Subsurface ocean on Jupiter’s moon Europa deemed potentially ‘habitable’

FILE PHOTO: Handout photo of a view of Jupiter's moon Europa, created from images taken by NASA's Galileo spacecraft in the late 1990's
FILE PHOTO: Handout photo of a view of Jupiter’s moon Europa, created from images taken by NASA’s Galileo spacecraft in the late 1990’s

By Will Dunham

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Scientists have figured out how the subsurface ocean on Jupiter’s moon Europa may have formed and determined that this vast expanse of water may have been able to support microbial life in the past.

Europa, with an ocean hidden beneath a thick shell of ice, long has been viewed as a potential habitat for extraterrestrial life in our solar system, alongside other candidates such as Mars and Saturn’s moon Enceladus. A new study presented on Wednesday at a geoscience conference underscores its potential.

Europa’s ocean may have formed after water-rich minerals ejected their water thanks to heating caused by the decay of radioactive elements in its interior early in its history, the researchers found.

The effect of tides caused by Europa’s gravitational interactions with Jupiter – the solar system’s largest planet – and two other large Jovian moons, Io and Ganymede, also may have played a role.

“We think Europa’s ocean may have been habitable early when it formed because our models show that the ocean’s composition may have been only mildly acidic, containing carbon dioxide and some sulfate salts,” said planetary scientist Mohit Melwani Daswani of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the study’s leader.

“The availability of liquid water is the first step to habitability. In addition, chemical exchange between the ocean and the rocky interior may have been significant in the past so potential life may have been able to use chemical energy to survive.”

Daswani said microbes akin to certain Earth bacteria that use carbon dioxide for energy could have survived using ingredients available in Europa’s early ocean.

Europa is slightly smaller than Earth’s moon. Europa’s ocean, perhaps 40 to 100 miles (65 to 160 km) deep, may contain double the water of Earth’s oceans.

The study evaluated whether Europa was previously habitable and did not examine its present habitability, a question the researchers are now exploring.

“A word of caution,” Melwani Daswani said. “If a place is habitable, it does not mean that it is actually inhabited, just that the conditions could allow for the survival of some extremely hardy forms of life that we know of on Earth.”

(Reporting by Will Dunham; Editing by Sandra Maler)

 
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Aliens: could light and noise from Earth attract attention from outer space?

Jacco van Loon, Astrophysicist and Director of Keele Obse


Scientists Propose Craft to Search Venus for Life

David Grossman

Photo credit: Northrop Grumman
Photo credit: Northrop Grumman

After decades of looking to the outer solar system and beyond for signs of extraterrestrial life, an international team of scientists is suggesting that humanity take another look at a planet a little closer to home: Venus.

Although the surface of Venus is much too hot and inhospitable for life as we know it, scientists have long thought that microbes could be comfortably reproducing in the clouds of the Venusian atmosphere. Now, a new study in the journal Astrobiology suggests that dark patches in the atmosphere of Venus could, just possibly, be caused by light-absorbing bacteria. To find out, the study authors want to send a floating aircraft to comb the skies of Venus.

Earth’s sister Venus, the second rock from the sun, is similar in size, mass, and composition to our home planet-but that is generally where the comparisons end. The planet’s atmosphere is 96.5 percent carbon dioxide and almost 3.5 percent nitrogen. The runaway greenhouse climate keeps surface temperatures hovering around 864 degrees Fahrenheit (462 degrees Celsius), while atmospheric pressures on Venus can be as high as pressures a kilometer deep in the oceans of Earth.

But for all the planet’s seemingly inhospitable traits, “Venus has had plenty of time to evolve life on its own,” said University of Wisconsin-Madison scientist Sanjay Limaye, who led the new study, in a press release. Limaye points to models that suggest Venus could have sustained a habitable climate with liquid water on its surface for as long as 2 billion years. “That’s much longer than is believed to have occurred on Mars,” says Limaye.

