Dwarf star planets could glow with life
Dwarf star planets could glow with life
Potential life on Proxima b—on any planets around other stars—probably won’t resemble the kind on our planet, Kaltenegger says, but earthly beings are the only blueprints we have. So the astronomers wondered, what happens here, when ultraviolet radiation from the sun smacks into lifeforms on Earth?
The star orbits in the constellation Centaurus, visible in the Southern Hemisphere, but is itself too faint to see with the naked eye. Proxima isn’t like our sun; it That’s the hope of Lisa Kaltenegger and Jack O’Malley-James, who chat often about alien life over coffee at work—a typical office discussion for a
© ESO / M. Kornmesser Artist’s impression of the planet orbiting the star Proxima Centauri It takes more than four years for its light to reach us, but Proxima Centauri is one of our closest neighbors.
Some scientists think the bursts could strip away entire atmospheres and boil off oceans. But others think these conditions, as ferocious as they might be, could actually give rise to life.
That’s the hope of Lisa Kaltenegger and Jack O’Malley-James, who chat often about alien life over coffee at work—a typical office discussion for a pair of astronomers at the Carl Sagan Institute at Cornell University. Because Proxima has a planet, maybe even two. The known planet, Proxima Centauri b, is about the same size as Earth, and might be rocky like it, too. It resides in that magical slice of solar systems, the habitable zone, where conditions are not too cold or too hot for liquid water to burble on the surface.
Body is found in search for missing six-year-old Lucas Dobson who fell into the River Stour on a fishing trip four days ago
The body has not been formally identified but the family of Lucas Dobson, who fell into the River Stour at Sandwich in Kent on Saturday, have been told.
Astronomers say potential life on planets around flaring stars might find a creative way to survive. by Marina Koren Aug 27, 2019 4 minutes. The star orbits in the constellation Centaurus, visible in the Southern Hemisphere, but is itself too faint to see with the naked eye. Proxima isn’t like our sun; it is
The search for life beyond Earth has heated up. Here are some of the ways that scientists have been thinking and talking about it, including a definition of a new buzzword: biosignatures. Note Livio’s use of the word biosignatures. That’s an important new buzzword in the alien life search .
Potential life on Proxima b—on any planets around other stars—probably won’t resemble the kind on our planet, Kaltenegger says, but earthly beings are the only blueprints we have. So the astronomers wondered, what happens here, when ultraviolet radiation from the sun smacks into lifeforms on Earth?
Related Slideshow: Are aliens out there? These 16 signs may surprise you (Provided by Photo Services)
Russian billionaire Yuri Milner has teamed up with British astrophysicist Stephen Hawking in a bid to discover and contact extraterrestrial life. Existence of aliens has always been argued among astronomers for centuries, but there is no substantial evidence of alien existence. From Egyptian civilization to suspected UFOs, here's a look at 16 signs that hint at the possibility of alien activities.
This inflatable space habitat was built for comfort, and could travel to Mars
Humans are headed back to the Moon and, eventually, Mars, and for space-faring astronauts, luxury is often the last thing on their mind. Still, orbiting the Moon or making a long trip to another world like Mars means dealing with cramped quarters for months on end. Being confined to a tiny space for an extended period of time isn't ideal for any human, and scientists are no exception. With that in mind, NASA has been exploring potential space habitats that could serve as a more comfortable home for travelers who will be enduring extended stays in space. One such habitat from the Sierra Nevada Corporation has just reached a big milestone.
The search for intelligent alien life goes beyond SETI's search for intergalactic radio signals. Any intelligent extraterrestrial life that exists probably won't announce itself by blowing up the White House, or win over the hearts of children as a lovable alien with a glowing finger.
Our hunt for life on other planets is based on what it looks like today, but early Earth used to be so different. What if we are missing some vital clues ? It might seem like vanity, but our focus makes a certain amount of sense. After all, Earth is the only planet in the universe that we know for a fact
Scientists reportedly found a half-inch long foreign object lodged in the skull of former French ruler Napoleon Bonaparte. Napoleon himself said that he was held prisoner by ‘strange’ men when he disappeared for many days in 1794. Was this just coincidence?
Egyptian Hieroglyphics show engravings that suggest alien-like flying machines visited the ancient Nile valley.
Sightings in Bonnybridge, Scotland
The small town of Bonnybridge is known as the UFO capital of Scotland. Over 300 UFO sightings are reported in a year on an average in the area.
(Pictured) The document made available by the British National Archives shows a UFO sighting report.
Ghost Particles Could Explain Just About Everything in the Universe
You might also know them by their other name: neutrinos.
Life on alien planets may produce a protective glow to buffer the dangerous flares of nearby stars. Stars constantly douse their planets with harsh "This is a completely novel way to search for life in the universe," Jack O'Malley-James, lead author and researcher at the Carl Sagan Institute, said in
So, in the search for alien life , it makes sense to look for s Dyson sphere. However, if a Dyson sphere completely encompasses a star, soaking up all All matter in the universe glows in some form of light, from gamma rays to radio waves. More of certain kinds of radiation are given off than others, more
The alien harvest?
When a team of British scientists launched a balloon up into the outer reaches of the stratosphere in 2013, they were shocked that it returned housing tiny living organisms. Scientists were reportedly convinced that these organisms originated in space.
Jupiter's moon Europa
Studies suggest that one of Jupiter’s moon, Europa, may contain frozen red bacteria. This got scientists thinking as the presence of bacteria indicates the possible evolution of advanced life forms.
Pictured: Image of Jupiter's moon Europa released by NASA on Nov. 12, 1996.
Scorpions on Venus?
After receiving images of the Venera-13 probe of Venus in 1982, Russian scientist Leonid Ksanfomaliti claimed that scorpion-like life forms may exist on the planet.
Pictured: In this image of planet Venus, the dark areas scattered across the venusian plains consist extremely smooth deposits associated with large meteorite impacts.
When aliens spot Earth, what will they see?
Researchers have made incredible advancements in the detection and study of exoplanets in recent years, spotting literally thousands of new planets and learning tantalizing details about them.
Alien life search : The Fermi Paradox argues aliens should have already contacted Earth (Image: Getty). Alien life search : Old technological Alien life search : Artificial intelligence is described as 'a wonderful opportunity' for the search (Image: Getty). Alien life search : Technosignatures could
In searching for extraterrestrial life , scientists often start off by looking down at our own planet, Earth. But that might not be the right approach.
