ups.

These vapor flumes coming off Europa make it a key candidate for potential extraterrestrial life.

NASA’s Europa Clipper mission, named after the clipper ships which sailed across the oceans of our planet in the 19th century, will set off in the 2020s to search for the chemical ingredients of life on Jupiter's moon Europa. 


Jupiter's icy moon Europa is slightly smaller than Earth's moon. 

Europa orbits Jupiter every 3.5 days and is tidally locked - just like Earth's Moon - so that the same side of Europa faces Jupiter at all times.Jupiter's sixth-closest moon Europa is one of the most interesting bodies in our solar system when it comes to the hunt for extra terrestrial life
Jupiter's sixth-closest moon Europa is one of the most interesting bodies in our solar system when it comes to the hunt for extra terrestrial life

It is thought to have an iron core, a rocky mantle and a surface ocean of salty water, like Earth. 


Unlike on Earth, however, this ocean is deep enough to cover the whole surface of Europa, and being far from the sun, the ocean surface is globally frozen over.

Many experts believe the hidden ocean surrounding Europa, warmed by powerful tidal forces caused by Jupiter's gravity, may have conditions favourable for life. 

The ultimate aim of Europa Clipper is to determine if Europa is habitable, possessing all three of the ingredients necessary for life: liquid water, chemical ingredients, and energy sources sufficient to enable biology. 

NASA's Roadmaps to Ocean Worlds (ROW) team, chartered to identify science objectives and exploration roadmaps for ocean worlds, will hold a town hall from 12:15 to 1:15pm on Monday, April 24 to share its progress and obtain feedback.

Among some of the researchers who will speak at the conference are Dr Giada Arney of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, who will discuss organic haze on Earthlike planets as possible biosignatures, and Dr Morgan Cable at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, who will speak about mechanisms for enrichment of organics in Enceladus plumes. 

The findings discussed may also involve Enceladus, Saturn's sixth largest moon.

After 13 years exploring Saturn, NASA's Cassini aircraft dove into high-powered jets of water spewing from the moon’s surface, where it found hydrogen gas.

The gas is the final piece of the puzzle following the discovery of water in an ocean under Enceladus’s surface.

It means Saturn’s sixth moon may have the same single-celled organisms with which life began on Earth, or more complex creatures still.

These organisms, still found on our planet within the darkest depths of our oceans, use hydrogen and carbon dioxide as fuel in a process known as 'methanogenesis.'


‘What is intriguing about the data at Enceladus, with the hydrogen detection, is that we are now able to determine how much energy would be available from the methanogenesis reaction at Enceladus,' said Dr Chris Glein, Cassini INMS team associate at the Southwest Research Insitiute during a press conference about Enceladus. 

'We have made the first calorie count in an alien ocean.'

Organisms, found on our planet in hot vents within the darkest depths of our oceans, use hydrogen and carbon dioxide as fuel in a process called 'methanogenesis.' Researchers have now discovered the building blocks for life exist on Enceladus as well
Organisms, found on our planet in hot vents within the darkest depths of our oceans, use hydrogn and carbon dioxide as fuel in a process called 'methanogenesis.' Researchers have now discovered the building blocks for life exist on Enceladus as well


Enceladus is Saturn's sixth largest moon, at 313 miles wide (504 kilometers).

Cassini observations have revealed hydrothermal activity, with vents spewing water vapour and ice particles out from a global ocean buried beneath the icy crust.

Cassini observations have revealed hydrothermal activity on Enceladus, with vents spewing water vapor and ice particles out from a global ocean buried beneath the icy crust
Cassini observations have revealed hydrothermal activity on Enceladus, with vents spewing water vapor and ice particles out from a global ocean buried beneath the icy crust


According to NASA, the plume includes organic compounds, volatile gases, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, salts, and silica.

While it may look 'inhospitable' like Saturn's other moons, the observations suggest it may have the ingredients to support microbial life

This, the researcher explained, is a major step in assessing the moon's habitability. 

The host of the upcoming conference, Arizona State University (ASU), will also hold two free public events at the Phoenix Marriott Mesa Hotel.

ASU's Beyond Center will hold an event called 'Where a Second Example of Life Might be Discovered in the Next Century' on Tuesday, April 25 from 7 to 8:30pm,

ASU's Origins Project will host an event titled 'How Astrobiology and Planetary Science Inform a Perspective of Planetary Stewardship' on Thursday April 26 from 6:30 to 8:30pm. 

