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10 Sep

Jupiter Moon Europa Could Have Plate Tectonics Like Earth

New research reveals Jupiter moon Europa may have plate tectonics similar to those on Earth, giving new hope to the search for extraterrestrial life.

Our friends at DNews report:

"During studies of photographs taken by NASA’s Galileo spacecraft that orbited the gas giant from 1995 to 2003, planetary geologists have found it hard to explain why most of the crust was relatively new ice (on average, the icy surface is 40-90 million years old) and yet there was little evidence of old ice that had been crushed up on the surface to make way for the new material.


Their conclusion is that, like Earth’s rocky crust, there must be subduction zones where old material is pushed against plate boundaries, making the ice sink into the subsurface ocean, where it melts and gets cycled."

"Europa may be more Earth-like than we imagined, if it has a global plate tectonic system," planetary geologists Simon Kattenhorn said in a statement. "Not only does this discovery make it one of the most geologically interesting bodies in the solar system, it also implies two-way communication between the exterior and interior -- a way to move material from the surface into the ocean -- a process which has significant implications for Europa's potential as a habitable world."

Earlier in 2014, NASA put out a call for proposals to hunt for alien life on Europa, which is believed to have a deep underground ocean that could be capable of sustaining life.

Want to learn more? Get to know Europa:

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13 Aug

Commercial Spacecraft Prepare to Mine the Moon

"We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too."

-President John F. Kennedy, September 12, 1962

More than 50 years after President Kennedy's famous moon speech, his words continue to inspire. Now a new generation prepares to heed the president's call and aim for the lunar surface, not for human exploration but to mine the moon for its precious minerals.

Among the rare earth elements found on the moon are titanium, magnesium and iron; there's also helium-3, which "could provide safer nuclear energy in a fusion reactor, since it is not radioactive and would not produce dangerous waste products."

Silicon Valley titans like Google are looking toward the lunar surface and offering scientists prizes "designed to inspire pioneers to do robotic space transport on a budget."

Is this the start of a new space race?

Tonight at 10/9c, Science Channel's three-part special Man vs. The Universe looks at commercial spacecraft preparing to mine the moon and the benefits these groups hope to reap. Here's a sneak peek:

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23 Jul

NASA Seeks Proposals To Hunt For Alien Life On Jupiter Moon Europa

Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 11.58.25 AMIf there's life out there, will we find it on Jupiter's icy moon Europa?

NASA recently put out a call for proposals for science instruments to "address fundamental questions about the icy moon and the search for life beyond Earth."

"The possibility of life on Europa is a motivating force for scientists and engineers around the world," said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, in a statement. "This solicitation will select instruments which may provide a big leap in our search to answer the question: are we alone in the universe?"

It's believed that Europa has a deep underground ocean that could be capable of sustaining life; a mission to Europa is planned for the 2020s and could cost $1 billion.

About 20 proposals will be selected in April 2015 and $25 million divided among their creators for development.

Tonight, How the Universe Works delves deep into Jupiter's core and in one segment, examines Galileo and the first time NASA dropped a probe into Jupiter's atmosphere:

Watch How the Universe Works TONIGHT at 9/8c on Science Channel

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27 May

'Alien Encounters' Explores What Happens When the Aliens Arrive

The aliens are here -- now what?

That's the question probed by Alien Encounters, which returns tonight on Science Channel for season three of a series that explores how arriving aliens would affect humanity.

Dramatizations of the action are interspersed with real-life science and commentary from experts, including astrophysicist Hakeem Oluseyi and SETI Institute astronomer Seth Shostak.

In this sneak peek from tonight's premiere episode, learn how engineers are using science to track the effects of space trash. What would happen if a piece of flying junk connected with an object here on Earth?

Tune in to the premiere of Alien Encounters tonight at 10/9c, and keep watching Science Channel on Tuesday nights to see how the story unfolds.

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4 Apr

Hidden Ocean On Saturn Moon Enceladus Could Support Life

Pia18071_enceladus-interiorIt was just last month that waves were detected on Titan, Saturn's largest moon. Now comes news that NASA's Cassini spacecraft has detected signs of a sea beneath Enceladus, another Saturn moon, "furthering scientific interest in the moon as a potential home to extraterrestrial microbes."

The findings were published in the journal Science on April 4.

"The main implication is that there are potentially habitable environments in the solar system in places which are completely unexpected," said Luciano Iess, one of the study's authors, in a video. "Enceladus has a surface temperature of about minus 180 degrees Celsius, but under that surface there exists liquid water." says the discovery "confirms suspicions many researchers have had about Enceladus since 2005, when NASA's Cassini spacecraft first spotted ice and water vapor spewing from fractures near the moon's south pole."

The six-mile-deep ocean is hidden beneath Enceladus' ice exterior, which may be as much as 19 to 25 miles thick and, according to NASA, makes Saturn's icy moon one of the "most likely places in our solar system to host microbial life."

"Material from Enceladus’ south polar jets contains salty water and organic molecules, the basic chemical ingredients for life," said Cassini project scientist Linda Spilker in a statement. "Their discovery expanded our view of the 'habitable zone' within our solar system and in planetary systems of other stars. This new validation that an ocean of water underlies the jets furthers understanding about this intriguing environment." 

Mars remains an intriguing candidate for life as evidence emerges that the red planet was once covered in water. It could have even had life before Earth did:

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Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

3 Apr

Bill Clinton 'Wouldn't be Surprised' If Aliens Visit Earth, Former President Tells Jimmy Kimmel

During President Bill Clinton's two-term tenure in office, one of the questions he wanted answered was: "What's inside Area 51?"

