NASA Planning Trip to Europa

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NASA Planning Trip to Europa
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Astronomers believe the rough, icy surface of Jupiter's moon, Europa, is the most likely place in the solar system to harbour alien life.

Now Nasa has set aside £14.6 million ($25 million) to design probes that could reveal whether Europa is, in fact, habitable.

The agency yesterday asked scientists to come forward with potential experiments for a Europa probe that could be launched in the 2020s and arrive at the icy satellite within three years of take-off.

Finding Life on Other Planets

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Finding Life on Other Planets
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Scientists looking for signs of life in the universe -- as well as another planet like our own -- are a lot closer to their goal than people realize.

That was the consensus of a panel on the search for life in the universe held at NASA headquarters Monday in Washington. The discussion focused not only on the philosophical question of whether we're alone in the universe but also on the technological advances made in an effort to answer that question.

"We believe we're very, very close in terms of technology and science to actually finding the other Earth and our chance to find signs of life on another world," said Sara Seager, a MacArthur Fellow and professor of planetary science and physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Mysterious Radio Signals From Space!

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Mysterious Radio Signals From Space!
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One of the world's great radio telescopes isn't hearing voices – for the first time another giant dish has picked up one of the mysterious "fast radio bursts" (FRBs) that have been puzzling astronomers at the Parkes Radio Telescope. The find confirms these bursts indeed come from outer space, but beyond that their source is still wide open.

Last year the astronomers reported four bursts picked up by the celebrated Australian telescope. As each FRB lasted around a millisecond there was no time to have other telescopes check the same location, and the fact that no other telescope had picked up anything similar raised the possibility that something local was interfering with the Parkes telescope.

Now, however The Astrophysical Journal reports that the 305m Arecibo Telescope has picked up a similar burst while searching for pulsars. The burst occurred in 2012, but not noticed at the time. "FRB 121102's brightness, duration, and the inferred event rate are all consistent with the properties of the previously detected Parkes bursts," the authors report.

Could Titan Be Older Than Saturn?

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Could Titan Be Older Than Saturn?
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The hint comes in the form of a ratio. All elements have a certain number of known isotopes — variants of that element with the same number of protons that differ in their number of neutrons. The ratio of one isotope to another isotope is a crucial diagnostic tool.

In planetary atmospheres and surface materials, the amount of one isotope relative to another isotope is closely tied to the conditions under which materials form. Any change in the ratio will allow scientists to deduce an age for that material...

"When we looked closely at how this ratio could evolve with time, we found that it was impossible for it to change significantly," Mandt said in a press release. "Titan's atmosphere contains so much nitrogen that no process can significantly modify this tracer even given more than four billion years of Solar System history."