Researchers found a Martian rock in Antarctica and claim that it contained fossilized nano bacteria. It led to speculation that such rocks found their way to our planet billions of years ago and could have given "life" to organizims.
(Pictured) Photomicrograph of the Martian meteorite Alh84001 with an elongated structure resembling a fossil microorganism (C).
The "Wow Signal"
In 1977, scientists in Ohio State University picked up signals which traveled more than 200 million light years in space to reach us. These remarkably strong signals left scientists baffled as they still attempt to identify its source.
The Mars microbe
Russians scientists have found a microorganism that could survive hazardous radiations, which was never seen in other organism. They believe that the germ originated on Mars, which suggests the existence of extraterrestrial life on the Red planet.
Methane on Martian atmosphere
Methane is normally produced by living organisms and a massive amount of the gas has been found in Mars' atmosphere, fueling the the theory of life on Mars.
Malaysian astrophysicist Mazlan Othman is the director of the United Nations office of outer space Affairs (UNOOSA) which deals with space-related activities. Mazlan is tasked to greet alien visitors and coordinate human acknowledgement if Martians make contact with us.
A Glowing Clue in the Search for Alien Life
Astronomers say potential life on planets around flaring stars might find a creative way to survive.
Near mid-air collisions
There have been several instances reported about commercial plane pilots suggesting a near-collision with a UFO. One pilot reportedly sighted a “delta-shaped” flying object heading toward his aircraft while flying into Manchester, England. The UFO apparently disappeared before he could react to avoid a collision.
Our galaxy, the Milky Way, contains more than 400 billion stars and scientists believe that about half of these have at least one planet within their orbit. American astronomer and astrophysicist Dr. Frank Drake put together an argument about the possibility of extraterrestrial civilization based on probability of planets inhibiting living beings.
Erie Morning news story
On Aug. 1, 1966, Erie Morning News reported a UFO sighting at Presque Isle State Park in Pennsylvania, U.S., when Betty Klem saw a bright light descending towards her and landing about 700 yards away.
Sightings by Apollo 11 astronauts
When American astronauts landed on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission, they sighted an unidentified flying object close to their location. At first they presumed it was part of the detached SIV-B rocket, which was later confirmed to be 6,000 miles (9,656 kms) from them. It's a mystery that baffles scientists even today.
Mystery radio signals
Astronomers have been trying to contact Martians by sending frequent radio waves in outer space for decades. In 2004, they observed an unidentified radio signal that kept getting stronger and believed that aliens were attempting to contact humans.
They found the answer in the sea, in coral reefs that glow in the dark.
Taylor Swift's landlord had no clue who she was
Taylor Swift's landlord didn't know who she was
According to scientists who study them, corals in shallow waters have found a way to guard against the worst of the sun’s rays. Fluorescent pigments in the invertebrates absorb damaging ultraviolet light, transform it, and then emit it as harmless, visible light. The instantaneous change in the wavelength of the light, from long to short, produces a brilliant show of colors, from pinks and purples to greens and reds. (The process can protect single-celled organisms that live inside the coral and supply them with food in exchange for shelter.)
“If such a strategy were beneficial for life on another world, it should be very likely for other lifeforms to also evolve such a biofluorescent strategy,” says Kaltenegger, the director of the Sagan Institute. “If you and I would have evolved on such a world, we would probably glow, too.”
If such life were to exist on planets around Proxima Centauri, those creatures might not perish in the wake of a powerful flash. Instead, they would light up. And maybe someday, Kaltenegger says, advanced telescopes might be able to detect that glow, if it’s there.
Astronomers have discovered thousands of exoplanets in the Milky Way galaxy over the last two decades, and most of the rocky, Earth-sized ones orbit stars like Proxima Centauri, known as M dwarfs. Some, like Proxima b, even orbit in their star’s habitable zone.
Related slideshow: Spectacular images from space (Provided by Photo Services)
Milky Way, Zoomed
The Milky Way is seen in this image applying a zooming technique.
Changes in Mass
Almost all of Greenland continued to lose mass in May 2019 as the ice sheet continues to melt.
Two Billion Years Ago, up to 99 Percent of Life on Earth Died in an Event More Catastrophic Than Mass Extinction of the Dinosaurs
Huge changes to the oxygen levels on our planet caused the mega die-off, researchers found.
The mass of the Greenland ice sheet has rapidly been declining over the last several years due to surface melting and iceberg calving. Research based on observations from NASA’s twin Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites indicates that between 2003 and 2013, Greenland shed approximately 280 gigatons of ice per year, causing global sea level to rise by 0.8 millimeters per year. These images, created with GRACE data, show changes in Greenland ice mass since 2003.
Changes in Mass
North America was almost entirely above its long-term average in mass in May 2019, due to Midwestern flooding, with the runoff raising the Great Lakes to record levels.
Ready to Rove
Engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory lift the Mars 2020 rover's bit carousel out of its storage container.
The Inky Abyss
Although it looks more like an entity seen through a microscope than a telescope, this rounded object, named NGC 2022, is a vast orb of gas in space, cast off by an ageing star. The star is visible in the orb's center, shining through the gases it formerly held onto for most of its stellar life.
Observing the Moon at Paranal
Moon observations with the VLT telescope at Paranal Observatory in Chile's Atacama Desert.
Cache and Carry
The bit carousel, which lies at the heart of Sample Caching System of NASA's Mars 2020 mission, is attached to the front end of the rover in the Spacecraft Assembly Facility's High Bay 1 at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. The carousel contains all of the tools the coring drill uses to sample the Martian surface and is the gateway for the samples to move into the rover for assessment and processing. The image was taken on Aug. 5, 2019.
The Very Large Telescope (VLT) is located at Paranal Observatory in the remote Atacama Desert of northern Chile. The VLT is one of the most advanced ground-based telescopes on Earth. Pictured here is also the four auxiliary telescopes which support the VLT for interferometric observations.
Clean Up Time
Staff members inspect the cleaning device used for the VLT mirrors at Paranal Observatory.
Perseid Meteor Shower
Meteors streak across the night sky over the ancient city of Mesotimolos in Esme district of Turkey's western Usak province on Aug. 13, 2019.
The Moon is seen in a Waxing Gibbous phase with 92% illumination on Aug. 12, 2019.