Source: This article was published dailymail.co.uk By CECILE BORKHATARIA

Categorized in Science & Tech

A newly discovered planet around a distant star may jump to the top of the list of places where scientists should go looking for alien life. 

Categorized in Science & Tech

A new technique for studying exoplanet atmospheres could make it possible for scientists to get a close look at the atmosphers of planets like Proxima b in the 2020s.

A newly proposed technique could make it possible to search for life on alien planets much sooner than scientists had expected.  

Earlier this year, scientists discovered a planet orbiting the nearest star to Earth's own sun. Although relatively little is known about this newly discovered planet, which was dubbed Proxima b, evidence suggests it's possible that it has the right conditions to support life.

Of course, scientists are eager to look for signs of life on Proxima b (and members of the general public are eager to hear the results). But a deep look at the planet's atmosphere, where signs of life might hide, might require massive, next-generation, space-based telescopes that aren't expected to get off the ground until at least the 2030s. [Giant Space Telescopes of the Future (Infographic)]


But now, at least two different groups of astronomers are investigating a method for doing atmospheric studies of Proxima b — and other, possibly habitable planets like it — using ground-based telescopes that are scheduled to come online in the 2020s, significantly cutting down on the wait time.

Vermin of the sky

Thousands of planets have been identified around stars other than our own, a majority of them in the past six years, thanks to the dedicated Kepler space telescope (although many other observatories have contributed to this exoplanet treasure trove).

But finding planets is much different from characterizing their properties — things such as a planet's mass and diameter; whether it is made of rock or primarily of gas; its surface temperature; whether it has an atmosphere; and what that atmosphere is composed of.  

Earlier this month, at a workshop hosted by the National Academy of Sciences that explored the search for life beyond Earth, Matteo Brogi, a Hubble fellow at the University of Colorado, described a method for studying the atmosphere of Proxima b using next-generation ground-based telescopes.

The approach could be applied to other planets that, like Proxima b, are rocky, and orbit in the habitable zone of relatively cool stars, known as red dwarfs. The astronomical community is already emphasizing the search for "Earth-like" planets around these small stars because the latter are incredibly common in the galaxy; astronomers have even jokingly referred to red dwarfs as the "vermin of the sky."

"The frequency of small planets around small stars is extremely high; on average, there are about 2.5 planets per star," Brogi said. "Regarding habitable planets around small stars, there should be more or less a frequency of close to 30 percent. So every three stars should have a habitable planet."


An accordion of light

The approach Brogi and his colleagues are investigating would combine two different techniques for studying stars and exoplanets. The first is an extremely common technique in astronomy called high-resolution spectroscopy, which essentially looks at light from an object in extremely fine detail.

To understand high-resolution spectroscopy, consider the way sunlight passes through a prism and produces a rainbow; the glass takes the light and fans it out like an accordion, revealing that the whitish colored light is actually composed of various colors.

Spectroscopy spreads the light out even more — stretching that accordion out to unrealistic lengths for a musical instrument — revealing finer and finer detail about the colors (wavelengths) that are contained in the light from stars, planets and other cosmic objects. The resulting band of colors is called an object's spectrum.

The first scientists to use spectroscopy discovered something so amazing that, without it, the field of modern astronomy might be entirely unrecognizable: Chemical elements leave a unique fingerprint in the light spectrum. In other words, if a star is made of hydrogen and helium, those elements will leave a distinct signature on the light the star emits — when astronomers fan out the light from the star, they can see that signature in the wavelengths that are present or not present. This tool has allowed astronomers to learn about the composition of objects billions of light-years away, and helped to uncover the incredible fact that we are all made of stardust.

So if spectroscopy can be applied to the light coming from exoplanets, scientists might get a look at the composition of the planetary atmospheres. It's still unclear to scientists which atmospheric chemical mixtures would strongly indicate the presence of life — most plants on Earth consume carbon dioxide and produce oxygen, and other forms of life produce methane, so a combination with high levels of oxygen and methane might indicate the presence of biology. However, there are potential false positives and false negatives, not to mention potential life-forms that consume and produce different chemicals than living organisms on Earth.

But there are a couple of hurdles standing in the way of performing spectroscopy on a planet, and one of the biggest is that trying to see the light from a planet (which is fairly dim) when it is orbiting right next to a star (which is incredibly bright) is like trying to see the glow of a firefly against a backdrop of 1,000 stage spotlights (which would be difficult).

