Presence of Asteroid Belts & Gas Giants In Systems Key to Finding Extra-Solar Life

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Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech

According to the theory of punctuated equilibrium, evolution will go faster when life has to make rapid changes to survive in challenging environments. Life with an asteroid belt in system can be quite varied and dramatic. Multi-cellular life might need an asteroid belt to provide the right number of hits to spur on evolution.

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New Theoretical Models Salvage Moon-Forming Impact Theory

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Theia impacting proto-Earth, image by Fahad Sulheria.

One of the widest accepted models for the Moon’s formation states that a renegade, Mars-sized planet, named Theia, slammed into Earth 4.5 billion years ago, and pushed up debris that would eventually coalesce into a satellite. This theory has been able to predict and explain many facts, like the mass of Earth and the Moon, but it also says that most of the lunar-forming debris stemmed from Theia, not proto-Earth. Theia is thought to have originated from a different part of the Solar System, with different elemental isotopes, which conflicts with some of the more sensitive measurements of the past decade showing that rocks from Earth and the Moon have identical isotopic ratios of oxygen, titanium, chromium, and tungsten.

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Possible Death of Solar System Seen in White Dwarf Stars

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Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope have been able to probe into the chemical signatures of dusky disks encircling four distant star systems. They discovered that surprisingly the chemical composition was eerily similar to Earth. Those elements make up 93% of the Earth’s mass.

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USGS Map Details Volcanos on the Surface of Io

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This new map was published last Monday by the USGS and it showcases the hellish surface of Jupiter’s moon Io, the most volcanically active object in the Solar System. The creation of the map took over six years, and the map itself identifies 425 volcanoes as well as lava flow fields, squat mountains, deposits left by volcanic plumes, and plains rich in sulfur dioxide.

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Saturn’s Largest Moon Titan Seen in Unprecedented Detail

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As one of the coldest places in the solar system, Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, is also one of the most dynamic. A new collection of 13 studies about Titan reveal previously undetected craters, rivers, and have provided maps of its surface and interior.

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The Gravity Wells of The Solar System

xkcd marvellously illustrates the gravity wells of the solar system