Tag Archives | Earth

Our Planet Is Among the First of Many, Many Earths

G. Bacon / NASA / ESA

G. Bacon / NASA / ESA

A new study finds that many more “Earths” are on the way.

Adrienne LaFrance via The Atlantic:

Throughout the universe, trapped in the halos of dark matter, there is enough planet-making material to create at least 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 more Earth-like planets. A billion trillion of them. In the Milky Way alone, that would mean another 5 billion Earth-like planets over time.

That’s according to new research by astronomers at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, whose findings suggest that Earth, and the life it supports, is only among the first in a massive sprawl of potentially habitable planets that will eventually form in the universe.

“We show that this would imply at least a 92 percent chance that we are not the only civilization the universe will ever have,” wrote Peter Behroozi and Molly Peeples, whose conclusions are drawn from a mix of Hubble and Kepler data.

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Life on Earth likely started 4.1 billion years ago, much earlier than scientists thought

Carbon in 4.1 billion year old zircon. Credit: Stanford/UCLA.

Carbon in 4.1 billion year old zircon.
Credit: Stanford/UCLA.

UCLA via ScienceDaily:

UCLA geochemists have found evidence that life likely existed on Earth at least 4.1 billion years ago — 300 million years earlier than previous research suggested. The discovery indicates that life may have begun shortly after the planet formed 4.54 billion years ago.

The research is published today in the online early edition of the journalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Twenty years ago, this would have been heretical; finding evidence of life 3.8 billion years ago was shocking,” said Mark Harrison, co-author of the research and a professor of geochemistry at UCLA.

“Life on Earth may have started almost instantaneously,” added Harrison, a member of the National Academy of Sciences. “With the right ingredients, life seems to form very quickly.”

The new research suggests that life existed prior to the massive bombardment of the inner solar system that formed the moon’s large craters 3.9 billion years ago.

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Core Finding: Earth’s Frozen Center Formed a Billion Years Ago

"Jordens inre-numbers" by Original Mats Halldin Vectorization: Chabacano - . Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

Jordens inre-numbers” by Original Mats Halldin Vectorization: Chabacano – . Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

New research found that Earth’s inner core of solid iron “formed between 1 billion and 1.5 billion years ago.”

Tia Ghose via Live Science:

What’s more, the new findings suggest that Earth’s magnetic field, which is powered by the swirling flow of liquid iron surrounding the inner core, could continue going strong for quite a while, said study co-author Andy Biggin, a paleomagnetism researcher at the University of Liverpool in England. (Paleomagnetism is the study of the record of the Earth’s magnetic field in rocks, sediment or archaeological materials.)

“The theoretical model which best fits our data indicates that the core is losing heat more slowly than at any point in the last 4.5 billion years and that this flow of energy should keep the Earth’s magnetic field going for another billion years or more,” Biggin said in a statement.

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No “Mini Ice Age” after all?

Screen shot 2015-07-15 at 9.58.21 AM

Montage of images of solar activity between August 1991 and September 2001. (Yohkoh/ISAS/Lockheed-Martin/NAOJ/U. Tokyo/NASA)

Sarah Kaplan via The Washington Post:

“Scientists warn the sun will ‘go to sleep’ in 2030 and could cause temperatures to plummet,” blared one headline from this weekend.

“Earth heading for ‘mini ice age’ within 15 years,” warned another.

By Sunday evening, news that the Earth could be headed for a period of bitter cold was trending on Facebook and whizzing across Twitter. The story — which has been reported everywhere from conservative blogs to the Britishpress to the Weather Channel to the Huffington Post — was based on a recent presentation at the Royal Astronomical Society’s national meeting. Researchers studying sunspots found that solar activity is due to decline dramatically in the next few decades, reaching levels not seen since the 17th century, during a period known as the Maunder minimum. Back then, the decline coincided with what’s called the “Little Ice Age,” when Europe’s winters turned brutally cold, crops failed and rivers froze over.

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200 billion worlds like Earth in our galaxy


New calculations says there could be billions of habitable worlds in our Galaxy. Photo Credit: ANU


Gary Jones via Sunday Express:

A NEW study by planetary scientists have calculated that there could be hundreds of billions of Earth-like planets in our galaxy which might support life.

