Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

CategoryExtraterrestrial life

enceladus-stockpack-adobe-stock
Enceladus

News From the Search for Extraterrestrial Life 6

China has found evidence for an ancient ocean on Mars and an international research teams reports that the number of dried-up lakes is higher than thought

Noting the passing earlier this month of Frank Drake, author of the famous Drake Equation, planetary geoscientist David Rothery notes, we know a great deal more promising information about the search for life today than we did in 1961 when he first formulated the equation: “We are learning more about exoplanets every year, and are entering an era when measuring their atmospheric composition to reveal evidence of life is becoming increasingly feasible. Within the next decade or two, we can hope for a much more soundly based estimate of the fraction of Earth-like planets where life gets started.” – The Conversation, September 5, 2022. We also know about potentially habitable moons now (for example, Enceladus, whose image is featured above).…

exploration-of-mars-the-red-planet-of-the-solar-system-in-space-this-image-elements-furnished-by-nasa-stockpack-adobe-stock
Exploration of Mars the Red planet of the solar system in space. This image elements furnished by NASA.

News From the Search for Extraterrestrial Life 5

NASA staff are said to be quite excited about organic materials around the Jezero Crater; astronomers are learning more about "eyeball planets"

As the telescopes and other instruments rain data on researchers, each week brings news of interest: From our galaxy: Last week, planets orbiting M-type (common red dwarf) stars came up. Astronomers are classifying these planets in greater detail: “’We have discovered that small planets orbiting this type of star can be classified into three distinct families: rocky planets very similar to Earth, planets with half their mass consisting of water that we call water worlds, and mini-Neptunes with extended atmospheres of hydrogen and/or helium’, describes Pallé.” – Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) (September 8, 2022) One feature of these worlds may be a surprise: “Given that they are tidally locked to their suns, these planets may also have liquid…

amazing-exoplanets-stockpack-adobe-stock
Amazing Exoplanets

News From the Search for Extraterrestrial Life 4

Just as much promising data about habitable planets is streaming in from the telescopes, pioneer ET astronomer Frank Drake has died

Lots of places to look: From Universe Today: To date, 5,084 extrasolar planets have been confirmed in 3,811 planetary systems, with another 8,912 candidates awaiting confirmation. (Matt Williams, September 9, 2022) Planets with water have been in the news: According to a new study, “… it turns out that water-rich worlds are far more common in the Milky Way Galaxy than we first thought… ” – Jerusalem Post (Aaron Reich, September 9, 2022) The paper requires a fee or subscription. “A new type of exoplanet — one made half of rock and half of water — has been discovered around the most common stars in the universe, which may have great consequences in the search for life in the cosmos,…

james-webb-space-telescope-in-space-elements-of-this-image-furnished-by-nasa-stockpack-adobe-stock
James Webb Space Telescope in Space

News From the Search for Extraterrestrial Life 3

The Webb gets a good closer look at an exoplanet

Exoplanets are hard to spot but the James Webb Space Telescope got an image of one (HIP 65426b), reported September 1: The planet is more than 10,000 times fainter than its host star and about 100 times farther from it than Earth is from the Sun (~93 million miles), so it easily could be spotted when the telescope’s coronagraphs removed the starlight. The exoplanet is between six and 12 times the mass of Jupiter—a range that could be narrowed once the data in these images is analyzed. The planet is only 15 million to 20 million years old, making it very young compared to our 4.5-billion-year-old Earth. Isaac Schultz, “See Webb Telescope’s First Images of an Exoplanet” at Gizmodo (September…

somewhere-in-extreme-deep-space-far-galaxies-and-habitable-exoplanets-with-rings-3d-rendered-background-elements-of-this-image-were-furnished-by-nasa-stockpack-adobe-stock
Somewhere in extreme deep space far galaxies and habitable exoplanets with rings. 3D rendered background. Elements of this image were furnished by NASA.

