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Out of this World

News from space and astronomy communities around the world.

Bringing the Building Blocks of Life Down to Earth

By David Reneke

Astronomers find more evidence for how life began in Earth, and send a greeting to a red dwarf with two habitable planets.

Where did we come from and how did we get here? How life began on Earth, roughly four billion years ago, is the eternal question and the basis for almost all of cosmology. New results from scientists at McMaster University and the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy suggest a key role for meteorites landing in warm little ponds, delivering essential organic molecules that kick-started the emergence of life in the shape of self-replicating RNA molecules.

Bringing Building Blocks of Life to Earth from Space

By David Reneke

New research supports the view that meteorites kickstarted life on Earth, and Australian astronomers have measured how a galaxy’s spin affects its shape.

How life began on Earth, roughly 4 billion years ago, is one of the great scientific questions. New results from scientists at McMaster University and the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy suggest a key role for meteorites landing in warm little ponds, delivering essential organic molecules that kickstarted the emergence of life in the shape of self-replicating RNA molecules.

Giant Comets Could Endanger Life on Earth

By David Reneke

Giant comets could endanger life on Earth, and there is new evidence of water in the Moon’s interior.

Astronomers have warned that the discovery of hundreds of giant comets in the outer planetary system over the past two decades make these objects a much greater hazard to life than asteroids. These centaurs appear as pinpricks of light in even the largest telescopes because they are so distant from the Earth.

Solar Storm Blackouts Could Cost $40 BIllion Daily

Illustration of events on the Sun changing the conditions in near-Earth space. Credit: NASA

Illustration of events on the Sun changing the conditions in near-Earth space. Credit: NASA

By David Reneke

Solar storm blackouts could cost $40 billion daily, and volunteers spot an exploded star that pre-dates the dinosaurs.

The American Geophysical Union has calculated that the daily US economic cost from solar storm-induced electricity blackouts could be in the tens of billions of dollars, with more than half the loss from indirect costs outside the blackout zone.

Mysterious Radio Bursts from Outer Space

By David Reneke

Fast radio bursts have been detected near Canberra, and now you can join the hunt for a ninth planet in our solar system.

The search for extraterrestrial intelligence has looked for many different signs of alien life, from radio broadcasts to laser flashes, without success. However, new speculative research suggests that the mysterious phenomena called “fast radio bursts” could be evidence of advanced alien technology. A big call? You bet!

Specifically, they say these FRBs might be leakage from planet-sized transmitters powering interstellar probes in distant galaxies. Pretty much like a solar sail I guess. Either way, FRBs present one of modern astronomy’s greatest mysteries.

Census Finds Universe Has Ten Times More Galaxies

By David Reneke

The universe has ten times more galaxies than previously thought, and the Earth may have had more than one moon.

Astronomers using data from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and other telescopes have performed an accurate census of the number of galaxies in the universe, and concluded that there are at least 10 times as many galaxies in the observable universe as previously thought. The results have clear implications for our understanding of galaxy formation, and also help solve an ancient astronomical paradox – why is the sky dark at night?

A Cool Theory about Galaxy Formation

By Dave Reneke

A surprising finding about galaxy formation, and the discovery of starspots on Proxima Centauri.

The surprise finding that giant galaxies may grow from cold gas that condenses as stars rather than forming in hot, violent mergers has been made with CSIRO and US radio telescopes by an international team including four CSIRO researchers.

The biggest galaxies are found at the hearts of clusters among huge swarms of galaxies. “Until now we thought these giants formed by small galaxies falling together and merging,” said Prof Ray Norris of CSIRO and Western Sydney University.

Our Solar System Expands

By David Reneke

A new dwarf planet has been identified in our solar system, and a new theory suggests that life on Earth may have developed prematurely from a cosmic perspective.

A team of scientists has identified a new member of our solar system, a dwarf planet lurking 13.6 billion km from the Sun. This new world, classified as 2014 UZ224, takes 1100 years to complete one orbit of the Sun, and could soon join the ranks of the five established dwarf planets in the solar system: Ceres, Eris, Haumea, Makemak, and, most famous of all, Pluto.

Was this a lucky find? Definitely not! There could be at least 100 more lurking in the Kuiper Belt, that mysterious region beyond the orbit of Neptune thought to be teeming with comets, asteroid and small planetary bodies.

Astronomers Pinpoint How Milky Way Was Formed

By Dave Reneke

Astronomers have produced the clearest picture yet of how our galaxy formed more than 13.5 billion years ago.

The world’s largest filled single dish radio telescope began operation in September, and it relies on a piece of Western Australian innovation. The telescope, known as FAST, uses a data system developed at the International Centre for Radio Astronomy (ICRAR) in Perth and the European Southern Observatory to manage the huge amounts of data it generates.

The Earth Had Two Moons

By Dave Rebeke

There’s evidence that the Earth once had two moons, while light pollution obscures the Milky Way from one-third of the population.

The Earth had two moons until one of them smacked into its big sister in what scientists from the University of California, Santa Cruz are calling “the big splat”. As a result, our planet is now overlooked by a single bulked-up and slightly lopsided Moon.

This all supposedly happened about 4.4 billion years ago, long before there was any life on Earth to appreciate the view.