Billion-year-old Mars sand dunes let scientists peek into planet’s windy past

The HiRise camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter snapped these dune fields in Valles Marineris. They’re estimated to be a billion years old


NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

Mars has a roughly 4.5-billion-year history. Thanks to our robotic explorers, we have a good sense of its current climate and atmosphere. A new study of ancient sand dunes points to what it might have been like a billion years ago on the red planet. 

A team led by Planetary Science Institute (PSI) research scientist Matthew Chojnacki took a close look a wind-driven dune fields in Valles Marineris, an area of Mars known for its extensive canyons. The dunes appear to have been preserved through lithification, a geologic process that turns sediments into rock.

The team published a study on this window into the martian past in the journal

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There May Be Two Dozen Superhabitable Planets Outside the Solar System, According to Scientists

Getty / Lev Savitskiy

Looking for a safe place to travel on vacation with your family? Instead of an island getaway or road trip across the country, how about any of the 24 recently discovered superhabitable planets in outer space? Astronauts have discovered two dozen planets that are capable of sustaining human life, according to a report published in the journal Astrobiology. The study, which was led by Washington State University geobiologist Dirk Schulze-Makuch, found that these “super-habitable” worlds are older, larger, warmer, and moister than Earth.

“With the next space telescopes coming up, we will get more information, so it is important to select some targets,” said Schulze-Makuch in a statement. “We have to focus on certain planets that have the most promising conditions for complex life. However, we have to be careful to not get stuck looking for a second Earth, because there could be planets that

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Scientists find promising ‘superhabitable’ planets that may be ‘better’ than Earth

This illustration shows an Earth-size planet orbiting a distant star.


NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-Caltech

When you title a research paper “In Search for a Planet Better than Earth,” you’re not messing around. Earth, the only place we know for sure hosts life, sets a high bar for all other planets. 

Washington State University (WSU) geobiologist Dirk Schulze-Makuch led a study published in the journal Astrobiology last month. The paper identifies two dozen exoplanets (planets located outside our solar system) that could be “superhabitable” worlds more suitable for life than our own.

The researchers created a set of criteria for planets to qualify as potentially superhabitable. This list includes an age of between 5 billion and 8 billions years old (Earth is about 4.5 billion years old) and a location within a star’s habitable zone where liquid

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Study Shows O. Megalodon Was The Largest Shark To Ever Swim In Our Planet’s Oceans

According to a new study, the megatooth shark Otodus megalodon was the largest shark to ever swim in our planet’s oceans. O. megalodon is an extinct species of shark that lived approximately 23 to 3.6 million years ago. The exact cause of its extinction is still debated, likely a combination of environmental change and competition with smaller shark species played a role.

Despite its fame in pop-culture, surprisingly little is known about the life-appearance of the megalodon. Sharks have a cartilaginous skeleton that will quickly decay after death. Only their hard teeth survive the fossilization process. A recent study published in the journal Scientific Reports discussing the body size of O. megalodon, concluded

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Some planets may be better for life than Earth

planet
Credit: Unsplash/CC0 Public Domain

Earth is not necessarily the best planet in the universe. Researchers have identified two dozen planets outside our solar system that may have conditions more suitable for life than our own. Some of these orbit stars that may be better than even our sun.


A study led by Washington State University scientist Dirk Schulze-Makuch recently published in the journal Astrobiology details characteristics of potential “superhabitable” planets, that include those that are older, a little larger, slightly warmer and possibly wetter than Earth. Life could also more easily thrive on planets that circle more slowly changing stars with longer lifespans than our sun.

The 24 top contenders for superhabitable planets are all more than 100 light years away, but Schulze-Makuch said the study could help focus future observation efforts, such as from NASA’s James Web Space Telescope, the LUVIOR space observatory and the European Space Agency’s PLATO

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Supercomputer Shows What Happens When Planets Collide

NASA/JPL-Caltech

“Obviously, we have no idea what really happens when planets collide, because we can’t build planets in the lab and smash them together,” said Jacob Kegerreis, a postdoctoral researcher in a specialist lab at the U.K.’s Durham University called the Institute for Computational Cosmology.

So Kegerreis and his colleagues did the next best thing: They booked time on a supercomputer and used it to run hundreds of simulations of planets crashing into one another — a demolition derby for astrophysics geniuses.

“It’s all about doing calculations,” he told Digital Trends. “There’s no reason you couldn’t do it by hand, it would just take forever. It’s really exactly how video games work. If you’ve got a character — even a 2D one like Mario — and you need them to jump and fall back down under gravity, that means the program has an equation for gravity, and it basically does

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Why Some Stars Never Form Planets

The planetary paradigm has shifted so quickly and so radically in the last quarter century that is easy to forget that only a few decades ago, one would be hard-pressed to find any professional astronomer who would stake their careers on the idea that most stars harbor planets. But although the overwhelming majority of stars may harbor some form of planet, not all stars are capable of forming planets.

During the first two decades of looking for planets that circle

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First study with CHEOPS data describes one of the most extreme planets in the universe — ScienceDaily

Eight months after the space telescope CHEOPS started its journey into space, the first scientific publication using data from CHEOPS has been issued. CHEOPS is the first ESA mission dedicated to characterising known exoplanets. Exoplanets, i.e. planets outside the Solar system, were first found in 1995 by two Swiss astronomers, Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz, who were last year awarded the Nobel Prize for this discovery. CHEOPS was developed as part of a partnership between ESA and Switzerland. Under the leadership of the University of Bern and ESA, a consortium of more than a hundred scientists and engineers from eleven European states was involved in constructing the satellite over five years. The Science Operations Center of CHEOPS is located at the observatory of the University of Geneva.

Using data from CHEOPS, scientists have recently carried out a detailed study of the exoplanet WASP-189b. The results have just been accepted for

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First study with exoplanet satellite data describes one of the most extreme planets in the universe

First study with CHEOPS data describes one of the most extreme planets in the universe
When a planet passes in front of its star as seen from Earth, the star seems fainter for a short time. This phenomenon is called a transit. When the planet passes behind the star, the light emitted and/or reflected by the planet is obscured by the star for a short time. This phenomenon is called occultation. Credit: © ESA

CHEOPS keeps its promise: Observations with the space telescope have revealed details of the exoplanet WASP-189b—one of the most extreme planets known. CHEOPS is a joint mission by the European Space Agency (ESA) and Switzerland, under the aegis of the University of Bern in collaboration with the University of Geneva.


Eight months after the space telescope CHEOPS started its mission, the first scientific publication using data from CHEOPS has been issued. CHEOPS is the first ESA mission dedicated to characterizing known exoplanets, those orbiting stars outside the solar system. Exoplanets were

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