News From the Search for Extraterrestrial Life 2

A new ocean planet, a planet with carbon dioxide, and new information about life chances on Mars

What may be an ocean planet has been discovered in the region of the Constellation Draco: An international team of researchers led by Charles Cadieux, a Ph.D. student at the Université de Montréal and member of the Institute for Research on Exoplanets (iREx), has announced the discovery of TOI-1452 b, an exoplanet orbiting one of two small stars in a binary system located in the Draco constellation about 100 light-years from Earth. The exoplanet is slightly greater in size and mass than Earth and is located at a distance from its star where its temperature would be neither too hot nor too cold for liquid water to exist on its surface. The astronomers believe it could be an “ocean planet,”…

super-earth-planet-realistic-exoplanet-planet-suitable-for-colonization-earth-like-planet-in-far-space-planets-background-3d-render-stockpack-adobe-stock
super-earth planet, realistic exoplanet, planet suitable for colonization, earth-like planet in far space, planets background 3d render

News From the Search for Extraterrestrial Life I

Super-Earths that might have life, choosing life forms to take to Mars, and self-replicating robots…

A roundup from popular science news sources: ★ Are any super-Earths habitable? The largest single class of exoplanets discovered are super-Earths — bigger than Earth but smaller than Neptune, of which there are 1,577 confirmed discoveries. Some lie within the habitable zones — at least in principle — of their stars. Stony Brook astrophysicist Paul Sutter ponders the factors that go into determining how many of them are actually habitable, concluding, Perhaps the best candidate for a habitable super-Earth is LHS 1140b, which orbits a red dwarf star about 49 light-years from Earth. It’s about 60% wider than our planet but 6.48 times as massive. It orbits extremely close to its parent star — its orbital period is just 25…

2-uaps-ufos-in-the-night-sky-at-a-beach-ufo-uap-sighting-at-night-stockpack-adobe-stock
2 UAPS / Ufos in the night sky at a beach. UFO UAP Sighting at night

NASA on UFOs: Not Nearly So Snarky Now. Here Are 3 Reasons Why

In the three decades since the discovery of the first exoplanets, science has gradually been overtaking science fiction

As noted recently at Scientific American, thinking about UFOs is no longer presumptive evidence of membership in the lunatic fringe: On June 9, with only a few hours’ notice, NASA held a press conference to announce a study it was commissioning on unidentified aerial phenomena (UAPs). The acronym is a rebranding of what are more popularly known as unidentified flying objects, or UFOs, a topic usually associated with purported extraterrestrial visitations and government conspiracy theories. The question on the public’s mind was why one of the U.S.’s premier scientific agencies was getting involved in something often considered to be at the farthest fringes of respectability. Adam Mann, “With New Study, NASA Seeks the Science behind UFOs” at Scientific American (August…

agate-surface-background-multicolor-transparent-crystal-background-macro-stockpack-adobe-stock
Agate surface background. Multicolor transparent crystal background. Macro

Exoplanets: Life Forms Made One Third of Earth’s Minerals

Researchers hope detection of such minerals on exoplanets can narrow the search for life

Recent work on how minerals form may help determine which planets are more likely to be habitable or inhabited. One-third of minerals — chemical solids whose atoms are highly ordered — are created directly or indirectly by life forms, says Carnegie geologist Robert Hazen: “One third of Earth’s minerals could not have formed without biology — shells and bones and teeth, or microbes, for example, or the vital indirect role of biology, such as by creating an oxygen-rich atmosphere that led to 2,000 minerals that wouldn’t have formed otherwise.” Carnegie Institution for Science, “Crushed, zapped, boiled, baked and more: Nature used 57 recipes to create Earth’s 10,500-plus ‘mineral kinds’” at ScienceDaily Both papers, here and here, require a fee or…

full-moon-in-the-sky-stockpack-adobe-stock
full moon in the sky

NASA Finds Spots on the Moon With San Francisco Temperatures

No, this news is NOT from the “Strange News” tabloid at the checkout counter; it really happened and it is good news for proposed moon bases

Talk about a “fairy godmother” find: NASA-funded scientists have discovered shaded locations within pits on the Moon that always hover around a comfortable 63 F (about 17 C) using data from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft and computer modeling. The pits, and caves to which they may lead, would make thermally stable sites for lunar exploration compared to areas at the Moon’s surface, which heat up to 260 F (about 127 C) during the day and cool to minus 280 F (about minus 173 C) at night. Lunar exploration is part of NASA’s goal to explore and understand the unknown in space, to inspire and benefit humanity. Bill Steigerwald, “NASA’s LRO Finds Lunar Pits Harbor Comfortable Temperatures” at NASA…

planets-and-exoplanets-of-unexplored-galaxies-sci-fi-new-worlds-to-discover-colonization-and-exploration-of-nebulae-and-galaxies-stockpack-adobe-stock
Planets and exoplanets of unexplored galaxies. Sci-Fi. New worlds to discover. Colonization and exploration of nebulae and galaxies

