Since their discovery ten years ago, fast radio bursts have confounded astronomers. These intergalactic pulses of radio energy have defied explanation, but a new theory suggests a technological origin, whereby aliens use these beams to propel their ships through space. Extremely speculative stuff, to be sure, but it’s an idea worth pursuing given just how weird these pulses are.
An international team of researchers say they’ve found fossils dating back to at least 3.77 billion years ago, making them the oldest fossils ever found on our planet. The discovery, though sure to attract scrutiny, has implications for our understanding of how life got started on Earth—and how it may have emerged elsewhere.
Less than a week ago, the citizens of Earth were introduced (technically, re-introduced) to a star system 39 light years away hosting seven Earth-sized exoplanets, three of which lie squarely in the habitable zone. As if that wasn’t exciting enough, researchers are now suggesting that a fourth of the TRAPPIST-1 planets might be habitable, too—if we stretch our imaginations a bit.
Rumors are flying that astronomers at the European Southern Observatory have discovered an Earth-like exoplanet in the habitable zone of Proxima Centauri, our nearest neighboring star. If confirmed, this is undeniably one of the biggest astronomical discoveries of the century.
Since the 1960s, the Drake Equation has been used to predict how many communicative extraterrestrial civilizations exist in the Milky Way galaxy. Along these same lines, a new formula seeks to estimate the frequency at which life emerges on a planet—a calculation that might allow us to figure out the likelihood of life arising elsewhere in the universe.
With Pluto millions of miles behind us and construction of the James Webb Space Telescope moving swiftly along, astronomers are already thinking about the Next Big Mission. At the top of their wish list? A forty foot-wide orbital telescope that’ll search for proof of life beyond Earth.
If you thought the Kepler spacecraft’s glory days were over, think again. Today at the 227th meeting of the American Astronomical Society, astronomers announced a whopping 234 new exoplanet candidates discovered by Kepler in 2014. The best part? All of them are just tens of light years away.