Sky and Telescope 28 Aug 2019, 17:47 UTC For the last 20 years, scientists have been trying to determine if the Martian atmosphere contains methane. The presence of the molecule could reveal processes happening belowground, such as chemical reactions between liquid water and iron-rich minerals or even microbial activity. However, orbiters and even the Curiosity rover have provided conflicting measurements as to whether the gas is present at all.
New Scientist 27 Aug 2019, 16:54 UTC Jupiter has 79 known moons, and now five more of them have official names. In July 2018, Scott Sheppard at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington DC and his colleagues announced that they had found 12 new moons orbiting Jupiter. Five of those small moons have now been officially named by the International Astronomical Union (IAU).
Centauri Dreams 27 Aug 2019, 14:40 UTC We usually talk about habitability in binary form — either a planet is habitable or it is not, defining the matter with a ‘habitable zone’ in which liquid water could exist on the surface. Earth is, of course, the gold standard, for we haven’t detected life on any other world.
Bad Astronomy 27 Aug 2019, 13:00 UTC I do love pictures of Jupiter. Besides the awesome gorgeousity of the planet, there is something even cooler about seeing high-resolution images of an object I've seen myself through the eyepiece literally hundreds of times. Details just barely hinted at by eye become huge vistas from bigger 'scopes, and giant storms normally dwindled by vast distance suddenly pop into existence.
Universe Today 26 Aug 2019, 19:31 UTC When searching for potentially habitable exoplanets, scientists are forced to take the low-hanging fruit approach. Since Earth is the only planet we know of that is capable of supporting life, this search basically comes down to looking for planets that are “Earth-like”. But what if Earth is not the meter stick for habitability that we all tend to think it is?
Centauri Dreams 26 Aug 2019, 16:39 UTC Because Europa Clipper has been on my mind, what with the confirmation of its next mission phase (see Europa Clipper Moves to Next Stage), we need to continue to keep the mission in context. What is playing out is a deepening of our initial reconnaissance of the Jovian system, and the JUICE mission (Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer) is a significant part of that overall effort. The European Space Agency has the spacecraft under development, with Airbus Defence and Space as the primary contractor.
Starts With a Bang! 26 Aug 2019, 14:01 UTC Jupiter’s Great Red Spot has been around for longer, but Saturn’s periodic storms are far larger.
Physics World Blog 26 Aug 2019, 10:44 UTC New insights into mechanisms that govern the formation of stars in galaxies have been gleaned by Peter Behroozi at the University of Arizona and colleagues in the US. This was done using the team’s UniverseMachine simulation framework, which generates millions of mock universes that evolve according to different rules of star formation. By comparing these universes to observations of the real thing, the scientists can work out which rules are correct.