Last week marked five years since ESA's Rosetta probe arrived at its target, a comet named 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (or 67P/C-G). on August, 13, 2019, it will be four years since the comet, escorted by Rosetta, reached its perihelion – the closest point to the Sun along its orbit. This image, gathered by Rosetta a couple of months after perihelion, when the comet activity was still very intense, depicts the nucleus of the comet with an unusual companion: a chunk of orbiting debris (circled).
Ready to Observe
A view of a radio telescope of the Kalyazin Radio Astronomy Observatory during the Perseid meteor shower.
Mecca From Space
This handout satellite image released by Airbus Defense and Space on Aug. 11, 2019, shows a gereral view of the Saudi holy city of Mecca with the Kaaba, Islam's holiest shrine in the center of the picture, during the climax of the annual Hajj pilgrimage.
Galactic Creatures at Play
The pair of strange, luminescent creatures at play in this image are actually galaxies — realms of millions upon millions of stars. This galactic duo is known as UGC 2369. The galaxies are interacting, meaning that their mutual gravitational attraction is pulling them closer and closer together and distorting their shapes in the process. A tenuous bridge of gas, dust, and stars can be seen connecting the two galaxies,, during which they pulled material out into space across the diminishing divide between them.
Costa Rican Drought
This image shows the ECOSTRESS evaporative stress index for the Guanacaste region of Costa Rica (in red on inset map, left) a few months after the onset of a major Central American drought. Red indicates high plant water stress, yellow is moderate stress and greens/blues are low stress. Light gray is cloud cover. The index measures how much water plants are using relative to how much they would use under optimal conditions; low numbers correlate with high stress.
Mauna Kea Volcano
On top of Hawaii's Mauna Kea Volcano are the Mauna Kea Observatories, with 13 telescopes. The site's 4,205-meter elevation and lack of light pollution make it one of the most ideal locations for astronomical observations. Start of construction of the new Thirty Meter Telescope was delayed in July due to protests by Native Hawaiians, who consider the mountain to be one of their most sacred sites. Image data for the perspective view was acquired April 23, 2019, and is located at 19.8 degrees north, 155.5 degrees west. .
New Portrait of Jupiter
The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope reveals the intricate, detailed beauty of Jupiter’s clouds in this new image taken on June 27, 2019 by Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3. The image features the planet’s trademark Great Red Spot and a more intense color palette in the clouds swirling in the planet’s turbulent atmosphere than seen in previous years.
One Year of NASA's Parker Solar Probe
In the year since its launch, the Parker Solar Probe has collected a host of scientific data from two close passes of the Sun.
In this image, the craft's WISPR instrument saw the solar wind streaming past during the spacecraft's first solar encounter in November 2018.
The spacecraft carries four suites of scientific instruments to gather data on the particles, solar wind plasma, electric and magnetic fields, solar radio emission, and structures in the Sun's hot outer atmosphere, the corona. This information will help scientists unravel the physics driving the extreme temperatures in the corona — which is counter intuitively hotter than the solar surface below — and the mechanisms that drive particles and plasma out into the solar system.
Galaxy’s Outer Reaches
Believe it or not, this long, luminous streak, speckled with bright blisters and pockets of material, is a spiral galaxy like our Milky Way. But how could that be?
It turns out that we see this galaxy, named NGC 3432, oriented directly edge-on to us from our vantage point here on Earth. The galaxy’s spiral arms and bright core are hidden, and we instead see the thin strip of its very outer reaches. Dark bands of cosmic dust, patches of varying brightness and pink regions of star formation help with making out the true shape of NGC 3432 — but it’s still somewhat of a challenge! Because observatories such as the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope have seen spiral galaxies at every kind of orientation, astronomers can tell when we happen to have caught one from the side.
The galaxy is located in the constellation of Leo Minor (the Lesser Lion). Other telescopes that have had NGC 3432 in their sights include those of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, the Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) and the Infrared Astronomical Satellite (IRAS).
Text credit: ESA (European Space Agency)
Our Sun Today
NASA's Solar Dynamic Observatory was the first mission to be launched for NASA's Living With a Star (LWS) Program, and is designed to understand the causes of solar variability and its impacts on Earth. SDO launched on February 11, 2010, on its journey to help us understand the Sun's influence on Earth and Near-Earth space by studying the solar atmosphere on small scales of space and time and in many wavelengths simultaneously.
SDO's goal is to understand, driving towards a predictive capability, the solar variations that influence life on Earth and humanity's technological systems by determining how the Sun's magnetic field is generated and structured, and how this stored magnetic energy is converted and released into the heliosphere and geospace in the form of solar wind, energetic particles, and variations in the solar irradiance. Each day, SDO images the sun in a variety of wavelengths.
Image released on Aug. 6.
Ready to Launch
An Ariane 5 carrying two telecommunications satellites lifts off from its launchpad at the European Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana on Aug. 6.
On June 21, 2019, NASA demonstrated the first coordinated maneuver between two CubeSats in low-Earth orbit as part of NASA’s Optical Communications and Sensor Demonstration mission.
The twin spacecraft, each approximately the size of a tissue box, were orbiting Earth about 5.5 miles apart when they established a radio frequency communications cross-link to “talk” with each other. One spacecraft issued a command to the second to activate its thruster and close the gap between the two. The fuel tanks on both spacecraft are filled with water. During this propulsive maneuver, the water was converted to steam by the thrusters to propel the spacecraft.
"Demonstrations such as this will help advance technologies that will allow for greater and more extended use of small spacecraft in and beyond Earth-orbit," said Roger Hunter, program manager of the Small Spacecraft Technology program.
The demonstration was designed with a series of safeguards to ensure that only a pre-planned and authorized maneuver could take place. While it was choreographed by human operators on the ground, the demonstration shows it is possible for a series of propulsive maneuvers to be planned with onboard processing and executed cooperatively by a group of small spacecraft.
Colorful and wispy Sharpless 2-296 forms the “wings” of an area of sky known as the Seagull Nebula — named for its resemblance to a gull in flight. This celestial bird contains a fascinating mix of intriguing astronomical objects. Glowing clouds weave amid dark dust lanes and bright stars. The Seagull Nebula — made up of dust, hydrogen, helium and traces of heavier elements — is the hot and energetic birthplace of new stars.