American and Soviet probes studying Venus in the 1960s and 70s revealed that the temperature and pressure conditions in the lower and middle portions of the Venusian atmosphere-around 25–27 miles up from the surface-do not necessarily preclude life. In 1967, Carl Sagan co-authored a paper with noted biophysicist Harold Morowitz suggesting that life could exist in the clouds. “While the surface conditions of Venus make the hypothesis of life there implausible, the clouds of Venus are a different story altogether,” Sagan and Morowitz wrote.

A chance encounter convinced Limaye to give the planet another look. Talking with co-author of the new paper Grzegorz Słowik of Poland’s University of Zielona Góra, Limaye learned about bacteria on Earth with light-absorbing properties. With a group of researchers, they noted similarities between the bacteria and a mystery within the atmosphere of Venus: dark spots in the atmosphere.

NASA has studied “an unknown UV absorber” embedded within the Venusian clouds. In presentation slides, the agency says that “the unknown UV absorber has been a subject of intense scrutiny since the dawn of the space age.” At the moment, the only probes which have observed this phenomenon have lacked the technical capability to distinguish between materials of an organic or inorganic nature. This unknown absorber, Limaye’s team suggests, could be alien bacteria in the clouds of Venus.

Photo credit: JAXA/Institute of Space and Astronautical Science
Photo credit: JAXA/Institute of Space and Astronautical Science

“On Earth, we know that life can thrive in very acidic conditions, can feed on carbon dioxide, and produce sulfuric acid,” says Rakesh Mogul, a professor of biological chemistry at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, and a co-author on the new paper. Similarly harsh conditions might be able to sustain life amongst the clouds of Venus, something the team suggests could be similar to algae in lakes on Earth-except floating in the clouds.

There are many unknowns surrounding the new hypothesis, including when exactly Venus’s water supply evaporated. Limaye and his colleagues have an idea for how to get find the answers: the Venus Atmospheric Maneuverable Platform, better known as VAMP. A hypothetical aircraft proposed by Northrop Grumman, the VAMP would steer like a plane and float like a blimp through the skies of Venus, taking samples of the Venusian atmosphere. This craft would carry instruments capable of identifying living microorganisms.

“To really know, we need to go there and sample the clouds,” says Mogul. “Venus could be an exciting new chapter in astrobiology exploration.”


Aliens on Enceladus: Chances of E.T. Living in Subsurface Ocean of Saturn’s Icy Moon Given Major Boost

Hannah Osborne,Newsweek

Scientists have discovered that a subsurface ocean on Enceladus could have existed for billions of years, providing plenty of time for microbial alien life to emerge and evolve.

One of Saturn’s icy moons, Enceladus is considered one of the best bets for finding extraterrestrial life within our solar system. Geophysical evidence has long suggested it boasts a salty, liquid ocean between its frozen shell and rocky core. Scientists believe the ocean exists as the result of heat generated by hydrothermal activity the moon’s interior.

NASA has been considering a mission to Enceladus to search for evidence of alien life for several years, although no confirmed plans are in place.

Trending: How Life Began: Missing Link Chemical in First Living Cell Discovered

11_06_EnceladusImage of Enceladus’ surface taken from the Cassini spacecraft. NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

In a study published in Nature Astronomy, an international team of scientists looked data from NASA’s recently completed Cassini mission to better understand what is going on within Enceladus’ that allows it to have a sustained, global ocean. If it was just being heated by tidal forces within the ice, the ocean would freeze over in less than 30 million years. But they now know this is not the case—so something else must be heating the ocean.

Researchers looked at different ways Enceladus could be generating the heat to maintain the liquid ocean, producing models to find one that fits with Cassini observations. Their findings indicate that the additional heat is the result of Enceladus’ core being highly porous.

Water moving through the porous rock is heated then transported up through narrow upwellings, with temperatures exceeding 90 degrees Celsius. The team also found these hotspots are particularly prevalent at the moon’s south pole, which explains why the ice seems thinner at this point. Further analysis showed that this heating mechanism could be sustained for tens of millions, if not billions of years.

