"The search for alien life has recently taken a surprise twist away from Mars and toward Europa, an ice ball of a moon in orbit around Jupiter. To understand why, you just need to look at these three numbers: Zero 1.33 billion 3 billion.... [more inside]
With the discovery of life beneath the Ross Ice Shelf, the abundance of water in our solar system and a huge salty ocean under Ganymede's ice, scientists are rethinking the possibilities of life on other worlds.
We know space is big, but trying to understand how big is tricky. Say you stare up at the sky and identify stars and constellations in a virtual planetarium, you can't quite fathom how far away all those stars are (previously, twice). Even if you could change your point of view and zoom around in space to really see 100,000 nearby stars (autoplaying ambient music, and there are actually 119,617 stars mapped in 3D space), it's still difficult to get a sense of scale. There's this static image of various items mapped on a log scale from XKCD (previously), and an interactive horizontal journey down from the sun to the heliosphere with OMG Space (previously). You can get a bit more dynamic with this interactive Scale of the Universe webpage (also available in with some variants, if you want the sequel [ previously, twice], the swirly, gravity-optional version that takes some time to load, and the wrong version [previously]), but that's just for the scale of objects, not of space itself. If you want to get spaced out, imagine if If the Moon Were Only 1 Pixel, and travel from there (previously). This past March, BBC Future put out a really big infographic, which also takes a moment to load, but then you can see all sorts of things, from the surface of Earth out to the edge of our solar system.
Holly Johnson returns with a new album (his first in 15 years) later this month. In And Out Of Love is the second single from the album. [more inside]
NASA's 2015 budget request has been released (PDF, OMB Summary), with an interesting mission study : $15 million to look at a unmanned mission to Jupiter's moon Europa. Why Europa? It may have more water than Earth, sloshing around under a thick ice, which makes it a major contender for harboring life. Don't get too excited just yet though. The mission would't launch until around 2025 and would arrive in Jupiter's orbit in the early 2030s. That's a long way off, but a particular US Congressman really wants this mission to happen.
If the Moon Were Only 1 Pixel is a tediously accurate model of the Solar System that Josh Worth made to explain to his daughter just how difficult it is to go on holiday to Mars.
Let's take another look at Chris Wayan's PLANETOCOPIA (previously): A series of detailed conceptions and paintings of vastly different Earths based on differing climates and land mass position. A planet designed to speed up East-West cvilization development! A life-bearing super hot world! An Earth with most of the seas missing! Forever Ice Age Earth! [more inside]
One of my favorite blogs happens to be local to me. Eric Berger, the Houston Chronicle's "SciGuy" usually reports on the weather. But he also posts entertaining and serious stuff as well. [more inside]
The Ice Fracture Explorer is Joseph Shoer's concept for an unmanned expedition into the oceans of Europa. [via]
NASA's MESSENGER team (previously: 1, 2, 3), with help from the U.S. Geological Survey, released yesterday the first global map of the planet Mercury. [more inside]
At least three million tons of fishlike creatures could theoretically live and breathe on Europa, according to Professor Richard Greenberg of the University of Arizona in Tucson. Greenberg recently presented his findings to the Division for Planetary Sciences, American Astronomical Society (PDF, Google quick view). Greenberg has written about potential life on Europa before, but his recent calculations suggest that the concentrations of oxygen would be great enough to support not only microorganisms, but also more complex animal-like organisms which have greater oxygen demands. [more inside]
Blood Falls - The iron rich red liquid gushing from a buried Antarctica lake shows how life may have existed on a snowball Earth, or on Europa.
Europa Film Treasures is a new window onto the film archivers of Europe, and "All genres are on the playbill! From comedy to science fiction, from westerns to animation, from erotic to ethnological movies..." take some time to explore the European side of carefully preserved film history.
NASA's 2003 budget cancels the Europa and Pluto missions. Instead it seeks to produce nuclear powered propulsion. I am sad about the Europa and Pluto missions, I was really looking forward to those, but I am intrigued by the prospect of nuclear propulsion in space.
Euro the new European currency is now official in 12 European countries. In Crete the ancient home of Europa who was a Kings daughter abducted by Zeus, Europa gave Zeus 3 sons and he in turn promised to name a continent after her. Now Europa has a currency as well. In Italy it may not mean love but it does mean cheaper sex. Tonight the ATMs are restocked and even Monopoly money is reprinted.
Interesting hypothesis that Europa's seas are swimming with bacteria. Preliminary results show that all three species, the ordinary gut bacteria Escherichia coli, and extremophiles Deinococcus radiodurans and Sulfolobus shibatae, are just as good at explaining Europa's IR spectrum as the [magnesium sulphate] salts.