Current Planet News and Events

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Life from Earth could temporarily survive on Mars
German Aerospace Center scientists. The researchers launched these small lifeforms into Earth's stratosphere, which replicates key characteristics of the Martian environment, and found that some microorganisms, in particular spores of black mold, survived the trip. This new way of testing endurance to space travel will be invaluable for understanding the threats and opportunities of microbes in future missions to Mars. (2021-02-22)

The Milky Way may be swarming with planets with oceans and continents like here on Earth
According to a new study from the University of Copenhagen, Earth, Venus and Mars were created from small dust particles containing ice and carbon. The discovery opens up the possibility that the Milky Way may be filled with aquatic planets. (2021-02-22)

SwRI scientists image a bright meteoroid explosion in Jupiter's atmosphere
From aboard the Juno spacecraft, a Southwest Research Institute-led instrument observing auroras serendipitously spotted a bright flash above Jupiter's clouds last spring. The Ultraviolet Spectrograph (UVS) team studied the data and determined that they had captured a bolide, an extremely bright meteoroid explosion in the gas giant's upper atmosphere. (2021-02-22)

More than half of Earth's rivers strongly impacted by human activity
Few of Earth's freshwater areas remain untouched by humans. More than half of the planet's freshwater river basins have been heavily impacted by human activities, according to a new study, which presents a novel, multi-faceted approach for evaluating biodiversity change at a global scale. (2021-02-18)

On the quest for other Earths
An international research team with members from ETH has developed a new method for directly imaging smaller planets in the habitable zone of a neighbouring star system. This opens up new possibilities in the search for extraterrestrial life. (2021-02-17)

HKU planetary scientists discover evidence for a reduced atmosphere on ancient Mars
The transition from a reduced planet to an oxidized planet is referred to as the Great Oxidation Event or GOE. This transition was a central part of our planet's evolution, and fundamentally linked to the evolution of life here -- specifically to the prevalence of photosynthesis that produced oxygen. Planetary geologists at HKU have discovered that Mars underwent a great oxygenation event of its own -- billions of years ago, the red planet was not so red. (2021-02-16)

No new mountains formed during Earth's middle age, halting life's evolution for an eon
During the Proterozoic, Earth grew no taller - the tectonic processes that form mountains stalled, leaving continents devoid of high mountains for nearly 1 billion years, according to a new study. (2021-02-11)

A new method to search for potentially habitable planets
Imaging planets orbiting around nearby stars, which could potentially harbour life, has become a possibility thanks to the progress made in observational methods by an international team of astronomers, including Olivier Absil and Anne-Lise Maire, astrophysicists at the STAR Institute of ULiège. First candidate: Alpha Centauri, a system similar to ours, ''only'' 4.3 light years away. This study is the subject of a publication in the journal Nature Communications. (2021-02-10)

Astronomers confirm orbit of most distant object ever observed in our solar system
A team of astronomers, including associate professor Chad Trujillo of Northern Arizona University's Department of Astronomy and Planetary Science, have confirmed a planetoid that is almost four times farther from the Sun than Pluto, making it the most distant object ever observed in our solar system. (2021-02-10)

'Farfarout'! Solar system's most distant planetoid confirmed
Astronomers have confirmed a planetoid that is almost four times farther from the Sun than Pluto, making it the most distant object ever observed in our solar system. (2021-02-10)

Can super-Earth interior dynamics set the table for habitability?
New research led by Carnegie's Yingwei Fei provides a framework for understanding the interiors of super-Earths--rocky exoplanets between 1.5 and 2 times the size of our home planet--which is a prerequisite to assess their potential for habitability. Planets of this size are among the most abundant in exoplanetary systems. (2021-02-09)

A billion years in 40 seconds: video reveals our dynamic planet
New research has allowed geoscientists to show the uninterrupted movement of Earth's tectonic plates over the past billion years. (2021-02-08)

COVID-19 lockdowns temporarily raised global temperatures
The lockdowns and reduced societal activity related to the COVID-19 pandemic affected emissions of pollutants in ways that slightly warmed the planet for several months last year, according to new research led by NCAR. The counterintuitive finding highlights the influence of airborne particles, or aerosols, that block incoming sunlight. (2021-02-02)

