If you made a building out of bricks and cinderblocks, then hundreds of years later you'd expect it to still be, well, a building made of bricks and cinderblocks. But planets are not buildings if you haven't noticed. Earth, for instance, just doesn't seem to have the same composition as the meteors thought to have formed it. And scientists want to know how it got to be that way.
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Humans have had such a dramatic impact on Earth that some scientists say we've kickstarted a new geological era known as the Anthropocene. A fascinating new paper theorises that alien civilizations could do the same thing, reshaping their homeworlds in predictable and potentially detectable ways. The authors are proposing a new classification scheme that measures the degree to which planets been modified by intelligent hosts.
With all the fascinating planets in our solar system, it sometimes feels like the Sun gets overlooked. The Sun is amazing! People still worship the Sun, and that actually makes a certain amount of sense. So, what would happen if you took a small piece of the Sun and brought it back to Earth? Well, whoever's left would have new reasons to worship the Sun.
What was life really like here on planet Earth before animals were big enough to leave fossils behind? How did living things turn from dinky capsules of genetic material into the intelligent, complex organisms that do things like fart and type curse words into posts on the internet? Scientists think they have found the answer... in algae steroids.
Earth's magnetic field does way more than guide our compasses and cause occasional worry. It's part of the reason there's life at all on this planet -- it protects us from harmful solar radiation that might otherwise blow our ozone layer away.
Xenon is a peculiar element. It certainly has one of the most mysterious names (from the Greek xenos, or "stranger"). As a noble gas, it refuses to bond with other elements except under exotic conditions. And its uses are all about as creepy as its name: Folks use it for its eerie glow, to detect radiation, or in its liquid form to hunt for the universe's dark matter.
You might think you were born in Australia, or New Zealand, or Malaysia or the surrounding area -- but let me tell you, friend, you're wrong. In a sense, we were all spawned on a tiny island full of trash, floating miserably far, far out there. Only now are we beginning to understand the horrifying gravity of what our garbage species hath wrought.
Earth is exhausting -- excruciatingly so, if you're a young curmudgeon like me. At times, performing even the most mundane tasks, like commuting on a crowded, smelly subway car, feels like an Olympic marathon designed to test one's patience. Space compels us because it forces us to think outside this myopic view of ourselves -- not in a "Dust in the Wind" way, but in the sense that we're tiny flecks of star stuff lucky to be members of something so vast and incredible.
Image Cache: Sometimes, the majesty of the final frontier -- a cold, unfeeling space -- has the power to make our eyes misty. The images from NASA's Cassini mission have often been able to do this, and since the spacecraft is dying soon, it makes the experience all the more emotional. Before it goes out in a blaze of glory, Cassini has been sending back some of the most incredible images of Saturn and its moons -- but one of its latest from Saturn's rings is especially spectacular.
Earth has been the Airbnb for some questionable guests over the years, but none have been more deplorable than humans. Our bad habits are screwing up the planet big time, causing arctic glaciers to melt and sea levels to rise 20cm over the last century alone. At this point, getting adopted by some alien overlords might not be such a bad idea -- even NASA seems to be on board.
Once again, scientists are looking inward to explore the next frontier. Researchers at Japan's Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC) announced this week that an excavation is planned in which the team will attempt to successfully drill all the way through Earth's crust for the first time in history.
There's a group of people who've lost trust in scientists, professors, academics and pretty much anyone who is paid to establish and dispense facts. Some of these people are rejecting a fact established hundreds of years ago that sits at the core of most modern biology, geology and astronomy: We live on a big, round, spinning ball. That group has now grown to include several spinning ball lovers, like Shaq Diesel rapper and star of the movie Kazaam, Shaquille O'Neil.
Last month, the solar system lost its collective chill when NASA announced the discovery of a seven-planet system called TRAPPIST-1, just 39 light-years from our Sun. The system is particularly exciting, not only because of its proximity to our planet, but because it has three planets within the habitable zone, where liquid water (and potentially life) could be supported. There's already a website dedicated to these mysterious planets, filled with stunning art and literal fan fiction. In short, TRAPPIST-1 is already getting the One Direction treatment.
Bad news if you're looking to ditch this planet for another one far, far away. According to new research from NASA, planets in the habitable zone in red dwarf star systems -- including much-hyped exoplanet Proxima b -- might lose too much oxygen to support liquid water, and therefore, life. Goddammit.
Right now, OSIRIS-REx is one of the busiest spacecrafts in the solar system. OSIRIS-REx, which blasted off in September 2016, has been getting ready to rendezvous with the object of its mission -- an asteroid called Bennu -- in order to bring back samples to Earth. But before the spacecraft links up with Bennu in 2018, it's been assigned a side project.
When the solar system was in its rebellious stage about 466 million years ago, two massive asteroids collided in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, sending tiny pieces of shrapnel flying all over the solar system. After examining bits of crystals that fell to Earth just before the collision, an international team of scientists has learned that space rocks that only enter our atmosphere rarely now were much more prevalent back in the day. And stuff from that big breakup is still raining down on us.
Earth has some battle scars from back in the day. When the solar system was still young and wild, roughly four billion years ago, Earth, its Moon and Mars were attacked by a series of asteroid assailants. It's long been assumed that the space rocks involved in the assault -- called the Late Heavy Bombardment -- are now floating around in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.