ISS Transiting the Sun
Amateur astrophotographer Javier Manteca captured this transit of the Sun on Aug. 2, at 17:10 CEST from Fuenlabrada, Spain.
The International Space Station regularly transits the Sun but often along a very narrow ground path, which makes it hard to record. Once you lock down the best viewing location on Earth, timing is a critical factor: transits of the Sun last only half a second. Using a DSLR camera attached to a 150/750 telescope recording in full HD at 30 frames per second, Javier was able to capture the 0.8 seconds it took for the Station to pass. The image is made up of those stacked frames.
Galaxy NGC 5866 lies 44 million light-years from Earth and has a diameter of roughly 60,000 light-years — a little more than half the diameter of our own Milky Way galaxy. From our viewpoint, NGC 5866 is oriented almost exactly edge-on, yielding most of its structural features invisible. Spitzer detects infrared light, and the red color here corresponds to a wavelength typically emitted by dust. The clean edges of the dust emission from NGC 5866 indicate that there is a very flat ring or disk of dust circling the outer region of the galaxy. Spitzer took this image during its "cold" mission, which ended in 2009. The colors represent three infrared wavelengths captured by the Infrared Array Camera instrument. Blue light corresponds to a wavelength of 3.6 microns, produced mainly by stars; green corresponds to 4.5 microns, and red corresponds to 8 microns.
Approaching the ISS
The SpaceX Dragon freighter approaches the International Space Station as both were orbiting 265 miles above the Atlantic Ocean off the west coast of Namibia.
This image from ESA’s Mars Express shows Terra Cimmeria, a region found in the southern highlands of Mars.
Total Solar Eclipse Darkens the South Pacific
On July 2, 2019, skywatchers in the beach city of La Serena, Chile, looked up at 4:38 p.m. local time to see a black circle in the sky. The rest of the sky was shaded in orange twilight, and the temperature near the ground momentarily dropped by a few degrees. It wasn’t a sign of the apocalypse, but a total solar eclipse—when the Moon passes directly between the Earth and the Sun and completely obscures the disk. As eclipse chasers were looking up, NASA satellites were looking down at Earth’s surface. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) sensor on the Aqua satellite captured this view of the Moon’s shadow as it traveled eastward across the South Pacific. The shadow cast by an eclipse consists of the completely darkened umbra and the partially shadowed penumbra.
Exploring the Red Planet
Lost in the glare following the Apollo 11 Moon landing, two intrepid robotic spacecraft flew by Mars in the summer of 1969 and returned photographs and a trove of scientific information. Launched on Feb. 25 and March 27, respectively, Mariner 6 and 7 arrived at Mars just five days apart despite being launched a month apart. After a flight of 156 days from Earth, Mariner 6 flew within 2,132 miles of Mars on July 31, roughly twice as close as Mariner 4’s flyby in 1965. Controllers lost contact with Mariner 7 for seven hours just five days before its planned flyby, but by Aug. 2, after quick replanning, they restored the spacecraft to full capability as it began its encounter with Mars.
Three days later, it passed within 2,130 miles of Mars’ southern hemisphere. Both spacecraft flew behind the planet and a radio occultation experiment measured the surface pressure of the Martian atmosphere to be between 6 and 7 mb, or less than 10% of Earth’s atmosphere at sea level. After their successfully flybys, Mariner 6 and 7 sailed on into solar orbit.
Storm on the Horizon
NASA's Juno spacecraft saw this striking vista during its most recent close flyby of Jupiter. This view highlights the contrast between the colorful South Equatorial Belt and the mostly white Southern Tropical Zone, a latitude that also features Jupiter's most famous phenomenon, the persistent, anticyclonic storm known as the Great Red Spot.
Seven years. 13 miles. 22 samples. Our Curiosity rover has come a long way since touching down on Mars seven years ago. It has traveled a total of 13 miles (21 kilometers) and ascended 1,207 feet (368 meters) to its current location. Along the way, Curiosity discovered Mars had the conditions to support microbial life in the ancient past. And the rover is far from done, having just drilled its 22nd sample from the Martian surface.
This image is a part of a 360-degree panorama Curiosity captured of a location on Mars called “Teal Ridge” on June 18, 2019.
Sphere of Color
This image shows a snippet of the Sun up close, revealing a golden surface marked by a number of dark, blotchy sunspots, curving filaments, and lighter patches known as ‘plages’ – brighter regions often found near sunspots.
Laser Guide Star
The 8.2 meter VLT Unit Telescopes at Paranal Observatory use some of the strongest lasers ever created for a laser guide star system. In the middle of the image, we see a nice edge side view of the Milky Way Galaxy.
The moon appears more red/orange as it begins to rise due to scattering of light by Earth's atmosphere. When we view the moon on the horizon, the moonlight has to pass through a greater distance of the atmosphere to our eyes. By this time light on the blue end of the visible spectrum has been scattered away thus we only see the longer wavelengths of visible light, yellow, orange or red. When the Moon is directly overhead (as is pictured here in the last frame), the moonlight has to pass through less of the atmosphere and thus appears as usual.
View of SLS on Mobile Launcher
An illustration of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) in the Block 1 configuration, which will carry an Orion spacecraft beyond the Moon, on the mobile launcher. SLS is the only rocket that can send the Orion spacecraft, astronauts and supplies to the moon on a single mission.
Up and Over
Every now and then, the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope glimpses a common object — say, a spiral galaxy — in an interesting or unusual way. A sharply angled perspective, such as the one shown in this Picture of the Week, can make it seem as if we, the viewers, are craning our necks to see over a barrier into the galaxy's bright centre.
In the case of NGC 3169, this barrier is the thick dust embedded within the galaxy's spiral arms. Cosmic dust comprises a potpourri of particles, including water ice, hydrocarbons, silicates, and other solid material. It has many origins and sources, from the leftovers of star and planet formation to molecules modified over millions of years by interactions with starlight.
The first picture of Soyuz MS-13 approaching the International Space Station, captured by NASA astronaut Christina Koch. Inside, Russian Soyuz commander Alexander Skvortsov, NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan and Luca Parmitano are busy preparing to dock to their new home and workplace – the International Space Station.
