Comet and asteroid barrage may have given Martian life a leg-up
Where Earth nurtured life, Mars (as far as we know) has not. But a seemingly destructive event some four billion years ago may have given Martian life the boost it needed.
New gravity map gives us a glimpse inside Mars
Data from three orbiting NASA spacecraft give us an unprecedented picture of the Red Planet.
What’s behind Titan’s mysterious bright ‘magic island’?
Eight years of Cassini photography has uncovered a strange region brightening and growing on Saturn’s largest moon.
How to send a satellite abroad and prepare it for launch
When a satellite is built in France but launched in Russia, moving it can be a logistical nightmare. But European weather satellite Sentinel-3A made that trip, which involved planes, trains and automobiles … and, of course, a rocket. Belinda smith tracks its progress.
Not all trees are equal in the fight against carbon
Europe’s replacement forests aren’t half as good at cooling the planet as the old broad-leafed variety.
Growing microflowers in the lab
These microscopic blooms could boost solar and sensor technologies.
Maths confirms Pluto’s not a planet
A new formula seeks to define a planet. As Rick Lovett reports, 99% of the exoplanets found so far qualify, but Pluto does not.
Did a missing trace element trigger mass extinctions?
Selenium shortages coincide with species collapse.
Dark matter uncovered
Most of the matter in the Universe consists of stuff we can’t see. It is dubbed “dark matter” and we know it must be out there. Without dark matter rapidly spinning galaxies (such as those circled, above) would not have sufficient gravitational glue to hold their stars and gas clouds together. These elements would fly off into space instead, like rain drops on a spinning bicycle wheel. What might this ghostly, galaxy glue be made of? Nobody knows. But in 2006 astronomers got a new clue.
A new way of defining temperature?
Atoms wriggle – they can’t help themselves. And the warmer they are, the faster they writhe. By using lasers to measure how fast atoms of the element caesium zip around a vacuum chamber, Australian scientists have shown they can calculate the sample’s temperature. The super-accurate technique could be adopted as the basis of a new definition for the standard unit of temperature, the Kelvin.