 

11_06_EnceladusEncelauds has a global ocean sitting between its icy shell and rocky core. NASA

One of the most prevalent theories as to how life evolved on Earth is through chemical reactions at deep sea hydrothermal vents. The presence of hydrothermal activity in Enceladus that could last for such a long time has major implications for the potential for life to evolve. If Enceladus has had a liquid ocean for billions of years, life would have had the chance to emerge and evolve into a more complex form.

In an email interview with Newsweek, lead author Gaël Choblet, from the French National Center for Scientific Research, said that while he cannot speculate on the presence of alien life on Enceladus, their timescale for hydrothermal activity does bolster the case that microbial life could emerge.

If a new theory published last year is correct, then powerful hydrothermal activity could have been occurring since the formation of the moon, possibly as much as the age of the solar system,” he says, adding that which timescale they are working on—tens of millions or billions—could be determined with future research

He said the team now plans to simulate the chemical interactions within Enceladus and to work out how heat and chemicals are transported around the ocean.

Ravi Desai, from Imperial College London, U.K.,has previously looked at the chemistry of Enceladus’s ocean. Commenting on the latest study, which he was not involved in, he says the findings represent “excellent news” for the possibility of detecting microbial life deep in the ocean.

11_06_EnceladusIllustration shows NASA’s Cassini spacecraft diving through the plume of Saturn’s moon Enceladus. NASA/JPL-Caltech

“These findings from Enceladus are highly relevant to exploring the icy moons of Jupiter … [The] results are particularly exciting when considering what could be discovered at Europa and Ganymede.”

David A Rothery, professor of Planetary Geosciences at the Open University, U.K., also says the findings are exciting as “it all fits together”—Cassini observations have now been reconciled with a suitable model of heat transfer within Enceladus. In terms of the potential for life, he said the only possible drawback is that due to its size, it only take about 250 million years for the entire ocean to be recycled through the rock—and once this is done, the number of chemical reactions that take place becomes very limited.

“But this is still happening at the moment because we’re seeing the products,” he says. “Chemical reactions are going on even today. If it’s going on today it could have been going on a billion years into the past, and that’s long enough for life to get started—and to have evolved beyond the very most basic stages. It could be quite a complex microbial community down there and we’d love to study it.”



Aliens are actually immortal robots, and they’re billions of years old, researcher claims

Rob Waugh

 

 

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Hawking urges Moon landing to ‘elevate humanity’

By Pallab Ghosh

Image result for journey to the moon
Prof Hawking says: “If humanity is to continue for another million years, our future lies in boldly going where no one else has gone before.”
Prof Stephen Hawking has called for leading nations to send astronauts to the Moon by 2020.
They should also aim to build a lunar base in 30 years’ time and send people to Mars by 2025.
Prof Hawking said that the goal would re-ignite the space programme, forge new alliances and give humanity a sense of purpose.
He was speaking at the Starmus Festival celebrating science and the arts, which is being held in Trondheim, Norway.
Spreading out into space will completely change the future of humanity
Prof Stephen Hawking
“Spreading out into space will completely change the future of humanity,” he said.
“I hope it would unite competitive nations in a single goal, to face the common challenge for us all.
“A new and ambitious space programme would excite (young people), and stimulate interest in other areas, such as astrophysics and cosmology”.
Moon LandingsImage copyrightNEIL A. ARMSTRONG
Image caption
Return of the Moon landings would give humanity “a sense of purpose”.
He addressed the concerns of those arguing that it would be better to spend our money on solving the problems of this planet along with a pointed criticism of US President Donald Trump.
“I am not denying the importance of fighting climate change and global warming, unlike Donald Trump, who may just have taken the most serious, and wrong, decision on climate change this world has seen,” he said.
Prof Hawking explained that human space travel is essential for the future of humanity precisely because the Earth was under threat from climate change as well as diminishing natural resources.
“We are running out of space and the only places to go to are other worlds. It is time to explore other solar systems. Spreading out may be the only thing that saves us from ourselves. I am convinced that humans need to leave Earth,” the Cambridge University theoretical physicist explained.
Image result for journey to the moon