Thick lithosphere casts doubt on plate tectonics in Venus's geologically recent past
A study of a giant impact crater on Venus suggests that its lithosphere was too thick to have had Earth-like plate tectonics, at least for much of the past billion years. (2021-01-28)

Global ice loss increases at record rate
The rate at which ice is disappearing across the planet is speeding up, according to new research. And the findings also reveal that the Earth lost 28 trillion tonnes of ice between 1994 and 2017 - equivalent to a sheet of ice 100 metres thick covering the whole of the UK. (2021-01-25)

NASA's Roman mission will probe galaxy's core for hot Jupiters, brown dwarfs
NASA's Roman Space Telescope will conduct a microlensing survey to reveal worlds that are similar to the planets in our solar system. Now, a new study shows that the same survey will also unveil more extreme planets and planet-like bodies in the heart of the galaxy, thanks to their gravitational tug on the stars they orbit. (2021-01-25)

The seven rocky planets of TRAPPIST-1 seem to have very similar compositions
A new international study led by astrophysicist Eric Agol from the University of Washington has measured the densities of the seven planets of the exoplanetary system TRAPPIST-1 with extreme precision, the values obtained indicating very similar compositions for all the planets. This fact makes the system even more remarkable and helps to better understand the nature of these fascinating worlds. This study has just been published in the Planetary Science Journal. (2021-01-22)

Astronomers discover first cloudless, Jupiter-like planet
Astronomers at the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian have detected the first Jupiter-like planet without clouds or haze in its observable atmosphere. The findings were published this month in the Astrophysical Journal Letters. (2021-01-21)

Saturn's tilt caused by its moons
Two scientists from CNRS and Sorbonne University working at the Institute of Celestial Mechanics and Ephemeris Calculation (Paris Observatory - PSL/CNRS) have just shown that the influence of Saturn's satellites can explain the tilt of the rotation axis of the gas giant. Their work, published on 18 January 2021 in the journal Nature Astronomy, also predicts that the tilt will increase even further over the next few billion years. (2021-01-20)

Oldest carbonates in the solar system
A meteorite that fell in northern Germany in 2019 contains carbonates which are among the oldest in the solar system; it also evidences the earliest presence of liquid water on a minute planet. The high-resolution Ion Probe - a research instrument at the Institute of Earth Sciences at Heidelberg University - provided the measurements. (2021-01-20)

Testing the waters: Analyzing different solid states of water on other planets and moons
Aside from regular ice, water can exist in the form of peculiar solids called clathrate hydrates, which trap small gaseous molecules. They play a large role in the evolution of atmospheres, but predicting their presence in cryogenic temperatures is difficult. In a recent study, scientists from Okayama University developed statistical mechanics theory to determine their presence in Pluto and some of Jupiter's and Saturn's satellites, providing valuable information to revise existing interpretations. (2021-01-19)

Mystery of Martian glaciers revealed
On Earth, glaciers covered wide swaths of the planet during the last Ice Age, which reached its peak about 20,000 years ago, before receding to the poles and leaving behind the rocks they pushed behind. On Mars, however, the glaciers never left, remaining frozen on the Red Planet's cold surface for more than 300 million years, covered in debris. (2021-01-19)

A 'super-puff' planet like no other
A Canadian-led team of astronomers discovers that the core mass of exoplanet WASP-107b is much lower than previously thought possible for a gas-giant planet. (2021-01-18)

New study of Earth's crust shows global growth spurt three billion years ago
Curtin University researchers have used ancient crystals from eroded rocks found in stream sediments in Greenland to successfully test the theory that portions of Earth's ancient crust acted as 'seeds' from which later generations of crust grew. (2021-01-12)

New work provides insight into the relationship between complexity and diversity
Parts of the planet that are diverse biologically and culturally are even more diverse than you'd expect. A group of Santa Fe Institute collaborators developed a theory to show why richer environments are also more complex environments, where you tend to find more species and languages. (2021-01-05)

Slow start of plate tectonics despite a hot early Earth
Writing in PNAS, scientists from Cologne university present important new constraints showing that plate tectonics started relatively slow, although the early Earth's interior was much hotter than today. (2020-12-22)