Some Cold Giant Planets May Be Habitable, Researchers Say

Life could exist outside the expected habitable zone if a massive planet can hang onto insulating gases in its atmosphere

Rocky exoplanets with an atmosphere of hydrogen and helium gases could have liquid water on the surface, like Jupiter’s moon Europa, and could thus host life. The question is whether the surface water sticks around long on “cold super-Earths,” that are ten times the mass of our planet: Now, new calculations described in a paper published Monday in the journal Nature Astronomy suggest that the surface conditions of these worlds could have been temperate for more than enough time for life—for 5 billion to 8 billion years. Earth is only about 4.5 billion years old, by comparison, and life emerged here about 3.7 billion years ago. Eva Botkin-Kowacki, “We may be underestimating how many cold, giant planets are habitable” at…

celestial-digital-art-venus-planet-and-galaxies-in-outer-space-stockpack-adobe-stock
Celestial digital art, Venus planet and galaxies in outer space

New Analysis Casts Doubt on Claims for Life on Venus

The newer study agrees that the composition of Venus’s atmosphere is unusual but not that it is evidence for life.

A new study throws cold water (vapor?) on an earlier paper that suggested that aerial life forms could exist in Venus’s massive cloud cover: Researchers from the University of Cambridge used a combination of biochemistry and atmospheric chemistry to test the ‘life in the clouds’ hypothesis, which astronomers have speculated about for decades, and found that life cannot explain the composition of the Venusian atmosphere. Any life form in sufficient abundance is expected to leave chemical fingerprints on a planet’s atmosphere as it consumes food and expels waste. However, the Cambridge researchers found no evidence of these fingerprints on Venus. University of Cambridge, “No signs (yet) of life on Venus” at ScienceDaily (June 14, 2022) The paper is open access.…

champagne-pool-zone-thermale-wai-o-tapu-en-nouvelle-zelande-stockpack-adobe-stock
Champagne Pool zone thermale Wai-O-Tapu en Nouvelle-Zélande

Earth’s Weirdest Life Forms Show That ET Life Is Possible

Whether it’s living in boiling water, breathing sulfur, or eating radiation, we’ve found life forms that do just that right here on Earth

Astrobiologists debate whether extraterrestrial life would be a lot like life on Earth or quite different. There may be a middle position… A number of life forms on Earth are just so weird that they demonstrate that life can come into existence — and stay in existence — in a variety of ways we never thought possible: ● A giant undersea meadow recently turned out to be one single plant – the world’s largest. Posidonia australis, a seagrass, kept all the genes from both parents so it reproduces by sprouting rhizomes, not by mating. Futurism (June 2, 2022) ● It’s not clear what The Blob at the Paris Zoo even is, in scientific terms. It has 720 sexes, no limbs,…

jupiters-moon-europa-in-front-of-the-planet-jupiter-stockpack-adobe-stock
Jupiter's moon Europa in front of the planet Jupiter

Why Scientists Think There Might Be Life on Europa

Jupiter’s moon Europa, somewhat smaller than Earth’s moon, may have surface water and organic chemicals, researchers say

Recent evidence suggests that Europa’s icy shell may have pockets of liquid water: “Because it’s closer to the surface, where you get interesting chemicals from space, other moons, and the volcanoes of Io, there’s a possibility that life has a shot if there are pockets of water in the shell,” says study author Dustin Schroeder, a geophysics expert at Stanford University in a statement. “If the mechanism we see in Greenland is how these things happen on Europa, it suggests there’s water everywhere.” Elizabeth Gamillo, “Europa’s Icy Shell May Be Habitable for Life” at Smithsonian Magazine (April 20, 2022) The paper is open access. NASA has noted the likely presence of organic chemicals as well: For Europa to be potentially…