China grew a plant on the moon — it sprouted two leaves, data indicates

It marks the first time a plant has been grown on the moon.

Image source: Chongqing University
  • In January, China became the first nation to land a spacecraft on the far side of the moon.
  • Chang'e-4 lunar rover carried among its payload a small biosphere that housed six lifeforms, including cotton seeds.
  • Using data from that biosphere experiment, researchers constructed a digital image of the cotton plant that reveals it grew two leaves before dying from the cold.
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Could Earth have a 'shadow' biosphere?

Some scientists think there may be a hidden, second form of life living right under our noses.

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  • All life on Earth shares some basic characteristics, such as being carbon-based; using DNA, RNA, and proteins to function; and so on.
  • Many of these characteristics are simply the only ones that could work in Earth's environment, but there are also a surprising number of seemingly arbitrary features of life.
  • Under the shadow biosphere theory, some scientists argue that alternative forms of life exist right here on Earth, undetected simply because we don't know to look for them.
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Water discovered on exoplanet K2-18b in 'Goldilocks Zone'

Scientists say it might even rain on the exoplanet, dubbed K2-18b.

  • Two new studies, from independent teams of researchers, say that it's extremely likely that the exoplanet's atmosphere contains water vapor.
  • Scientists are able to make these kinds of determinations by pointing telescopes at distant stars and measuring subtle changes in light as exoplanets pass in front of the star.
  • Scientists will likely get a better look at K2-18b when NASA launches the powerful James Webb Space Telescope in 2021.
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Crashed Israeli lunar lander could have spilled 'water bears' on moon

Tardigrades – commonly called "water bears" – were among the payload of an Israeli lunar lander that crashed into the moon in April.

  • An Israeli spacecraft carrying tiny animals called tardigrades crashed onto the moon in April.
  • It's unclear whether humans would be able to revive the tardigrades, which were in a dehydrated state.
  • Tardigrades have a unique protein that enables them to survive intense levels of radiation.
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TESS satellite identifies nearby, potentially habitable super-Earth

We may find signs of life a mere 31 light-years away.

NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/Tim Pyle
  • The TESS satellite recently identified a nearby super-Earth sitting in the habitable zone of its star.
  • TESS isn't equipped to make the sensitive measurements necessary to characterize the planet's atmosphere, but models suggest the planet could have running water, a major indicator that it can host life.
  • The upcoming James Webb Space Telescope will be able to look at this planet in greater detail and assess whether life exists on it or not.
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