So Brogi and his colleagues have proposed a way to help separate those two sources of light. Because the planet is moving around the star, it is also moving toward, and then away from, the Earth throughout its orbit. When a source of light moves toward an observer, the light waves become compressed; when the source moves away from the observer, the light waves become stretched out. This is called the Doppler effect, or redshift. It also happens with sound waves, which is why when a police siren is moving toward you, it sounds like it is increasing in pitch; the waves get pushed together so that they literally have a higher frequency. When the car passes you and starts moving away, it sounds like the siren is getting lower in pitch, because the waves get stretched out and the frequency goes down.

The idea is that, out of the sea of light coming from a distant star, scientists could pick out the island of light coming from the planet by looking for the redshifted/Doppler shifted light. (This also could be used to separate any interference from Earth's own atmosphere.) Looking for those shifts in the light also falls under the header of spectroscopy.

Nonetheless, the Doppler shift approach wouldn't be powerful enough to work on its own, and this is where the second technique comes in: Astronomers would need to directly image the star or planet system first.

The planet-finding technique known as "direct imaging" is pretty much what it sounds like: an attempt to get a direct snapshot of both a planet and the star it orbits. To do this, scientists try to reduce the star's blinding glare enough so that they can see the light from the planet. It's a challenging method and one that can't be done for just any system — the planet has to be sufficiently bright compared to its parent star, which means most of the planets seen with direct imaging thus far are gas giants like Jupiter, and oriented in such a way that it can be viewed clearly from Earth. 

So Brogi and his colleagues proposed the method of first directly imaging the planetary system, using that image to locate the planet, and then further separating the planet's light from the star's light using the Doppler method. From there, they can use high-resolution spectroscopy to learn about the planet's atmosphere.

Telescopes currently in operation don't have the sensitivity to make this plan a reality, but some very large telescopes currently under development could. These scopes should be able to directly image smaller planets, as long as those planets are orbiting dimmer stars. Those include the Giant Magellan Telescope, scheduled to turn on around 2021, and the European Extremely Large Telescope, set to begin taking data as early as 2024. Direct imaging capabilities are likely to improve by leaps and bounds with these telescopes, but with direct imaging alone, it will likely not be possible to characterize many Earth-size, potentially habitable worlds.


During his talk, Brogi said there should be "on the order of 10" potentially habitable planets that this method could identify and study.

Challenges and progress

Brogi noted that there are caveats to the plan. For example, many of the predictions that he and his team made about how sensitive the method would be were "based on best-case scenarios," so dealing with real data will undoubtedly pose challenges. Moreover, the method compares the observed planetary spectra with laboratory experiments that recreate the expected spectra for various chemical elements, which means any errors in that laboratory work will carry over into the planet studies. But overall, Brogi said he and his colleagues think the approach could provide a better glimpse of the atmospheres of small, rocky, potentially habitable planets than scientists are likely to see for a few decades.

They aren't the only group that thinks so. Researchers based at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) are investigating this approach as well, according to Dimitri Mawet, an associate professor of astronomy at Caltech. Mawet and his colleagues call the approach high dispersion coronagraphy (HDC) — a combination of high-resolution spectroscopy and high-contrast imaging techniques (direct imaging). (Similar lines of thought have been proposed by other groups.)

Mawet told Space.com in an email that he and his colleagues recently submitted two research papers that explore the "practical limits of HDC" and demonstrate "a promising instrument concept in the lab at Caltech." He said he and his colleagues plan to test the technique using the Keck telescope, located in Hawaii, "about two years from now," to study young, giant planets (so not very Earth-like). He confirmed that to use the technique to study small, rocky planets like Proxima b, scientists will have to wait for those next-generation, ground-based telescopes, like the Giant Magellan Telescope and the European Extremely Large Telescope. He also confirmed Brogi's estimation of "on the order of 10" rocky exoplanets in the habitable zone of their stars that could be studied using this technique.


"As [Brogi] mentioned, there are several caveats associated with the HDC technique," Mawet told Space.com. "However, we are working on addressing them and, in the process, studying the fundamental limits of the technique. Our initial results are very promising, and exciting."

Follow Calla Cofield@callacofield.Follow us@Spacedotcom,Facebook andGoogle+. Original article onSpace.com.

Categorized in Science & Tech

A newfound alien world is quite Earth-like in some ways, but you wouldn't want to live there.

The exoplanet, known as OGLE-2016-BLG-1195Lb, is about as massive as Earth and orbits its star at about the same distance Earth circles the sun. But OGLE-2016-BLG-1195Lb's parent star is tiny and dim, meaning the alien planet is likely far too cold to host life, its discoverers said.

