Extraterrestrial life

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An artist’s impression: MESSENGER flying over a colourful Mercury. NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

Mercury’s MESSENGER mission comes to a crashing climax

It was the first probe to find water on Mercury, the planet closest to the sun. Its mission nearly over, MESSENGER is about to crash into the planet it's been observing.
An artist’s impression of the oldest known system of terrestrial-sized planets, Kepler-444. Tiago Campante/Peter Devine, University of Birmingham

Ancient exoplanet discovery boosts chances of finding alien life

One of the crucial variables in calculating the likelihood that alien life exists elsewhere in our galaxy is the number of stars that possess planetary systems, and the proportion of those planets that…
Artist’s impression of the planet Kepler 62-f which could lie in the habitable zone of its host star 1,200 light-years from Earth in the constellation Lyra. NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech

The tools needed to seek out new worlds out there in space

More than 1,000 exoplanets have now been discovered by the Kepler Space Telescope, announced NASA this month, and the figure continues to climb. Three of the newly confirmed Kepler planets are thought…
Artist’s impression of an Earth-sized planet in the Kepler 186 system. But what makes one planet more habitable than another? NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-Caltech

What makes one Earth-like planet more habitable than another?

When it comes to finding the right kind of planet to target in the search for life elsewhere in the universe, the size of the planet matters. All planets are believed to form by a process of competitive…
A reconstruction of the path and damage caused by the asteroid that exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia, in February 15, 2013. Flickr/Sandia Labs

Impacts, extinctions and climate in the search for life elsewhere

Every so often our Earth encounters a large chunk of space debris which reminds us that our solar system still contains plenty of debris that could potentially have an impact on life on Earth. While the…
In the coming years, many planets that could host life will be discovered. But which will we target in the search for life elsewhere? IAU/L Calçada

Giant impacts, planet formation and the search for life elsewhere

In the search for life beyond our solar system, we need to consider the system in which a planet moves, including the other planets and assorted debris that accompany it on its journey through the cosmos…
Artists conception of the a star with two Saturn-mass planets discovered by the Kepler satellite. NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech

For life to form on a planet it needs to orbit the right kind of star

In the search for life-sustaining planets we must first choose the right host star. There are many factors that would make a star system too hostile for life to even get started, let alone survive for…
Artist’s impression of a sunset on the planet Gliese 667Cc. While that planet is likely not an ideal target, we will discover planets far more like our own. ESO/L. Calçada

Exo-Earths and the search for life elsewhere: a brief history

The criteria for life on other planets is the focus of the 4th Australian Exoplanet Workshop, hosted by the University of Southern Queensland this week. The first in this series on exoplanets looks at…
Square away your personal philosophy now; proof of life beyond earth is coming. Stargazing image via www.shutterstock.com

Is your religion ready to meet ET?

How will humankind react after astronomers hand over rock-solid scientific evidence for the existence of life beyond the Earth? No more speculating. No more wondering. The moment scientists announce this…
Let’s hope it’s barren. NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-CalTech

Habitable exoplanets are bad news for humanity

Last week, scientists announced the discovery of Kepler-186f, a planet 492 light years away in the Cygnus constellation. Kepler-186f is special because it marks the first planet almost exactly the same…

Super Earths could not sustain life

Rocky planets larger than Earth could not sustain life because their thick, crushing hydrogen atmospheres would be deadly…
Rocky, water-rich asteroids and similar objects likely delivered the bulk of water on Earth. Now they’re being found well outside our Solar system. Mark A. Garlick, space-art.co.uk, University of Warwick and University of Cambridge

Watery asteroid gobbled up by a white dwarf: implications for life

How will future alien scientists know whether life existed in our solar system? One method may be to sift through the planetary debris left when our sun becomes a white dwarf. Astronomers are doing just…
The “Rocknest” site has been Curiosity’s laboratory for the past few months. NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems

NASA’s Curiosity shows there’s more to life than life

The Curiosity rover has landed on Mars, driven around, started its scientific mission and, as of 4am today (AEDT), started reporting integrated science results. In a news conference at the American Geophysical…
We can learn a lot about the conditions life can endure by looking under the ice of Antarctica. Eugene Kaspersky

A life less ordinary: looking under the surface of Lake Vida

The search for life in extreme environments is an exploration not only of the robustness of earthly life, but also of our origins. And perhaps the biggest question here is whether the earth is a unique…

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