Area 51 is, of course, a top-secret military installation located north of Las Vegas; it was only in December 2013 that a U.S. president publicly acknowledged Area 51's existence, a moment that occurred in a joke by President Obama.

Appearing on Jimmy Kimmel Live Wednesday night, Clinton said he "wouldn't be surprised" if aliens visit Earth, and that he "had people go look at the records on Area 51 to make sure there was no alien down there."

Unfortunately for believers, "there are no aliens there." Clinton also had all of the papers reviewed from the Roswell UFO incident and said if he'd learned there were extraterrestrials out there, he would have told the American people.

The truth may still be out there, the former president said:

"We know now we live in an ever-expanding universe. We know there are billions of stars and planets, literally, out there. And the universe is getting bigger. We know from our fancy telescopes that just in the last two years more than 20 planets have been identified outside our solar system that seem to be far enough away from their suns and dense enough that they might be able to support some form of life. So it makes it increasing less likely that we’re alone."

Watch President Bill Clinton talk aliens with Jimmy Kimmel:

If astronauts encounter a UFO, NASA has a set procedure in place. See what happened when astronauts on the International Space Station saw something strange outside the space station:

Are you a believer like President Clinton?

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6 Mar

10 Percent Of Americans Say They've Seen A UFO -- Too Low? Too High?

Are We Alone Week is flying by!

Up tonight: more NASA's Unexplained Files. Many of the mysteries profiled on the series are strange sightings by astronauts stationed in space and in tonight's episode, the commander of the Space Shuttle Atlantis sees a mysterious object outside the window of the shuttle, something unlike "anything I've ever seen."


NASA later explained away this odd occurrence by saying the sighting was merely space debris, but a full 10 percent of Americans claim to have seen a UFO. Does this number seem low? Or high?


We hope that 10 percent -- and many more! -- will join us for tonight's all-new NASA's Unexplained Files at 10/9c. If you have a UFO story, please share it in the comments.

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5 Mar

Can You Name All Six Shapes Of UFOs?

As Are We Alone Week continues, plenty of questions have been raised about UFOs, aliens and the possibilities of extraterrestrial life.

In a live Twitter chat during Tuesday night's premiere of Close Encounters, one Science Channel Twitter fan said, "By strict definition, Anything in the sky you can't identify is a UFO."

UFO expert Chris Rutkowski agreed: "Absolutely true!"

While around 95 percent of UFO sightings are easily explained, that still leaves five percent unaccounted for. When people claim to see a UFO, the object most commonly falls into one of six shapes:

  1. Saucer
  2. Sphere
  3. Egg
  4. Cigar
  5. Triangle
  6. Boomerang

Some of the most famous UFO sightings in history fall into these categories: Roswell (saucer), Rendlesham Forest (triangle) and the Lubbock Lights (boomerang).

Be sure to catch an all-new Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman tonight at 10/9c as the show asks, "Is God an Alien Concept?"

Have you seen a UFO? Did it fall into one of these categories?

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4 Mar

Here's What Most People Really See When They Claim To Spot A UFO

Awa-3-500It's Are We Alone Week at Science Channel and all week we're exploring programming that asks the big questions: Is there life out there? Has it been in contact with us? Are we alone?

Not to burst any bubbles -- after all, there seems to be growing evidence of extraterrestrial life every day -- but it turns out that the vast majority of UFO sightings have a reasonable explanation.

An overwhelming 95 percent of UFO sightings can be explained by not-so-out-of-this-world events.

These range from weather balloons and floodlights to military aircraft and solar events.

Sorry, guys.

That still leaves 5 percent of UFO sightings unexplained, however, and some of those incidents are documented on the new Science Channel series Close Encounters, which premieres tonight at 10/9c.

Here's a sneak peek at a strange sighting in Kansas that left a glowing ring in one family's yard. Watch what happens when someone reaches out to touch the hovering halo:

 Let us know what you think: Are we alone?

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20 Jan

'Aliens Exist' -- And New Research Takes Us Closer To Finding ET

"We live in a scientific renaissance... a golden age of technology where fictional possibilities give way to extraordinary discoveries." 

In Monday night's episode of Beyond the Wormhole, Morgan Freeman explores the idea that 'Aliens Exist' -- we just need to explore new methods of detecting and communicating with them.Fbookeinstein

Never before have humans had so many technological tools and scientific advancements with which to search for extraterrestrial life. From the Kepler space observatory, which is scanning the galaxy for planets capable of sustaining life, to telescopes that can detect other planets' atmospheres, we may be on the verge of solving the mystery of alien life.

For example, research published in the journal Nature in January 2014 announced that, using the Hubble Space Telescope, clouds had been detected on two distant extrasolar planets. Known as GJ 436b and GJ 1214b, these planets "are telling us something about the diversity of planet types that occur outside of our own solar system; in this case we are discovering we may not know them as well as we thought," researcher Heather Knutson said in a statement.

The researchers characterized their discovery as "an important milestone on the road to characterizing potentially habitable Earth-like worlds beyond the solar system."

Meanwhile at the SETI Institute, scientists are searching for the sounds of alien life. It may seem like a needle in a haystack but every once in a while comes an unexplained sound that may -- just may! -- end up unraveling the mystery of extraterrestrial existence.

Albert Einstein once said, "Your imagination is your preview to life’s coming attractions." With the imagination and curiosity of scientists, researchers and amateur astronomy enthusiasts around the world, we may be closer than ever to finding proof of alien life. 

Tell us what you think: When will we find proof of extraterrestrial beings?

Watch the full episode of Beyond the Wormhole, 'Aliens Exist,' Monday night at 10/9c on Science Channel.

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