Ahuna Mons on Ceres
This image, based on observations from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, shows the largest mountain on the dwarf planet Ceres. Dawn was the first mission to orbit an object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, and spent time at both large asteroid Vesta and dwarf planet Ceres. Ceres is one of just five recognized dwarf planets in the Solar System (Pluto being another). Dawn entered orbit around this rocky world on 6 March 2015, and studied its icy, cratered, uneven surface until it ran out of fuel in October of 2018. One of the features spotted by the mission is shown here in this reconstructed perspective view: a mountain named Ahuna Mons.
The construction of the launch complex for the next generation of the Ariane launcher series is almost done at Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana.
Hundreds of wildfires have broken out in Siberia, some of which can be seen in this image captured from space on July 28, 2019. Almost three million hectares of land are estimated to have been affected, according to Russia’s Federal Forestry Agency. This Copernicus Sentinel-3 image shows a number of fires, producing plumes of smoke. The smoke has carried air pollution into the Kemerovo, Tomsk, Novosibirsk, and Altai regions.
An unprecedented amount of wildfires have been raging in various regions of the Arctic, including Greenland and Alaska in the US. They have been caused by record-breaking temperatures and lightning, fuelled by strong winds. Wildfires release harmful pollutants and toxic gases into the atmosphere. According to the World Meteorological Organization, fires in the Arctic released around 50 megatonnes of carbon dioxide in June alone – equivalent to Sweden’s total annual emissions.
A rocket carrying two satellites lifts off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in northwest China's Gansu province on July 25. A Chinese startup successfully launched the country's first commercial rocket capable of carrying satellites into orbit as the space race between China and the US heats up.
Speaking to Spacecraft
It may not look like it, but this giant dish in Australia spends its time in in-depth conversation with a number of European deep space missions. The huge antenna is part of ESA’s New Norcia ground station, located north of Perth. The impressive structure is one of three such stations in the Agency’s ESTRACK network, designed for communicating with spacecraft exploring the far reaches of the Solar System.
Over the Moon
This photo released by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) shows its Geosynchronous Satellite launch Vehicle (GSLV) MkIII carrying Chandrayaan-2 lift off from Satish Dhawan Space center in Sriharikota, India on July 22. India successfully launched an unmanned spacecraft to the far side of the moon, a week after aborting the mission due to a technical problem.
Seismic Waves Inside Mars
This artist's concept is a simulation of what seismic waves from a marsquake might look like as they move through different layers of the Martian interior.
Beyond Mission Launch
There is no asking for a better launch date. ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano and fellow Expedition 60/61 crew NASA astronaut Drew Morgan and cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov lifted off to the International Space Station on July 20, the 50th anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 Moon landing.
While others were attending anniversary events or pouring through memorabilia, Luca was strapped in the most reliable spacecraft to ferry humans back and forth to space.
The Soyuz MS-13 lifted off from Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 18:28 CEST.
Palm Oil Plantations
The Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission takes us over palm oil plantations in East Kalimantan - the Indonesian part of the island Borneo.
In this image, captured on Feb. 15, 2019, the various stages of the deforestation process are clearly visible – the green patches in the plantations are the well-established palm oil farms, while the light brown patches show the newly-harvested land. The surrounding lush rainforest is visible in dark green.
Copernicus Sentinel-2 is a two-satellite mission, used mostly to track changes in the way land is being used, as well as monitoring the health of vegetation. Each satellite carries a high-resolution camera that images Earth’s surface in 13 spectral bands.
In the Integration Building at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, Expedition 60 crew members Drew Morgan of NASA (left), Alexander Skvortsov of Roscosmos (center) and Luca Parmitano of ESA (right) pose for pictures in front of the first stage engines of their Soyuz booster as part of pre-launch preparations.
A Beautiful Whorl
Galaxies come in many shapes and sizes. One of the key galaxy types we see in the Universe is the spiral galaxy, as demonstrated in an especially beautiful way by the subject of this Hubble Picture of the Week, NGC 2985. NGC 2985 lies roughly over 70 million light years from the Solar System in the constellation of Ursa Major (The Great Bear).
The intricate, near-perfect symmetry on display here reveals the incredible complexity of NGC 2985. Multiple tightly-wound spiral arms widen as they whorl outward from the galaxy’s bright core, slowly fading and dissipating until these majestic structures disappear into the emptiness of intergalactic space, bringing a beautiful end to their starry splendor.
Panguna Copper Deposit
The Panguna copper ore deposit was discovered in 1969 in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea. It has one of the largest reserves in the world, with 1 billion tons of copper and 12 million ounces of gold. The image was acquired November 12, 2013, covers an area of 24 by 39 kilometers, and is located at 6.3 degrees south, 155.5 degrees east.
With its 14 spectral bands from the visible to the thermal infrared wavelength region and its high spatial resolution of about 50 to 300 feet, ASTER images Earth to map and monitor the changing surface of our planet. ASTER is one of five Earth-observing instruments launched Dec. 18, 1999, on Terra. The instrument was built by Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. A joint U.S./Japan science team is responsible for validation and calibration of the instrument and data products.
A Puzzle of 10 Million Stars
When observed with the unaided eye, Omega Centauri, the object in this image, appears as a fuzzy, faint star. But the blue orb we see here is, in fact, a collection of stars – 10 million of them. You cannot count them all, but in this sharp, beautiful image you can see a few of the numerous pinpoints of bright light that make up this unique cluster.
The image was taken by Wouter van Reeven, a software engineer at ESA's European Space Astronomy Centre near Madrid, Spain, during his recent visit to Chile to observe the July total solar eclipse. From his home base in Spain the cluster only grazes the horizon, making it near-impossible to image, but from the La Silla Observatory in Chile it was high in the sky, presenting the ideal opportunity to photograph it.
At a time when ESA is looking forward to future lunar exploration, it turns out there is already some small but crucial ESA-developed hardware in operation on the far side of the Moon.
China’s Chang’e-4 lander is running on a LEON2-FT microprocessor core, especially designed for space missions by ESA and sold commercially by the Microchip company – marketed as the AT697.
The ordinary computer chips you use every day in your phone or laptop would be rapidly degraded by the radiation and environmental extremes of space. Specialized chips are therefore essential for spacecraft
Chang’e-4 touched down inside the Von Kármán crater on the Moon’s far side near the south pole on 3 January 2019. The lander and the rover it delivered are currently hibernating during the lunar night, having survived seven month-long lunar days so far.
