“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.
Scientists using new and archival data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have uncovered for the first time evidence of water vapor in the atmosphere of the largest moon in our solar system, Jupiter’s icy moon Ganymede, which contains more water than all of Earth’s oceans. Water vapor forms when ice from the moon’s surface sublimates—that is, undergoes a phase change from a solid to gas. Ganymede is one of three icy Galilean moons, including Europa and Callisto, that are thought to contain liquid water oceans and potential life-bearing habitats beneath their surface. Jupiter’s gravity stretches and squeezes these moons as they orbit the gas giant, heating their interiors through friction.
“It’s mind-boggling to actually witness material orbiting a massive black hole at 30% of the speed of light,” marveled Oliver Pfuhl, a scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics.
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.