Why humanity owes a lot to Jupiter

Our friendly neighborhood gas giant serves as a cosmic catcher's mitt.

NASA
  • In 1994, a comet struck Jupiter, exploding on the gas giant's surface in an incredibly violent fireball.
  • Such collisions are not uncommon for Jupiter. What is uncommon, however, are solar systems with planets like Jupiter.
  • Without Jupiter, life on Earth might have been obliterated by comets and asteroids before it even got a chance to begin. The fact that Jupiter-like planets are so rare might be one of the reasons why we haven't found intelligent life yet.
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Where might we find aliens? Ice moons, methane oceans, and the red planet

We may not find Klingons, but what we do find will blow our terrestrial minds.

  • Want to place a bet on when we'll discover alien life? NASA's Michelle Thaller thinks it'll be within the next 50 years.
  • "I actually have a bottle of champagne chilling because I think it could happen almost any day, when some of our rovers or some of our satellites around other planets come back with really interesting data," says Thaller.
  • What will our first proof of alien life be like? Most likely microbial, but even those microbes will reveal so much: Does it have DNA? Is it similar to us? Is it different from us? How else can life evolve? These questions—and answers—will change our view of the universe forever.

Earth used to be purple, new NASA study shows

NASA research finds a new direction in searching for signs of life in the Universe.

  • NASA-funded research says retinal, not chlorophyll, gave the early Earth its color
  • The two pigments co-evolved but retinal came first
  • We should be looking for retinal-based life throughout the Universe
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Oxford Scientists Make a More Accurate Prediction of What Aliens Look Like

Astrobiologists took a novel view and used evolutionary processes as their guide.

Credit: The International Journal of Astrobiology.

Artists, science fiction writers, and others have offered varying speculations about what life might be like on other planets. In the earliest days this focus was on Martians and “men on the moon.” The grays are the iteration we’re most familiar with, you know the stereotypical gray-skinned alien with the elongated head and black, soulless eyes. Ridley Scott, George Lucas, Stephen Spielberg, and so many others have offered their own, unique visions.

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