“The Geyser Moon” –Saturn’s Organic Hotspot for Life Beyond Earth

"The Geyser Moon" --Saturn's Enceladus

 

“Something is going on on Enceladus – it’s active and we want to know,” said astrophysicist and curator at California’s Griffith Observatory, Laura Danly. That “something” turned out to be plumes of water vapor and ice particles erupting hundreds of miles into space from the ocean through cracks in Enceladus’s ice-encased surface — detected by the NASA’s Cassini spacecraft prior to the spacecraft’s fiery death-plunge into Saturn in 2017. The plumes provide a tantalizing glimpse into what the moon’s subsurface ocean might harbor –likely heated and churned by hydrothermal vents like those on Earth’s ocean floors. (more…)

“Lucky or Inevitable” –Life May Have Relied On Something Other Than Oxygen for the First 1.5 billion Years

Origin of Life

 

“Is the existence of life on Earth a lucky fluke or an inevitable consequence of the laws of nature? Is it simple for life to emerge on a newly formed planet, or is it the virtually impossible product of a long series of unlikely events? asks Nobel Prize laureate and Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School, Jack Szostak. “Advances in fields as disparate as astronomy, planetary science and chemistry now hold promise that answers to such profound questions may be around the corner. If life turns out to have emerged multiple times in our galaxy, as scientists are hoping to discover, the path to it cannot be so hard. Moreover, if the route from chemistry to biology proves simple to traverse, the universe could be teeming with life.”

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“Far Beyond” –First Organic Molecule on Earth Might Exist Today Elsewhere in the Solar System

"Far Beyond" --First Organic Molecule on Earth Might Exist Today Elsewhere in the Solar System

 

“Human blood is a testament to life’s origin in the ocean,” observed marine biologist Jacques Cousteau, “its chemical composition is nearly identical to that of sea-water.” New research funded by NASA appears to confirm Cousteau’s insight. Scientists have identified a process that might have been key in producing the first organic molecules on Earth about 4 billion years ago, before the origin of life. The process, which is similar to what might have occurred in some ancient underwater hydrothermal vents, may also have relevance to the search for life elsewhere in the universe. (more…)

“We are Spaceships” –Extraterrestrial Viruses May Have Influenced Origin and Evolution of Life (Weekend Feature)

 

"We are Spaceships" --Extraterrestrial Viruses May Have Influenced Origin and Evolution of Life

 

“The human imagination is a preview of coming attractions,” Albert Einstein was fond of saying. Viruses are essentially roving segments of genetic material that have learned how to “put on space suits and leave the cell,” observed Greg Bear in his epic work of science fiction, Darwin’s Radio, that mirrors Einstein’s adage, suggesting that viruses in our genome function as carriers of evolutionary messages—a genetic radio, so to speak. In this sense, we may simply be spaceships for virus.

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The Insomnia File –“The Universe is in Some Deep Sense Tied to Homo Sapiens”

 

Monster Black Hole at Beginning of the Universe

 

Today’s “Insomnia File” episode offers two stories of cosmic insight. The first is about ”An Accident More Complex than the Universe” from former astrophysicist and hard science-fiction author Alastair Reynolds, who’s epiphany is found in his novel , Blue Remembered Earth — first of a trilogy which follows humanity’s development over many centuries and Paul Davies, The Demon in the Machine.

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Last Week’s Top 5 Space & Science Headlines –“Milky Way’s Mirror Galaxy to Jupiter’s Dark Side Revealed”

ESO's Very Large Telescope in action

 

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