"Does the sun and solar system orbit around the Milky Way galaxy, or is the sun's position fixed?"
Answered QuestionsAnswered Wednesday, June 5, 2013 by Dr. Jacob Haqq-Misra
Is it possible to build a tricorder that can detect life on other planets, using a portable system. And if so, how would you do it? Laser spectroscopy, lab on a chip etc.
A “tricorder”, as depicted in "Star Trek," is a multi-purpose technological device used by human explorers. Present-day human space exploration has not yet taken any astronaut further than the Moon, although some initial planning for human missions to Mars is in progress. Only when humans are able to set foot... MoreAnswered Monday, June 3, 2013 by Dr. Sara Imari Walker
Are there any living examples of LUCA (Last Universal Common Ancestor), or would it be possible to reconstruct one? I assume the recent research in creating bacterial DNA artificially, might be used to construct DNA that matches the common elements of all life.
As far as we know, there are no living examples of the Last Universal Common Ancestor (LUCA) – it would be really great if there were! It would certainly provide a lot of information about the early evolution of life.
Instead of finding a living sample of such ancient life, we’ve inferred the... MoreAnswered Monday, June 3, 2013 by Dr. Liz Percak-Dennett
Is it possible to remove an oxidizing agent after it is used? ex. Chloride (Cl^-) + any oxidizing agent capable of = (Cl). I am having a "fight" with my brother because he stated that you cannot remove an oxidizing agent after it was used, which i honestly cannot believe.
That's a good question, because understanding how chemical elements interact on Earth helps us to understand how chemical processes can take place in space and on other planets.
Yes, once an oxidizing agent has oxidized a chemical, it can potentially be removed from the system.
To better... MoreAnswered Friday, May 31, 2013 by Dr. Morgan Cable
I'm doing a world building project on a tidally-locked planet that is still habitable. While I won't bore you with the details, I was wondering, do you think that life forms that use piezoelectricity as an autotrophic metabolic function could possibly inhabit the dark side of the planet?
Very interesting question! The short answer is, I'm not sure. Piezophilic (pressure-loving) bacteria can survive extremely high pressures (like in the Mariana Trench), and bacterial spores with tough spore coats can survive very low pressures (like the vacuum of space), but I'm not aware of any bacteria that... MoreAnswered Wednesday, May 29, 2013 by Dr. Rebecca Turk MacLeod
I am a chemistry student of 7th semester who´s part of an Astrobiology group in the National University of Colombia. Recently, we have decided to make a book, which pretends having some important topics like alternative biochemistry routes and extremophile organism looking for having a little, but complete compendium about this kind of topics that allows an easy but scientific introduction for interested people. For that reason, I have decided to ask your opinion respect to the topics we can not forget and, more specifically, your opinion about which compounds are the most important to be discussed as probable partaker in a hypothetical life form that use different compounds from those which are used by forms of life in our planet. I am going to be very grateful for your time and your answer.
As you may know already, life on Earth is incredibly diverse and uses a variety of different compounds for metabolism and survival. We do not even need to look outside our planet to find microbes that eat and breathe compounds like methane and sulfur, and/or live in environments completely devoid... MoreAnswered Wednesday, May 22, 2013 by Dr. Jacob Haqq-Misra
What is the purpose of discovering exoplanets? and if we do find an Earthlike planet light-years away, where will studies go from there?
In the context of astrobiology, which is the study of life in the universe, the purpose of searching for exoplanets is to understand the processes that contribute to the formation of planets, atmospheres, oceans, and life. This ultimately helps us learn two things. First, exoplanet discovery is one of the first steps in the... MoreAnswered Monday, May 20, 2013 by Dr. Betul Kacar
It seems that members of the animal kingdom can live a plant like existence (e.g. sponges), but you would not expect members of the plant or fungus family to evolve into something that could grow legs and walk around. So fundementally what is the difference between plants and animals, such that animals can move around independently?
Hi Glyn! To answer your question, let’s consider this: moving behavior is not solely attributed to animals. We know not all plants are sedentary - consider, for example, slime molds, or choanoflagellates, which exhibit similar morphological properties to sponges.
Therefore we cannot list moving as a fundamental distinctive property distinguishing plants from... MoreAnswered Friday, May 17, 2013 by Dr. Britney Schmidt
I have read multiple articles on Europa due to a project I have. In multiple articles there are conflicting information about liquid water under the ice. Is it liquid water or another form of liquid?
A lot of what we know about Europa comes from looking at the surface, but some of the data we have also tells us about its interior. Even from telescopes on Earth, we could tell that Europa's surface was extremely reflective, like that of ice or snow, and its infrared spectrum, the pattern... MoreAnswered Wednesday, May 15, 2013 by Dr. Mason Fisher
It is said that dying red giant stars could act like a defibrillator and bring icy planets back from the dead & that this rebirth could also lead to new breeding grounds for life. My question is that how can new life survive without light?
