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Scientists have a new plan for finding extraterrestrial life in our Solar System -

Scientists have a new plan for finding extraterrestrial life in our Solar System

Humanity hasn't even scratched the surface of exploring the Milky Way galaxy, much less the rest of the universe, but when it comes to our own Solar System, we have a pretty good idea of what's here. We know there's no space-faring races hiding out in the craters of Mars or silently spinning inside of Jupiter's great red spot, but there's still the chance that life exists in our little planetary backyard outside of Earth, and researchers have a new strategy that could help us find it. The target? Saturn's ice-covered moon, Enceladus.

A new paper from Jay Nadeau and his team of researchers from Caltech, published in the journal Astrobiology, breaks down a new imaging technique that could provide scientists with the tools they need to detect and identify microscopic life in space — more specifically, microbes hiding in the water of Saturn's frozen moon.

Enceladus is completely encased in ice, which doesn't sound like a very hospitable place for life to take root, but the good news is that there's water under its frozen surface. We know this because images of the planet taken by NASA's Cassini probe have shown massive jets of water being spewed out from between cracks in its icy shell, and because Enceladus is so small, its gravitational pull isn't strong enough to keep the water vapor from flying off into space. That makes the job of sampling the water much easier, but NASA would still need the right tool for the job.

Nadeau and his colleagues have proposed a solution in the form of a holographic microscope specifically designed to detect microbial life and differentiate between tiny living organisms and specks of dust and debris that would also likely litter the sample.

"It's harder to distinguish between a microbe and a speck of dust than you'd think," Nadeau says. "You have to differentiate between Brownian motion, which is the random motion of matter, and the intentional, self-directed motion of a living organism." In testing, the new microscope system has proven capable of doing just that, and while further testing and implementation remains on the to-do list, it's a promising start for a technique that could provide the first evidence of extraterrestrial life.


Fri, 21 Jul 2017 21:01:22 -0400

Visa issues take spotlight after Burundi teens exit event -

Visa issues take spotlight after Burundi teens exit eventWASHINGTON (AP) — The big controversy leading up to the FIRST Global international robotics competition in Washington was whether a team of girls from Afghanistan would be able to participate, after their initial visa applications were denied.


Fri, 21 Jul 2017 18:08:48 -0400

Republicans close to blocking Trump from easing Russia sanctions -

Republicans close to blocking Trump from easing Russia sanctionsIn a rare show of defiance, Republicans in Congress are coming close to preventing Donald Trump from being able to roll back sanctions against Russia. The White House has sought to change a bill that would toughen sanctions on Moscow for meddling in the 2016 US election. Despite telling reporters that the White House supports new sanctions on Russia, Marc Short, its legislative director, declared that the bill would set “an unusual precedent of delegating foreign policy to 535 members of Congress.


Fri, 21 Jul 2017 17:17:00 -0400

US bans travel for Americans to NKorea after Warmbier death -

US bans travel for Americans to NKorea after Warmbier deathWASHINGTON (AP) — American citizens will be barred by the U.S. from traveling to North Korea beginning next month following a prohibition on using U.S. passports to enter the country, the State Department said Friday.


Fri, 21 Jul 2017 16:37:15 -0400

Check in to get away: Zion park aims to require reservations -

Check in to get away: Zion park aims to require reservationsSALT LAKE CITY (AP) — It would be a first for a U.S. national park: requiring reservations to get in. But it's an option that Zion National Park is considering to manage an overwhelming surge of visitors to its sweeping red-rock vistas and canyons in Utah.


Fri, 21 Jul 2017 15:52:42 -0400



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