Ancient Mars featured flowing rivers and sizable lakes — but that doesn't mean the Red Planet definitely could have supported life, one prominent researcher stresses.
The presence of liquid water is just one of many factors that researchers need to take into account when investigating the past or present habitability of Mars or any other cosmic body, astrobiologist and mineralogist Pamela Conrad wrote in a "Perspectives" piece published online on Dec. 11 in the journal Science.
"The things that make a place livable are numerous, and sometimes, there's a showstopper you didn't think of," Conrad, deputy principal investigator for the Sample Analysis at Mars instrument aboard NASA's Curiosity rover, told SPACE.com. "So it's important to take a poll of the diversity of attributes that could contribute to making an environment livable or not."
"Planet X" might actually exist — and so might "Planet Y."
At least two planets larger than Earth likely lurk in the dark depths of space far beyond Pluto, just waiting to be discovered, a new analysis of the orbits of "extreme trans-Neptunian objects" (ETNOs) suggests.
Researchers studied 13 ETNOs — frigid bodies such as the dwarf planet Sedna that cruise around the sun at great distances in elliptical paths.
"if it had hit, we would still be picking up the pieces," said daniel baker, of the laboratory for atmospheric and space physics at the university of Colorado. "i have come away from our recent studies more convinced than ever that Earth and its inhabitants were incredibly fortunate that the 2012 eruption happened when it did. if the eruption had occurred only one week earlier, Earth would have been in the line of fire."
with colleagues from nasa and other universities, baker has been studying the disaster that wasn't. if the coronal mass ejection (cme) had hit the Earth, it would have disabled "everything that plugs into a wall socket".
there would have been major disruption to all satellite communications and electrical fluctuations that could have blown out transformers in power grids. most people wouldn't have been able to turn on a tap or flush a toilet because urban water supplies largely rely on electricity.
The star, HD 162826, was identified by Ivan Ramirez and his team at the University of Texas at Austin. It's located 110 light-years away in the constellation Hercules, is about 15% more massive than our sun, and is not visible to the naked eye.
Ramirez's team was able to match this star to our own by following up on 30 possible candidates. The astronomers used high-resolution spectroscopy to get a better understanding of the chemical make-up of these stars. In addition, they analyzed the orbits of these candidates, namely where they have been and where they are going in the paths around the center of the Milky Way.