While most life on Earth is powered by photosynthesis, it's not the only way for an organism to survive. Organisms can get their energy from chemical reactions as well as sunlight, and these organisms are known as chemotrophs There are actually a surprising number of ecosystems in... MoreAnswered Monday, May 13, 2013 by Dr. Shawn Domagal-Goldman
What would the Earth look like to scientists if it were observed by the Kepler Observatory orbiting the planet Kepler 62e? What would they presume about the Earth's capacity to develop life?
If Kepler were in orbit around Kepler-62e, Earth would look a lot like what Kepler-62e looks like from Kepler as it currently orbits Earth. There are some important differences: Kepler-62e is about 40% bigger than Earth, and it gets more energy from its star compared to what Earth gets from the... MoreAnswered Friday, May 3, 2013 by Dr. Michael Busch
How could Earths atmosphere be transformed to Titan like environment?
This is a good question with an unfortunate answer: it could not.
The temperature of the Earth's surface is set by the thickness and composition of the atmosphere and by the amount of incoming light from the Sun. Titan's atmosphere is a little denser than that of the Earth. It... MoreAnswered Wednesday, May 1, 2013 by Dr. Jim Cleaves
Amino acids have been found in interstellar dust clouds, in the tail of comet Wild 2 and in the meteorite 2008 TC3. If you asked your colleagues whether amino acids falling onto to the young Earth were a significant source of material for life to start, would there be a consensus? How would you "vote"?
Let's break this question into two parts. First, did significant amounts of amino acids get delivered to the early Earth by extraterrestrial sources, and second, were amino acids important for the origin of life?
For the first part, most scientists would agree that it is likely that the flux... MoreAnswered Monday, April 29, 2013 by Svetlana Shkolyar
I am a geology student and have some questions regarding the organic compounds in the Solar System. Where the organic compounds are usually found in the solar system? And where can they form in solar system or in galaxy? And how these compounds are formed in the universe?
Good question. Yes, organics can form in young galactic areas and get delivered to solar systems. (In your question's context, I am assuming organic compounds mean those with carbon in them, that often resemble or even are the same as compounds used or made by life.)
Some scientists use... MoreAnswered Friday, April 26, 2013 by Dr. Sanjoy Som
What are the benefits of being an astrobiologist??
An astrobiologist is a “system scientist”, so although she/he has specialized in a particular field (geology, oceanography, atmospheric science, astronomy, biology etc..), astrobiologists have rounded their education with classes from other discipline to allow them to have an intuition about fields outside of their own specialty. I personally find this a compelling reason to be... MoreAnswered Wednesday, April 24, 2013 by Dr. Jacob Haqq-Misra
what technologies do you use to study life on different planets?
So far scientists have not yet discovered any forms of life on other planets, but they do use a variety of methods to search for evidence of life on other planets. Within our own Solar System, scientists can send robotic rovers to take actual measurements of another planet's geology. Mars exploration,... MoreAnswered Monday, April 22, 2013 by Dr. Morgan Cable
If there exist some life as like in earth. Is there any possibilities that they will have close resemblance with us?
Great question! There are many theories about what kinds of life we may discover elsewhere in the Universe. Some scientists think life will be similar to us - based on carbon, oxygen, nitrogen and similar elements. Other scientists believe we may find life that is completely different... MoreAnswered Friday, April 19, 2013 by Julia DeMarines
Would a certified Astrobiologist be considered a candidate to be sent into outer space? For example, to the ISS, or in the future if there is a manned mission to Mars?
Astrobiology is a relatively new field that is more frequently becoming incorporated into academia. Because Astrobiology is such a diverse field it is difficult to have a single standard for what an Astrobiologist is, and thus there are only a few PhD programs that offer degrees in Astrobiology (such as... MoreAnswered Wednesday, April 17, 2013 by Dr. Dimitra Atri
Why is the necessities, evolution, and adaptation to life important and relevant to astronomy?
Based on our current understanding of life on the Earth, we can say with a great degree of confidence that life's origin and evolution occurred in a very limited range of physical conditions for a period of a few billion years. Therefore, it is natural to probe the properties of astronomical objects... MoreAnswered Monday, April 15, 2013 by Dr. Sanjoy Som
Is it possible that there is life on Uranus?
Life must be coupled to its environment, so let’s consider what we know about Uranus’ environment. Uranus is a gas giant like Jupiter, Saturn, and Neptune. These gas planets do not have an abrupt transition between a solid surface and an atmosphere like we have on Earth. The gaseous envelope... MoreAnswered Wednesday, April 10, 2013 by Dr. Betul Kacar
Hi, so for an up-coming project in my biology class , I choose to be on synthetic life. I was just wondering to back up some of my research, If we were to ever find life out their, is their any way that this "life" could be made out any other elements such as silicone or metal. Is their any way we can make synthetic life/ dna out of metal instead of sugar?
That is a great question! In fact, one of the reasons we astrobiologists study life here on Earth is to understand the limits to life and understand whether life elsewhere in the Universe would be anything like we see here on our planet. So far, life as we know it... More
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