“Most ESA missions launched after about 2010 include at least one LEON chip, and hundreds of these radiation-hardened off-the-shelf chips have also been sold to space missions both in Europe and around the globe,” explains ESA microelectronics engineer Agustin Fernandez-Leon.
“This number increases to the thousands if we additionally count customisable fully programmable gate arrays using LEON cores,” adds ESA microelectronics engineer Roland Weigand. “The overall scale of usage is such that it is impractical to keep track of all the missions making use of our microprocessor technology, but it is always nice to find out.”
Apollo 11 Projected on the Washington Monument
The image of a Saturn V, the rocket that sent Apollo 11 into orbit on July 16, 1969, is projected on the Washington Monument on July 16.
Apollo 11 Launch Pad
Celebrating 50 years since Apollo 11 blasted off with the first humans that would walk on the Moon, Copernicus Sentinel-2 captures the historic launch site at Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida.
On July 16, 1969, the Saturn V rocket carrying Apollo 11 began its momentous voyage to the Moon. It lifted off from launch pad 39A – which can be seen in this Copernicus Sentinel-2 image from 29 January 2019. Launch pad 39A is the second pad down from the top (the launch pad at the far top is 39B).
The crew – Neil Armstrong, mission commander, Michael Collins, command module pilot and Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin, lunar module pilot – were embarking on a milestone in human history.
Just four days later, the lunar module, the Eagle, touched down. Watched on television by millions around the world, Neil Armstrong was the first to set foot on the Moon, famously saying, “That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
Full-Size Mockup of the Apollo Lunar Module
A full-size mockup of the Apollo lunar module, which carried astronauts from orbit to the Moon's surface, is seen mounted on the ceiling as people visit the "Destination Moon: The Apollo 11 Mission" exhibit at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington on July 16, 2019.
Robotic Arm Over Mongolia
The Canadarm2 robotic arm is positioned for upcoming training activities ahead of the arrival and capture of the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft. The International Space Station was orbiting 257 miles over Mongolia when an Expedition 60 crew member took this photograph.
NASA's ARIA Team Maps California Quake Damage
The Advanced Rapid Imaging and Analysis (ARIA) team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, created this map depicting areas that are likely damaged as a result of the recent major earthquakes in Southern California. The color variation from yellow to red indicates increasingly more significant surface change, or damage. The map covers an area of 155 by 186 miles (250 by 300 kilometers), shown by the large red polygon. Each pixel measures about 33 yards (30 meters) across.
To make the map, the team used synthetic aperture radar (SAR) images from the European Space Agency's Copernicus Sentinel-1 satellites from before and after the sequence of quakes — July 4, 2019 and July 10, 2019 respectively. The map may be less reliable over vegetated areas but can provide useful guidance in identifying damaged areas.
Aerogel Greenhouses for Mars?
Scientists are exploring how aerogel, a translucent, Styrofoam-like material, could be used as a building material on Mars. Aerogel retains heat; structures built with it could raise temperatures enough to melt water ice on the Martian surface.
OCO-3's First Solar-Induced Fluorescence Measurements
Image shows OCO-3's first preliminary solar-induced fluorescence (SIF) measurements over western Asia. Solar-induced fluorescence is the glow plants emit from photosynthesis — the process of plant growth that includes the capture of carbon from the atmosphere. Areas with lower photosynthesis activity are in shown in light green; areas with higher photosynthesis activity are shown in dark green.
Mount Fuji, Japan
The Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission takes us over Mount Fuji, Japan’s highest mountain standing at 3776 metres tall. In this spring image, the mountain can be seen coated in pure white snow.
This snow-capped mountain is often shrouded in cloud and fog, but this image was captured on a clear day, by the Copernicus Sentinel-2A satellite - flying 800 km above. Mount Fuji is near the Pacific coast of central Honshu, straddling the prefectures of Yamanashi and Shizuoka. On a clear day, the mountain can be seen from Yokohama and Tokyo - both over 120 km drive away.
The majestic stratovolcano is a composite of three successive volcanoes. Generations of volcanic activity have turned it into the Mount Fuji as we know it today. This volcanic activity is a result of the geological process of plate tectonics. Mount Fuji is a product of the subduction zone that straddles Japan, with the Pacific Plate and the Philippine Plate being subducted under the Eurasian plate.
Tropical Storm Barry
This satellite image provided by NASA taken by U.S. Astronaut Christina Koch on July 11 at the International Space Station shows Tropical Storm Barry bearing down on Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, and the panhandle of Florida as it makes its way through the Gulf of Mexico.
This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope Picture of the Week shows bright, colorful pockets of star formation blooming like roses in a spiral galaxy named NGC 972.
This red-hued cloud of gas is named Abell 24, and is located in the constellation of Canis Minor (The Lesser Dog). It is something known as a planetary nebula — a burst of gas and dust created when a star dies and throws its outer layers into space. Despite the name, planetary nebulae have nothing to do with planets. The term was coined by William Herschel, who also famously discovered Uranus; in a time of low-resolution astronomy, these nebulous objects appeared to resemble giant planets swimming in a dark cosmos.
Jovian Jet Stream
NASA’s Juno spacecraft captured this view of an area within a Jovian jet stream showing a vortex with an intensely dark center. Nearby, bright, high-altitude clouds puff up into the sunlight. The color-enhanced image was taken May 29, 2019, as the spacecraft performed its 20th science flyby of Jupiter. At the time, Juno was about 9,200 miles from the planet's cloud tops.
Original Eclipse Image
An original high-resolution image of the 1919 solar eclipse before the digital restoration.
Irminger Sea Ice Swirl
The Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission captures a swirl of sea ice off the east coast of Greenland in the Irminger Sea, which is just south of the Denmark Strait between Greenland and Iceland. In this image captured on June 9, 2019, small pieces of sea ice, known as ice floes, trace out the ocean currents beneath, resulting in a large swirl-like feature.
The purple lines and blotches scattered across this image show something incredible: all of the X-ray sources that were serendipitously detected – that is, not intentionally targeted – by ESA’s XMM-Newton X-ray space observatory from 2000 to 2017.
The International Space Station was orbiting 258 miles above the Bay of Bengal during an orbital nighttime when this photograph was taken of Earth's luminous atmospheric glow back-dropped by the tranquil Milky Way. In the foreground is the Progress 72 resupply ship docked to the Pirs module with a lit airlock window.