The head of the European Space Agency (Esa) Jan Woerner has said he envisages the construction of a Moon base to replace the International Space Station in 2024 and is collaborating with Russia to send a probe to assess a potential site. China has set itself the goal of sending an astronaut to the Moon.
Nasa has no plans to return to the Moon, instead focusing its efforts on sending astronauts to Mars by the 2030s. Though if other space agencies begin to collaborate on constructing a lunar base it would be hard to see Nasa not participating.
Prof Hawking said that there was no long-term future for our species staying on Earth: it would either be hit by an asteroid again or eventually engulfed by our own Sun. He added that travelling to distant worlds would “elevate humanity”.

Media captionIn this European Space Agency video Dr James Carpenter describes the landing site
“Whenever we make a great new leap, such as the Moon landings, we bring people and nations together, usher in new discoveries, and new technologies,” he continued.
“To leave Earth demands a concerted global approach, everyone should join in. We need to rekindle the excitement of the early days of space travel in the sixties.”
He said that the colonisation of other planets was no longer science fiction, though he did pay tribute to the genre in his closing remarks.
“If humanity is to continue for another million years, our future lies in boldly going where no one else has gone before.
“I hope for the best. I have to. We have no other option”.

Are Aliens Really Just 94 Light Years Away? A ‘Strong Signal’ Might Just Mean Yes

Dan Seitz,UPROXX 


First contact: how we’ll get the news that we found aliens

Image result for alien contact

Cathal O’Connell explains the challenges that will face scientists when they break the biggest news story in history.

However unlikely contact with aliens may be, scientists are thinking about how they would break the news to a nervous planet.CREDIT: AARON FOSTER/GETTY IMAGES

Detecting a signal from an extraterrestrial intelligence would be life changing for everyone on Earth – the biggest news story in history – and could potentially be dangerous, especially if badly handled.

Writing in the journal Acta Astronautica, scientists at the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) institute describe a protocol for how to break it to the world that we’re not alone in the Universe – without causing global mayhem.

Rather than a conspiracy of government cover-ups so beloved of sci-fi writes, the study strongly recommends openness as the key to having a “sane global conversation” about the discovery of ET.

Nobody knows how the world would react to the discovery of extraterrestrial intelligence. All we have to go on are the bizarre occurrences where the public thought they were hearing such news.

In 1938 Orson Welles’ radio-play based on HG Wells’s novel The War of the Worlds caused widespread panic in the United States (although the scale of that panic was likely exaggerated). In 1949, a Spanish language version of the same program incited rioting in Ecuador, leading to at least seven deaths, and possibly as many as 20.

Then there’s the risk of the media misreporting or exaggerating the importance of a tentative signal. In October 2015, for example, when a newly discovered extrasolar planet, KIC 8462852, was discovered to show a periodic dip in brightness, the mainstream media latched on to the most speculative, and least likely, explanation – namely that an “alien megastructure” was passing in front of its star. (The periodic dimming is more likely caused by a cloud of comets passing by.)

As a result of these excesses, scientists have been worried about how to break SETI news for decades.

In 1989, the International Academy of Astronautics drew up a set of guidelines for releasing information about a potential alien signal. But that was before the internet and social media transformed the way we consume news stories.

Now, Duncan Forgan and Alexander Scholz, from the University of St Andrew’s in Scotland, have prepared an updated protocol for how scientists should navigate the “unprecedented media onslaught”.

First, Forgan and Scholz advise, all scientists performing a SETI experiment should clearly outline their search methodology as well as define what makes a “discovery”, before the search even begins. This information should be published in a format the media can easily access, such as a blog post.