The new estimates are based on applying a 200 year-old idea to the thousands of exo-planets discovered by the Kepler space telescope, which found the standard star has about two Earth-like planets in orbit.

These two planets can be found in the so-called ‘goldilocks zone’, named for the correct distance from the star where liquid water, crucial for life, can exist.

Researchers from the Australian National University applied the 200 year-old Titius-Bode relation, which predicts a planet’s existence based on their sequence orbiting around a sun.

It has already been used to predict the existence of planets in our own Solar System and by looking at a system where it was known to hold three or more planets, detected by the Kepler space telescope, the team worked out two planets exist in the goldilock zone of each star.

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Much of Earth’s Water Is Older Than the Sun

Planets form in the presence of abundant interstellar water inherited as ices from the parent molecular cloud. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt (SSC-Caltech)/ESO/J. Emerson/VISTA/Cambridge Astronomical Survey Unit

Planets form in the presence of abundant interstellar water inherited as ices from the parent molecular cloud.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt (SSC-Caltech)/ESO/J. Emerson/VISTA/Cambridge Astronomical Survey Unit.

via Live Science:

Much of the water on Earth and elsewhere in the solar system likely predates the birth of the sun, a new study reports.

The finding suggests that water is commonly incorporated into newly forming planets throughout the Milky Way galaxy and beyond, researchers said — good news for anyone hoping that Earth isn’t the only world to host life.

“The implications of our study are that interstellar water-ice remarkably survived the incredibly violent process of stellar birth to then be incorporated into planetary bodies,” study lead author Ilse Cleeves, an astronomy Ph.D. student at the University of Michigan, told Space.com via email. [7 Theories on the Origin of Life]

“If our sun’s formation was typical, interstellar ices, including water, likely survive and are a common ingredient during the formation of all extrasolar systems,” Cleeves added.

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The Anthropocene: It’s Not All About Us

260px-The_Earth_seen_from_Apollo_17Richard Heinberg writes at the Earth Island Journal:

Time to celebrate! Woo-hoo! It’s official: we humans have started a new geological epoch – the Anthropocene. Who’d have thought that just one species among millions might be capable of such an amazing accomplishment?

Let’s wait to stock up on party favors, though. After all, the Anthropocene could be rather bleak. The reason our epoch has acquired a new name is that future geologists will be able to spot a fundamental discontinuity in the rock strata that document our little slice of time in Earth’s multi-billion year pageant. This discontinuity will be traceable to the results of human presence. Think climate change, ocean acidification, and mass extinction.

Welcome to the Anthropocene: A world that may feature little in the way of multi-cellular ocean life other than jellyfish, and one whose continents might be dominated by a few generalist species able to quickly occupy new and temporary niches as habitats degrade (rats, crows, and cockroaches come to mind).

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El Niño Temporarily Slows The Earth’s Rotation

El Niño is coming for your gravity!

via How El Niño temporarily slows the Earth’s rotation | Ars Technica.

Above the surface, there are fluids that can move independently of the Earth, like the atmosphere. That motion can actually apply a torque that acts to speed up or slow down the Earth’s rotation. The El Niño Southern Oscillation is a major source of year-to-year variability in Earth’s average surface temperature and, it turns out, its rotational velocity. During La Niña conditions, the winds conspire to push warm surface water in the Eastern Pacific westward, bringing cooler water up to the surface. Conversely, during an El Niño, the warm surface water extends to the eastern side of the Pacific, keeping a lid on the cool water beneath. This difference has a large effect on atmospheric circulation patterns.

It has been known for a while that this manages to slightly alter the Earth’s rotation, but University of La Rochelle researcher Olivier de Viron and Jean Dickey of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory set out to study how two slightly different flavors of El Niño compare.

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1 In 4 Americans Does Not Believe That The Earth Revolves Around The Sun

planet earthVia NPR, a quarter of Americans know not to trust scientists and their Earth-sun rotation hoax:

A quarter of Americans surveyed could not correctly answer that the Earth revolves around the sun and not the other way around, according to a report out Friday from the National Science Foundation.

The survey of 2,200 people in the United States was conducted by the NSF in 2012 and released on Friday at an annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Chicago.

In the same survey, just 39 percent answered correctly (true) that “The universe began with a huge explosion” and only 48 percent said “Human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals.”

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