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Iapetus Mystery Moon Solved

Iapetus, that black-and-white moon orbiting Saturn that has mystified astronomers for 338 years, may finally be understood.  The dark material did come from outside – not inside.  The exogenic theory has won.  It’s been coated with dust from outer moons, but that’s not all: uneven heating has moved the ice around on the surface, accentuating […]

Comparative Legacies of Two Rocket Pioneers

Wernher von Braun developed rockets in Germany that were used by the Nazis, then came to America, became an American citizen, and pioneered the American space program, including landing man on the moon.  Qian Xuesen developed rockets in America then moved to China, where he joined the Communist Party and pioneered the Chinese space program […]

Comets Didn’t Bring Earth’s Oceans

So much for the “water balloon” theory of how Earth got its oceans.  A new study by Belgian planetary scientists pretty much rules out comets as the source of our planet’s abundant water.  Their results are published in this month’s Icarus.1     “The origin of water on Earth is still puzzling,” they began.  Our […]

How to Name a Protoplanet

Pallas has long been classified as an asteroid, but all of a sudden in the news media, everyone is calling it a protoplanet.  How did it get promoted?     The picture being painted of asteroid 2 Pallas is that of a planetary building block that failed in its attempt to grow into another real […]

Giant Backward Ring Found Around Saturn

Saturn has a newly-discovered ring to add to its decor – the largest of all.  It’s so big, it makes Saturn look like a speck in the middle of it.  The ring, located at the orbit of the small outer moon Phoebe, is inclined 27 degrees and revolves backwards around Saturn.  This was announced today […]

Outer Limits Not Lively

One of the “cosmic coincidences” cited in the intelligent-design treatise The Privileged Planet1 is the “galactic habitable zone” – a fairly narrow region of the galaxy where planets can form and exist safely.  The outer regions of the galaxy were described as lacking the heavy elements necessary for planet formation.     Score one for […]

Mars Red-Faced Without Water

The Martians are singing How dry I am.  Scientists have a new explanation for how Mars turned red without water: it’s just dry dust tumbling in the wind.  This new hypothesis was announced by Live Science, Science Daily, New Scientist, and Space.com, based on a presentation at the European Planetary Science Congress last week.1    […]

Earth Size Gives Life Edge

The earth seems to be holding onto its status as a privileged planet.  New Scientist reported that a rocky planet’s size is linked to its ability to sustain a magnetic field and plate tectonics.  This means that some of the “super-earths” found around other stars (5-10 times the size of earth) may not be habitable.  […]

Milking the Martian Meteorite

One would think everything has been told about ALH 84001, the Martian meteorite that made a splash in 1996 with claims it contained fossils of living organisms.  That claim was essentially discarded in subsequent years.  Its major contribution was giving life to a new science called astrobiology and energizing NASA’s Mars program.  Now, a new […]

What’s Up With the Planets?

Here are planets and moons making news in our celestial neighborhood, the solar system.  Maybe we’ll drop in on another neighborhood while we’re looking around. Venus resurfacing:  Planetary geologists can’t get away from the evidence that Venus underwent a planet-wide volcanic resurfacing epoch.  Crater counts and lava flow surveys leave little room for doubt that, […]

Planet-Makers Ask Miracles to Evade Death Spiral

Remember the old artwork of planets gently forming out of dust orbiting a young star?  That’s all gone.  Reality has set it.  Clumps of material a meter across need help – almost miraculous help – to avoid getting sucked into the star in a giant death spiral.  If you don’t believe it, ask John Chambers […]

Faint Young Sun Paradox Resolved

For decades, astronomers and geologists have worried about a paradox.  Stellar evolution theory claims sunlight on the early earth would have been 20-30% dimmer than it is today, but geology shows the oceans were liquid in the earliest (Archean) rocks.  For that matter, so does the book of Genesis, but that record is not usually […]

Comet-Ocean Theory Gets Another Splash

National Geographic News gave some halfway-enthusiastic press to another recurrence of a theory that circulates from time to time – that earth got its ocean water from comets.  They gave air time to work by Uffe Jorgensen and a team from the Niels Bohr Institute in Denmark that concludes “comets were the culprits” in the […]

Mars Looks More Hostile to Life

The methane Mars produces gets destroyed rapidly.  This is leading some planetary scientists to get depressed about the possibility of finding life there.     The BBC News, Space.com and New Scientist all reported on the paper in Nature,1 saying this represents bad news for life.  In models by Franck Lefevre and Francois Forget, patterns […]

Salting News with the L Word Life

Small amounts of sodium were detected in ice particles erupting from Saturn’s moon Enceladus.  Deduction: this might lower the melting point of underground ice, forming subsurface pockets of liquid water – perhaps an ocean.  Conclusion: Life!  It doesn’t matter that Enceladus has no other factors conducive to life than water, or that salt is generally […]
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