OGLE-2016-BLG-1195Lb is not in Earth's neck of the cosmic woods; the alien world lies nearly 13,000 light-years away. The astronomers spotted it using a technique called gravitational microlensing, which involves watching what happens when a massive body passes in front of a star. The closer object's gravity bends and magnifies the background star's light, acting like a lens. [7 Ways to Discover Alien Planets]


In many cases, the foreground object is a star as well. If this star has orbiting planets, their existence can be inferred based on their influence on the background star's light curve. And that's indeed what happened with OGLE-2016-BLG-1195Lb.

The planet's microlensing signal was first spotted by the Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment (OGLE), a ground-based survey managed by the University of Warsaw in Poland (hence the newfound world's name).

The discovery team then used NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and the Korea Microlensing Telescope Network — a system of three telescopes, one each in Chile, Australia and South Africa — to track and study the microlensing event.

These combined observations revealed the existence of OGLE-2016-BLG-1195Lb, and allowed researchers to calculate its mass and orbital distance. That mass is remarkable, it turns out.

"This 'iceball' planet is the lowest-mass planet ever found through microlensing," Yossi Shvartzvald, a NASA postdoctoral fellow based at the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, said in a statement. Shvartzvald is lead author of the study announcing the new planet's existence, which was published online Wednesday (April 26) in the Astrophysical Journal Letters. (You can read the paper for free at the journal's website.)

The team was also able to determine that OGLE-2016-BLG-1195Lb's host star is tiny, containing just 7.8 percent the mass of Earth's sun.

That's so small that the parent may not be a proper star at all, researchers said: Its mass is right on the boundary between the "failed stars" known as brown dwarfs and ultracool dwarf stars such as TRAPPIST-1, which hosts seven recently discovered Earth-size planets.

Screenshot 5

Three or four of the TRAPPIST-1 planets may be capable of supporting life, but they orbit much closer to their star than OGLE-2016-BLG-1195Lb does. Indeed, all seven of the known TRAPPIST-1 worlds would fit inside the orbit of Mercury, if they were transported to our own solar system.

Like two other planets detected by Spitzer via microlensing, OGLE-2016-BLG-1195Lb lies in the Milky Way galaxy's flat disk, not its central bulge.


"Although we only have a handful of planetary systems with well-determined distances that are this far outside our solar system, the lack of Spitzer detections in the bulge suggests that planets may be less common toward the center of our galaxy than in the disk," study co-author Geoff Bryden, an astronomer at JPL, said in the same statement.

Originally published on Space.com. By Mike Wall

Categorized in Science & Tech
NASA and the ESA are planning to launch a joint mission to Jupiter's moon Europa. This icy satellite hosts a subterranean ocean larger than those on Earth, and it could host extraterrestrial life.


Recent discoveries in space have made the search for life beyond Earth easier and more difficult at the same time. As more exoplanets and moons with the potential to support extraterrestrial life turn up, the probability of finding one that actually does increases. However, sending missions to explore all these potentially inhabited worlds has also become more difficult.
NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) have come up with a rather practical solution: The two space agencies will pool their resources for one of these exploration missions. The target is Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons, and it is considered one of the best candidates for alien life.
The proposal, dubbed the Joint Europa Mission (JEM), was unveiled Sunday in Vienna, Austria, at the annual meeting of the European Geosciences Union. “The whole idea is that if we think exploring Europa for life is important, it should be an international adventure,” Michel Blanc from the Research Institute in Astrophysics and Planetology in Toulouse, France, told New Scientist. “The ultimate goal is to get to the surface and look for biosignatures of life.”


The prospect of life on Europa increased when the moon was discovered to have a vast ocean hidden beneath its icy crust. This discovery was reinforced by the observation of water plumes escaping to the surface. Researchers estimate that Europa boasts twice as much water as our planet, so there’s plenty to explore, and the ocean even seems to be more similar to Earth’s than previously thought.


