“Planet Earth Report” provides descriptive links to headline news by leading science journalists about the extraordinary discoveries, technology, people, and events changing our knowledge of Planet Earth and the future of the human species.
“Before the mid-90’s, when the first secure case of an exoplanet, 51 Peg was discovered orbiting around a star like our own, planets beyond our own solar system were thought to be out of the reach of humans. The idea that we could detect worlds beyond our own or even that worlds beyond on our own might be there was questioned,” says astrophysicist and dailygalaxy.com editor and science advisor, Jackie Faherty. “But once the first few worlds were found, the floodgates were opened and the zoo of exoplanets started to reveal itself.”
Supernova explosions release as much energy in a second as our Sun will in its entire 10-billion year existence. Without supernovae, “there would be no computer chips, trilobites, Mozart or the tears of a little girl,” wrote science writer Clifford A. Pickover.
Contrary to science-fiction icon Arthur C. Clarke’s admonition never to attempt a landing on Jupiter’s moon, Europa, NASA announced on Friday that it had selected SpaceX to launch a planned voyage to the icy moon,with its 120-mile high plumes erupting from a global ocean that lies 15 miles below a chaotic, churning surface.
What if an alien civilization was a billion or more years older than ours and detected Earth in its early history? “For billions of years of Earth history, an alien astronomer may have even been sufficiently misled to conclude that Earth was sterile—despite the fact that life was flourishing in our ocean at the time,” says Stephanie Olson, an astrobiologist at the University of California, Riverside with NASA’s Astrobiology Institite.
Jupiter’s moon Europa and its global ocean may currently have conditions suitable for life. Scientists are studying processes on the icy surface as they prepare to explore.“The radiation that bombards Europa’s surface leaves a fingerprint,” said Kevin Hand, project scientist for the Europa Lander mission in a 2018 study. “If we know what that fingerprint looks like, we can better understand the nature of any organics and possible biosignatures that might be detected with future missions, be they spacecraft that fly by or land on Europa.”