A total solar eclipse passed over ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile on July 2. The eclipse lasted roughly two and a half hours, with almost two minutes of totality at 20:39 UT, and was visible across a narrow band of Chile and Argentina.
Moon Covers Sun
This image shows the Sun completely covered by the Moon during totality, revealing the solar corona, or the Sun's atmosphere.
Taking to the Skies
A fully functional launch abort system (LAS) with a test version of the Orion crew spacecraft attached soars upward on NASA’s Ascent Abort-2 (AA-2) flight test atop a Northrop Grumman provided booster on July 2, 2019, after launching at 7 a.m. EDT, from Launch Pad 46 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) has discovered a world between the sizes of Mars and Earth orbiting a bright, cool, nearby star. The planet, called L 98-59b, marks the tiniest discovered by TESS to date.
Stellar Fireworks Show
Imagine slow-motion fireworks that started exploding 170 years ago and are still continuing. This type of firework is not launched into Earth's atmosphere, but rather into space by a doomed super-massive star, called Eta Carinae, the largest member of a double-star system. A new view from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, which includes ultraviolet light, shows the star's hot, expanding gases glowing in red, white and blue. Eta Carinae resides 7,500 light-years away.
This image from ESA’s Mars Express shows Aurorae Chaos, a large area of chaotic terrain located in the Margaritifer Terra region on Mars. This oblique perspective view was generated using a digital terrain model and Mars Express data gathered on October 31, 2018 during orbit 18765.
Trillions of Stars
This picture shows the spiral galaxy Messier 98, which is located about 45 million light-years away in the constellation of Coma Berenices (Berenice's Hair). It was discovered in 1781 by the French astronomer Pierre Méchain, a colleague of Charles Messier, and is one of the faintest objects in Messier’s astronomical catalogue. Messier 98 is estimated to contain about a trillion of stars, and is full of cosmic dust — visible here as a web of red-brown stretching across the frame — and hydrogen gas. This abundance of star-forming material means that Messier 98 is producing stellar newborns at a high rate; the galaxy shows the characteristic signs of stars springing to life throughout its bright centre and whirling arms.
Lines of Fire
One of the largest wildfires recorded in Arizona, US, has been burning since June 8, destroying vast swathes of vegetation across the Superstition Mountains east of Phoenix. Efforts to contain the fire include spraying flame retardant from aircraft. Coloured red so that firefighters can see it, the retardant is dropped ahead of the path of the fire to act as a break – and remarkably these red lines can be seen from space. This Copernicus Sentinel-2 image from June 24 not only captures the extent of the fire and burn scars, but also the red lines of the retardant.
Gulf of Taranto, Italy
Taranto, an important coastal city, is visible on the bottom right of the image. Founded by a Greek colony in the 8th century BC, the city is now an important commercial port.
Launch of SpaceX Falcon
Photographers capture the launch of a SpaceX Falcon heavy rocket at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., on June 25.
A Whirlpool Warhol
These four panels show the Whirlpool galaxy -- which is actually a pair of galaxies also known as Messier 51 and NGC 5194/5195 -- and how different wavelengths of light can reveal different features of a cosmic object. Located approximately 23 million light-years away, it resides in the constellation Canes Venatici.
The left image (a) shows the galaxy in visible light, from the Kitt Peak National Observatory 2.1-meter (6.8-foot) telescope and shows light at 0.4 microns (blue) and 0.7 microns (green). The next image (b) combines two visible-light wavelengths (in blue and green) and infrared light (in red). The infrared was captured by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and emphasizes how the dark dust veins that block our view in visible light begin to light up at these longer, infrared wavelengths.
The right two panels are composed entirely of Spitzer data. In the middle-right panel (c), we see three wavelengths of infrared light: 3.6 microns (shown in blue), 4.5 microns (green) and 8 microns (red). The blended light from the billions of stars in the Whirlpool is brightest at the shorter infrared wavelengths and appear as as a blue haze. The individual blue dots across the image are mostly nearby stars and a few distant galaxies. Red features (at 8 microns) show us dust composed mostly of carbon that is illuminated by the stars in the galaxy.
The far-right panel (d) expands our infrared view to include light at a wavelength of 24 microns (in red), which is particularly good for highlighting areas where the dust is especially hot. The bright reddish-white spots trace regions where new stars are forming and, in the process, heating their surroundings.
Coming In For a Landing
The Soyuz MS-11 capsule carrying the International Space Station (ISS) crew of NASA astronaut Anne McClain, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko and David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency, lands in a remote area outside the town of Dzhezkazgan (Zhezkazgan), Kazakhstan, on June 25.
The atmospheric glow and a wispy aurora australis, also known as the "southern lights," frame a cloud-covered Earth as the International Space Station orbited 254 miles above the Indian Ocean due east of the territory of French Southern and Antarctic Lands.
Raikoke Spits Ash
A large volcanic ash and gas plume is seen from the International Space Station rising above the Kuril Islands in the North Pacific Ocean after an unexpected series of blasts from the Raikoke Volcano erupts, in this image taken on June 22.
Tumultuous Clouds of Jupiter
This stunning compilation image of Jupiter's stormy northern hemisphere was captured by NASA's Juno spacecraft as it performed a close pass of the gas giant planet. Some bright-white clouds can be seen popping up to high altitudes on the right side of Jupiter's disk.
Earth and Moon
Size of Earth and Moon, view from the space.
A Look Inside the X-59 QueSST Cockpit
The pilot of NASA’s X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology, or QueSST, aircraft will navigate the skies in a cockpit unlike any other. There won’t be a forward-facing window. That’s right; it’s actually a 4K monitor that serves as the central window and allows the pilot to safely see traffic in his or her flight path, and provides additional visual aids for airport approaches, landings and takeoffs. The 4K monitor, which is part of the aircraft’s eXternal Visibility System, or XVS, displays stitched images from two cameras outside the aircraft combined with terrain data from an advanced computing system.
The two portals and traditional canopy are real windows however, and help the pilot see the horizon. The displays below the XVS will provide a variety of aircraft systems and trajectory data for the pilot to safely fly. The XVS is one of several innovative solutions to help ensure the X-59’s design shape reduces a sonic boom to a gentle thump heard by people on the ground. Though not intended to ever carry passengers, the X-59 boom-suppressing technology and community response data could help lift current bans on supersonic flight over land and enable a new generation of quiet supersonic commercial aircraft.
Launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket
This image from video released by the U.S. Air Force shows the launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Canada's Radarsat Constellation Mission (RCM) from Space Launch Complex-4 in Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., Wednesday, June 12.
Venus at Sunrise From the Space Station
From the International Space Station, NASA astronaut Christina Koch (@AstroChristina) snapped and posted this image of the planet Venus at sunrise. The blue glow of Earth's atmosphere shimmers as the station orbits our planet.
HP3 Deployed on Martian Surface
The robotic arm on NASA's InSight lander deployed its Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) instrument on the Martian surface.
An image of Cerro Paranal and the Paranal Residencia beneath a sky filled with star trails. Each line is the path a star traced across the sky as the Earth rotated through the night, revealing the motion humans are often unaware of.
Thomas with Fluidics
ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet works on the Fluidics experiment inside the Space Station's European Columbus laboratory. Posting on social media, Thomas wrote: "The spheres for the Fluidics experiment. One liquid is to help get every drop of fuel out of satellite fuel-tanks, the other liquid is to understand surface turbulence in liquids. By looking at surface turbulence without gravity interfering researchers can single out what influences behavior that forms ripples. This could help us better understand ocean currents and wave formation on Earth."
Mars on Earth
This rugged, wrinkled landscape may resemble Mars, but it is in fact much closer to home — this patch of rippled terrain is a northern region of the Chilean Atacama Desert, home to many of ESO’s world-leading telescopes and observatories. The distinctly otherworldly appearance of the desert has not gone unnoticed; this part of the world is actually used as an “analogue site” for Mars!
Europe at night
ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst took this photo from the International Space Station during his Horizons mission and commented: "We need this project for sustainable peace on our home continent and beyond. So we better not take it for granted."
First Humans on Mars (Artist's Concept)
This artist's concept depicts astronauts and human habitats on Mars. NASA's Mars 2020 rover will carry a number of technologies that could make Mars safer and easier to explore for humans. JPL is building and will manage operations of the Mars 2020 rover for the NASA Science Mission Directorate at the agency's headquarters in Washington.
This artist's illustration depicts a coronal mass ejection, or CME, which involves a large-scale expulsion of material, and has frequently been observed on our Sun. A new study using the Chandra X-ray Observatory detected a CME from a star other than our own for the first time, providing a novel insight into these powerful phenomena.
The methods astronomers use to find lurking exoplanets make M dwarfs a favorite target. Their size makes it easier for telescopes to observe a faint wobble in the star, a sign that a planet could be on its way around, and the dimness helps telescopes discern a roving exoplanet against the glare. And there are so many of them: M dwarfs are the most numerous type of star in the galaxy. Our sun is surrounded.
“It’s a little bit weird, actually, that we on Earth are orbiting a star like the sun,” says Laura Kreidberg, an astronomer at Harvard and Smithsonian’s Center for Astrophysics who studies exoplanet atmospheres. (A beguiling thought for another time.)
But the same factors that make M dwarfs excellent candidates for exoplanets might make the stars unsuited for supporting life. Because M dwarfs are dimmer than stars like our sun, planets have to huddle much closer in for warmth. But the cozier these worlds are with their stars, the more they feel the effects of ultraviolet flares and winds.
Such proximity suggests that these exoplanets might be tidally locked, with one face perpetually turned toward the star and the other out to space. The illuminated side might be scorching and barren and the darkened side frigid and icy. A potential atmosphere could be boiled away or frozen off. Kreidberg recently reported about the existence of a planet nearly 50 light-years away with a missing atmosphere, and she suspects the M dwarf it orbits is responsible. She says other planets could hold onto their atmospheres if, like the early Earth, they had water vapor and carbon dioxide in their interior, which could break through the surface and replenish a vanishing ocean. “For every idea about how to get rid of an atmosphere on one of these planets, there’s another idea for how you can gain one back,” she says.
Related slideshow: 15 facts about space that will blow your mind (Provided by Insider)
Imagine if astronomers found a planet around an M dwarf that kept its atmosphere, long enough for water to pool on its surface. Kaltenegger envisions a world where fluorescent organisms teem in a shallow, transparent ocean wrapped in a thin, wispy atmosphere. Kaltenegger and her team’s research, published earlier this month, suggests that a fluorescent signal would be easier to detect beneath a mostly cloud-free sky. Below, the clear water would teem with organisms unburdened by ultraviolet radiation—in fact, shaped by it. The prospect of this alien world, Kaltenegger says, “counterintuitively makes highly active flaring stars good places to look.”
Other astronomers who work with exoplanets say the idea of glowing alien corals on other worlds is an intriguing one. Biofluorescence on Earth—which comes not only from marine creatures, but vegetation and other sources—is too small to detect from great distances. “In order for the signature to be detected, it would have to be relatively strong—stronger than is typical for biofluorescent lifeforms on Earth—and global,” says Jens Hoeijmakers, an astronomer at the University of Bern in Switzerland. “Even then, this signature would be very hard to detect using instruments that will be available to astronomers in the near future.”
Astronomers would need to rule out other sources of fluorescence, including nonliving ones. “We have fluorescent rocks that make for nice demonstrations of fluorescence, due to minerals they contain,” says Michael Latz, a biologist at the University of California, San Diego, who studies bioluminescence, a glow that arises from chemical reactions unrelated to radiation exposure. “And you have probably seen the fluorescence of fibers in clothing. So biofluorescence is not the exclusive source of fluorescence.”
Kaltenegger’s study is another entry in the growing list of potential signatures to consider in the search for life beyond Earth. The suggestions range from the Earth-inspired (familiar molecules in atmospheres, light from photosynthetic plants) to sci-fi fantasies (giant structures that harvest energy from stars, blast shields that protect civilizations from lethal cosmic rays).
Barring the surprise invention of warp speed, human beings will never visit Proxima Centauri b, where the sky, if it has one, would be a brew of purples and oranges instead of our familiar blues. It will be years before a new generation of telescopes, now under construction, can take a closer look at the planet and other rocky worlds around flaring stars. Perhaps they might detect a strange soft glow from life molded by another star, a sign that we have neighbors, and that they left the lights on.
Two Billion Years Ago, up to 99 Percent of Life on Earth Died in an Event More Catastrophic Than Mass Extinction of the Dinosaurs.
Huge changes to the oxygen levels on our planet caused the mega die-off, researchers found.