The plan is for JEM to launch by the mid-2020s, and it would run for about six-and-a-half years. The first five of those would be used simply to reach Jupiter, then a few more days would be needed to reach Europa.
Upon reaching Europa’s orbit, a lander would be launched to explore the surface for 35 days, scanning material samples for traces of life. Meanwhile, the orbiter craft would spend three months taking various measurements to reveal Europa’s basic structure, focusing on the ocean’s composition. After that, the lander could crash into Europa while taking and transmitting data about the moon’s atmosphere.
While both NASA and the ESA have existing plans to explore Europa and the other icy-watery moons in the solar system, the planned combined effort would offer a unique advantage for both space agencies. Pooling their resources might make it easier to figure out solutions to key problems, such as Jupiter’s intense radiation and the need to make sure Europa won’t be contaminated by organisms from Earth.
“There’s great enthusiasm for this on both sides,” Jakob van Zyl, director for solar system exploration at NASA JPL, told New Scientist. “The budget request is now with the president.


”Europa is just the first goal for collaborative space exploration. Potential missions to Jupiter’s other moons, as well as those of Saturn, could well be developed in the future. Perhaps alien life is just an Earth-formed partnership away.
This article was  published in futurism.com by Dom Galeon
Categorized in Science & Tech

It might look like a frozen wasteland, but beneath the inhospitable surface of Saturn’s moon Enceladus, life could be thriving in warm underground seas, scientists believe.Nasa’s Cassini spacecraft has picked up the first evidence that chemical reactions are happening deep below the ice which could be creating an environment capable of supporting microbes.Experts said the discovery was ‘the last piece’ in the puzzle which proved that life was possible on Enceladus, a finding all the more remarkable because the small moon is 887 million miles away from the Sun.

Prof David Rothery, Professor of Planetary Geosciences, The Open University, said: “At present, we know of only one genesis of life, the one that led to us.“If we knew that life had started independently in two places in our Solar System, then we could be pretty confident that life also got started on some of the tens of billions of planets and moons around other stars in our galaxy.”
Plumes of vapour shooting up from Enceladus' ocean 
Plumes of vapour shooting up from Enceladus' ocean  CREDIT: NASA 
Liquid oceans exist miles below the surface on Enceladus, so to find out what is happening in the underground seas scientists must rely on the plumes of spray which shoot up into the atmosphere through cracks in the ice.In October 2015 Nasa sent Cassini into a deep dive through one of those plumes and discovered hydrogen and carbon dioxide.In a report of their findings published today in the journal Science, scientists said that the ‘only plausible’ source for the hydrogen was chemical reactions between warm water and rocks on the ocean floor.


Crucially, if hydrogen is present it can mix with carbon dioxide to form methane, which is consumed by microbes in the deep, dark seas of our own planet.
Cassini pictured making a fly-by of Enceladus 
Cassini pictured making a fly-by of Enceladus  CREDIT: NASA 
“Saturn’s moon Enceladus has an ice-covered ocean, and a plume of material erupts from cracks in the ice,” said Professor Hunter Waite, of Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in San Antonio, Principal Investigator for Cassini’s Mass Spectrometer instrument which detected the hydrogen.“The plume contains chemical signatures of water-rock interaction between the ocean and a rocky core. We find that the most plausible source of this hydrogen is ongoing hydrothermal reactions of rock containing reduced minerals and organic materials.“On the modern Earth, geochemically derived fuels such as hydrogen support thriving ecosystems even in the absence of sunlight.”Enceladus is the sixth largest moon of Saturn, and was discovered in 1789 by the British astronomer William Herschel. It is around 310 miles in diameter and approximately 790 million miles from Earth.
Scientists had long suspected that liquid water could exist on the moon because of the extreme tidal forces acting on the satellite from Saturn’s gravity.In 2005 Nasa launched Cassini to explore Saturn and its moons, and in 2015 discovered that Enceladus wobbled slightly as it orbited the planet, which could only be accounted for its outer shell was not frozen solid to its interior. A global ocean must be present under the icy surface, the experts concluded.Since then, researchers have been studying data sent back from the spacecraft to see if the instruments on board had picked up any other clues that life might be present.


