2020
October
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Astronomers are searching for the super planet

Again and again, astronomers proudly present exoplanets that would be suitable for life as we know it – i.e. made of solid rock and illuminated by their stars in such a way that water exists on their surface in a liquid state. But is our home planet really ideal for the development of life? After all, when the sun was still young and shone with a third less power, it was still quite cold here until CO2 finally created a greenhouse effect.

A study under the direction of the scientist Dirk Schulze Makuch of the Washington State University and the Technical University of Berlin, which was published recently in the magazine Astrobiology, therefore now describes characteristics of potential “overhabitable” planets, to which also those belong, that are older, somewhat larger, somewhat warmer and possibly more humid than Earth. Life could also more easily flourish on planets orbiting slower changing stars with longer lifetimes than our Sun.

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Fresh frozen items delivered to Enceladus’s north pole too

No, unfortunately nobody’s opened a new Ben and Jerry’s on Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus. Not yet, at least. But a new paper just published in the magazine, Icarus, shows again just how valuable the images are from the joint NASA-ESA mission Cassini, even years after the probe was intentionally crashed into Saturn. Specifically, Cassini also delivered the most detailed global infrared images ever taken of Saturn’s moon Enceladus. Combined with photos of Cassini’s other cameras, they provide convincing evidence that the northern hemisphere of the moon is covered with relatively fresh ice from its interior.

The scientists that were part of the Cassini mission discovered in 2005 that enormous geysers of ice particles and vapor are shooting out from an ocean beneath its icy crust. The new spectral map shows that infrared signals can be clearly correlated with this geological activity that can be easily seen at its south pole. There, ice and vapor from the liquid interior are being ejected out in the so-called “tiger stripes.”

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