Our understanding of the first seconds of our Universe’s existence is little more than an informed guess, based on inference and extrapolation. “Yet these first moments are the key to many of our most urgent and enduring cosmic mysteries,” cosmologist Dan Hooper at the University of Chicago told The Daily Galaxy. “Understanding this era,” he adds, “is essential to understanding our universe.”
During a keynote speech at a NASA conference a decade ago on the search for extraterrestrial life an attendee shouted out: “We have no idea what’s out there!” One of NASA’s goals is to search for life on other planets like Mars, where there was once flowing water and a thick atmosphere, or moons of the outer solar system like Europa and Enceladus, where vast water oceans churn under thick layers of ice. But what if life on those worlds doesn’t use our DNA? How could we recognize it? A 2019 DNA breakthrough may be the key to answering these questions and many more.
“Ceres –the only dwarf planet in the inner Solar System–has gained a pivotal role in assessing the origin, evolution and distribution of organic species across the inner solar system,” said Southwest Research Institute scientist Simone Marchi, about high abundance of carbon on Ceres’ near surface, which could be due to an excess of organic matter, possibly formed locally due to water-rocks chemistry.”One has to wonder about how this world may have driven organic chemistry pathways, and how these processes may have affected the make-up of larger planets like the Earth.”
From our tiny blue dot, the universe appears inconceivably vast. In the grand cosmic scheme of things, all the light in the observable universe provides about as much illumination as a 60-watt bulb seen from 2.5 miles away, says Marco Ajello, an astrophysicist at Clemson University, who led a team in 2018 that has measured all of the starlight ever produced throughout the history of the observable universe.
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.
“The Kepler and K2 missions just keep on giving!” Harvard astrophysicist, David Latham told The Daily Galaxy. “Operations ended more than three years ago when the spacecraft ran out of fuel, but we continue to mine the data archives for celestial gems.”