The new results are the strongest indication yet that Enceladus has all the conditions needed for life to form. If life is present, it could resemble single-celled tube-like extremophiles which have lived in hydrothermal vents on Earth for billions of years.
Extremophiles like those found in hydrothermal vents on Earth may live on Saturn's moon
Extremophiles like those found in hydrothermal vents on Earth may live on Saturn's moon CREDIT: NOAA NATIONAL OCEAN SERVICE 
Prof Rothery, added: “We do now have the last piece of evidence needed to demonstrate that life is possible there.“This is life that needs neither oxygen nor sunlight, and may be the form in which life on Earth began, before some of it adapted to other conditions.”Enceladus is so far the furthest rock from the Sun that could support life in the Solar System. Some scientists think Uranus’ moon Ariel may have a liquid ocean, but it has not yet been proven.Although scientists previously thought Enceladus’ icy crust was around 13 miles thick, recent data from Cassini has shown that at the south pole, it could be as little as three miles deep.
Commenting on the new research Dr David Clements, Astrophysicist at Imperial College London, said: “We have long suspected that hydrothermal processes are behind the Enceladus plumes and the liquid ocean that fuels them, so this result is fully consistent with that picture.“This discovery does not mean that life exists on Enceladus, but it is a step on the way to that result.“It doesn't really tell us anything about how life started on Earth. But it is great to see confirmation that similar hydrothermal processes are at work elsewhere in the Solar System.”
Prof Andrew Coates, Professor of Physics at UCL, said: “This is an exciting and remarkable result which shows that Enceladus may actually be habitable.“We know that the four requirements for life as we know it are liquid water, the right chemistry, a source of energy and enough time for life to develop. But now, we know that 3 of the 4 conditions are there on Enceladus - and this distant moon now joins Mars and Europa as the best potential locations for life beyond Earth in our solar system.”
Source : telegraph.co.uk
Categorized in Science & Tech

UFO hunters claim they've found an "alien ship" poking out a cave in Antarctica.

Conspiracy theorists that spotted the sight in Google Earth satellite images said it was “final proof of secret technology” on the freezing continent.

The latest 'find' comes weeks after bizarre satellite images appeared to show a huge staircase leading up the side of a snowy mountain in the South Pole.

The unusual sight sparked a fierce debate, with some suggesting it could be part of a

pyramid structure or UFO and others claiming it showed air vents for a huge underground colony.

UFO hunters claim they've found an "alien ship" poking out a cave in Antarctica

Conspiracy theorists that spotted the sight in Google Earth satellite images

Videos on both of the mystery sights were shared by alien hunter Tyler Glockner from SecureTeam 10


Videos on both of the mystery sights were shared by alien hunter Tyler Glockner from SecureTeam 10.

On the latest video, he said: "This is a bombshell discovery and one of the most obvious unnatural and anomalous structures we have found at the South Pole."

    Secure Team suggested the Nazis built secret bases in Antarctica during World War II, which were designed to be used by flying saucers.

    The giant staircase found on Antarctica

    The giant staircase found on Antarctica (Photo: Secureteam 10)

    Video thumbnail, Strangeness surrounding the South Pole continues as giant “staircase” found on Antarctica

    The UFO hunters added: “There is some evidence of this coming to light in recent years, which images purporting to show various entrances built into the side of mountains, with a saucer shape and at a very high altitude.

    “This begs the question: how would you enter these entrances without something that could fly and was the same shape as hole itself?”

    Many people even believe the strange sights show the City of Atlantis - which they believe is located in Antarctica.

    Author : RACHEL BISHOP

    Source : http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/mystery-over-bizarre-google-earth-9716363

    Categorized in Search Engine

    Around 100 million years ago, an alien-looking insect with a bizarre head and long thin legs likely crawled around on trees in what is now Burma.

    The insect is so strange that researchers say that it is not only a new species, but also belongs in its own new scientific order. Living in the time of the dinosaurs, the insect was tiny and wingless. Just two specimens of this new species exist, both of them preserved in Burmese amber.

    "The strangest thing about this insect is that the head looked so much like the way aliens are often portrayed," George Poinar, an emeritus professor of entomology at Oregon State University, said in a statement. "With its long neck, big eyes and strange oblong head, I thought it resembled E.T.”


    The critter from the past— it’s now extinct— represents one of about a million known species of insects. But since it is so distinctive, it has defined a new order of insects, boosting the number of insect orders up by one, according to Oregon State University. It likely ate things like mites and fungi, the university said, as it probably was omnivorous.

    “This insect has a number of features that just don’t match those of any other insect species that I know,” Poinar said in the statement. “I had never really seen anything like it. It appears to be unique in the insect world, and after considerable discussion we decided it had to take its place in a new order."

    Ultimately what makes it so strange are the insect’s triangular-shaped head (with the vertex as the neck) and alien-looking bowl-shaped eyes on the sides. It had neck glands that secreted what could have been a predator-repelling chemical.

    “When I first saw this fossil, I couldn’t believe my eyes,” Poinar said, in a video describing the discovery. “I thought it had to be an alien.”

    Source : https://www.yahoo.com/news/m/2f8b5ffe-e661-3e3b-b6f3-19edb70e4d48/scientist-discover.html

    Categorized in Science & Tech
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