When searching for extraterrestrial life, the focus tends to be, naturally, on worlds far away, such as Mars, Europa or distant exoplanets. But could there be evidence closer to home, even near Earth itself? It's a seemingly unlikely but not unheard of possibility. That said, there is an interesting new report from the Russian news agency TASS that living "alien" bacteria have been found on the outside of the International Space Station (ISS). Say what?
A few weeks ago, something surprising happened when astronomers noticed an odd object moving quickly through the Solar System. Being on a large looping trajectory, it was first thought to be a previously unknown comet, but then calculations showed that it couldn't have originated from within the Solar System, it must have come from somewhere else. Follow-up observations also showed that it was more like an asteroid, rather than a comet. Now, astronomers have published their most detailed findings yet, and this object, named 'Oumuamua (Hawaiian, meaning scout or messenger coming from the past), is "like nothing seen before."
Astronomers just announced the discovery of yet another exoplanet, just one of thousands now, but this one is quite interesting and exciting for a variety of reasons. The planet, called Ross 128 b, is an Earth-sized world orbiting a star only 11 light-years away. Not only is it nearly the same size as Earth, the observations show that it is likely quite temperate, with temperatures similar to those on our planet as well. These findings make it possibly the best exoplanet candidate yet in the search for extraterrestrial life.
Exoplanets, planets orbiting stars other than the Sun, are being discovered by the thousands now, and there are estimated to be billions of them in our galaxy alone. So far, they have ranged from worlds smaller than Earth, to "super-Earths" and "hot Jupiters" — a wide variety of sizes, compositions and temperatures. For many people, the most interesting are the ones which could potentially support life of some kind. How many of these planets may actually be habitable, at least by earthly standards? As technology improves, astronomers are getting closer to tentatively answer some of these questions, and a few dozen or so such planets have been identified so far. Now, a large team of researchers have found 20 more exoplanets which might be capable of supporting life. The findings are based on data sent back by NASA's Kepler Space Telescope.
Exoplanets have been found in all different types and sizes, showing how much diversity there is among planets outside of our own Solar System. Now another one, a "monster exoplanet," is of interest to astronomers because according to current models of planetary formation, it shouldn't exist — but does.
Last week, something unusual was detected moving through the Solar System, a small object which didn't seem to behave like any known comets or asteroids. In fact, its behaviour suggested that it originated from outside of our Solar System. So what was this mystery interloper? While not 100 percent identified yet, it seems to be an interstellar asteroid or some similar rocky body.