Astrobiology

Astrobiology is the study of life’s origins and how extraterrestrial life might develop on other planets in and beyond our solar system. These news stories will introduce you to all the various aspects of astrobiology. We cover everything from the chances of finding bacteria on Mars or in the subsurface oceans of Europa and Titan, to the characterization of habitable exoplanets, to the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) such as signals from advanced civilizations that might be broadcasting their existence. This field of study has no extraterrestrial subjects – yet! – but that’s not stopping researchers from investigating what kinds of alien life might be possible.

A Chaotic Planet-Forming Disk

A new map of Beta Pictoris reveals an asymmetric clump of carbon monoxide likely produced in cometary collisions. It provides a rare glimpse at the chaotic birth of a planetary system.

ancient volcano on Mars

Supervolcanoes on Mars

A new analysis of data from spacecraft orbiting the Red Planet suggests that gigantic calderas lie disguised on the planet’s surface. If the features are volcanoes, they could help explain the mysterious, fine-grain debris that coats Mars.

Archean Earth

A Fix for the “Faint Young Sun”

For 40 years astrobiologists have wrestled with how to make the early Earth warm enough to support life even though the young Sun was at least 30% fainter than it is now. New climate models, powered by supercomputers, are converging on a solution.

Mars "Sheepbed"

Habitable Oasis on Mars?

The results from the Curiosity rover's first rock-drilling are in: the rock formed in the presence of fairly neutral, not-too-salty water and has a chemical makeup that might have provided energy for microorganisms.

ice on Titan

Floating Ice on Titan?

Astronomers had thought that ice on the Saturnian moon's methane-ethane seas would sink. But a new study suggests that, if the right conditions are met, ice could actually float on this alien-Earth world.