Fluvial mapping of Mars
It took fifteen years of imaging and nearly three years of stitching the pieces together to create the largest image ever made, the 8-trillion-pixel mosaic of Mars' surface. Now, the first study to utilize the image in its entirety provides unprecedented insight into the ancient river systems that once covered the expansive plains in the planet's southern hemisphere. (2020-12-22)

The upside of volatile space weather
Although stellar flares are typically viewed as a detriment to habitability, study shows ''life might still have a fighting chance.'' Researchers find that flares drive a planets atmospheric composition to a new chemical equilibrium. (2020-12-21)

Scientists and philosopher team up, propose a new way to categorize minerals
Minerals are the most durable, information-rich objects we can study to understand our planet's origin and evolution. However, the current classification system leaves unanswered questions for planetary scientists, geobiologists, paleontologists and others who strive to understand minerals' historical context. A new evolutionary approach to classifying minerals complements the existing protocols and offers the opportunity to rigorously document Earth's history. (2020-12-21)

The Subaru Telescope photographs the next target asteroid for Hayabusa2
On December 10, 2020 (Hawai?i Standard Time), the Subaru Telescope imaged the small asteroid 1998 KY26, the target of Hayabusa2's extended mission. The positional data for 1998 KY26 collected during the observations will be used to more accurately determine the orbital elements of this object. (2020-12-17)

Astronomers detect possible radio emission from exoplanet
By monitoring the cosmos with a radio telescope array, a Cornell University-led international team of scientists has detected radio bursts emanating from the constellation Boötes. The signal could be the first radio emission collected from a planet beyond our solar system. (2020-12-16)

Chance played a major role in keeping Earth fit for life
A study by the University of Southampton gives a new perspective on why our planet has managed to stay habitable for billions of years - concluding it is almost certainly due, at least in part, to luck. The research suggests this may shorten the odds of finding life on so-called 'twin-Earths' in the Universe. (2020-12-14)

Hubble pins down weird exoplanet with far-flung orbit
A planet in an unlikely orbit around a double star 336 light-years away may offer a clue to a mystery much closer to home: a hypothesized, distant body in our solar system dubbed 'Planet Nine.' (2020-12-10)

Exoplanet around distant star resembles reputed 'Planet Nine' in our solar system
Astronomers think planets can exist in orbits far from their star, and propose a two-step process: interactions with the star or inner planets kick it out of the inner system, and then a passing star stabilizes the orbit to keep it bound. Such a scenario could explain the hypothesized ''Planet Nine'' in our solar system. Astronomers has now confirmed that one binary star system, HD 106906, has a planet in a bound, highly eccentric orbit. (2020-12-10)

Hubble identifies strange exoplanet that behaves like the long-sought "Planet Nine"
The 11-Jupiter-mass exoplanet called HD106906 b occupies an unlikely orbit around a double star 336 light-years away and it may be offering clues to something that might be much closer to home: a hypothesized distant member of our Solar System dubbed ''Planet Nine.'' This is the first time that astronomers have been able to measure the motion of a massive Jupiter-like planet that is orbiting very far away from its host stars and visible debris disc. (2020-12-10)

Water on Mars not as widespread as previously thought, study finds
University of Arkansas scientists created planetwide maps of where water might be found on Mars. It is probably scarcer than previously thought, they concluded. (2020-12-10)

New study helps pinpoint when earth's plate subduction began
According to findings published Dec. 9 in the journal Science Advances, plate subduction could have started 3.75 billion years ago, reshaping Earth's surface and setting the stage for a planet hospitable to life. (2020-12-09)

Supercomputer simulations could unlock mystery of Moon's formation
Astronomers have taken a step towards understanding how the Moon might have formed out of a giant collision between the early Earth and another massive object 4.5 billion years ago. (2020-12-03)

Continents prone to destruction in their infancy, study finds
Monash University geologists have shed new light on the early history of the Earth through their discovery that continents were weak and prone to destruction in their infancy. (2020-12-02)

What will the climate be like when earth's next supercontinent forms?
The continents will reunite again in the deep future. And a new study, presented today during an online poster session at the meeting of the American Geophysical Union, suggests that the future arrangement of this supercontinent could dramatically impact the habitability and climate stability of Earth. The findings also have implications for searching for life on other planets. (2020-12-01)

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