Then if a signal is detected, the discoverers should not to try to keep it under wraps – the potential fall-out from a leak would be too damaging. Much better to announce a tentative detection, but be clear that it must be assumed to be of natural or manmade origin until proved otherwise.

The scientists should submit their findings to a peer-reviewed journal, while simultaneously uploading all data so it can be pored over by other scientists – and potential known sources ruled out.

The problem is these verifications can take a long time. The best case-study is the so-called “Wow” signal, detected in 1977. That signal was exactly what SETI scientists had been looking for – being at the right frequency to hold an interstellar conversation, and being of unprecedented strength – and is still unexplained almost 39 years later. (Although in early 2016, a study published by the Washington Academy of Sciences suggested that comets could emit such a signal, and identified two comets that were in the right place at the right time in 1977. Future measurements of radio emission by comets should hopefully clear this up.)

In the case where the detection cannot be confirmed, say Forgan and Scholz, the SETI scientists should publish an announcement saying so.

In the case of the detection is confirmed, however, the SETI scientists should become deeply involved in the global conversation by engaging across as many social media platforms as possible – a role they would likely assume for the rest of their lives. They should also be prepared for the downsides of newfound fame – such as cyber attacks.

The latest polls (conducted in Germany, the UK and US last September) show that most people in developed countries believe intelligent aliens exist somewhere in the Universe. But that doesn’t mean we’re ready for a “first contact” event.

However unlikely such a discovery is, a signal from an alien intelligence would be the most momentous discovery the human species is ever likely to make. It’s worth a little thinking ahead.

Here’s The Real Difference Between Sativa & Indica Pot Strains

This article was originally published on May 27, 2015.

Now that pot legislation is making its way across the country, it’s time for a refresher on the difference between the main types of marijuana strains: indica and sativa. It’s a lesson some of us have had to learn over and over again. But, this infographic from the recently-released Green: A Field Guide To Marijuana will help us get it right.

At a basic level, we may be aware that sativa strains produce a sort of “up” high that gives users a feeling of euphoria, increased creativity, and energy. Meanwhile, indica strains usually leave us relaxed and “in-da-couch.”

But, as the infographic shows, the differences start with the shape of the plants: Sativas tend to have longer, thinner leaves and are lighter in color. Indica strains, meanwhile, often have shorter, fatter leaves and dark, dense buds.

And then, of course, there’s a whole host of hybrid strains that may produce a high that’s between the two ends of that spectrum. But, when they’re up-close — like in Erik Christiansen’s photos in the book — the differences are easy to spot. Check out the full infographic, below.

IMAGE: COURTESY OF GREEN: A FIELD GUIDE TO MARIJUANA BY DAN MICHAELS, PHOTOS BY ERIK CHRISTIANSEN, PUBLISHED BY CHRONICLE BOOKS.
Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity and would like to remind its readers that marijuana usage continues to be an offense under federal law, regardless of state marijuana laws. To learn more, click here.
PHOTO: COURTESY OF ERIK CHRISTIANSEN.

Did Aliens Leave Behind This 2,800-Year-Old Nokia?

E.T. forgot his phone.

Researchers are claiming they have dug up what looks like a 2,800-year-old Mesopotamian clay tablet cell phone, reportedly found in the Austrian town of Fuschl am See. (Judging by the picture quality, the photos were also taken on a 2,800-year-old cell phone.)

According to the very reputable mysteriousuniverse.org, not much is known about what archaeologists were looking for when they came across this piece of not-so-terrestrial history, but it probably wasn’t clay Sumerian tablets from the 13th century BCE.

How did a cuneiform tablet make its way to modern-day Austria, you ask? After all, Mesopotamia never expanded north or west of modern-day Turkey. Well, the theory proposes that aliens created Sumerian civilization, then left the artifact behind after a failed attempt to introduce people to the great communicative powers of cellular phones.

Sadly, like Damascus steel, the technology to make functioning clay cell phones is still not known.

[via The Daily Dot]

From: Popular Mechanics