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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MIT scientists propose giant laser beacon to attract alien attention

The concept was likened to a porch light in our little neighborhood of the galaxy.

Image: MIT News
  • It could be the thing that makes an intelligent alien civilization stop and look at us further
  • It's surprisingly not all that difficult to accomplish; a 100-foot diameter primary mirror and 1 to 2 megawatt laser is about what it takes.
  • The idea is to create a noticeable anomaly, rather than trying to directly target anything. But hold on a second... should we do this?
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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.

NASA’s new podcast series takes you to Mars

Follow along as the InSight spacecraft crosses millions of miles to the red planet.

  • NASA's new 8-episode podcast series, On a Mission, is a ride-along for its InSight mission to Mars.
  • InSight will look beneath the Martian surface for a deeper understanding of its composition and history.
  • Each episode makes for a compelling half hour of listening.
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Confirmed: The Milky Way's monstrous black hole

A young star and a belt of gasses give the game away.

(Triff/ESO/Big Think)
  • Scientists have provided the first confirmation that what's at the center of the Milky Way is a supermassive black hole.
  • The discovery caught the interaction of gasses and a small star spinning around the mysterious object.
  • This is thought to be compelling proof of the black hole's central role in a galaxy.
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