In his book Pale Blue Dot, legendary scientist Carl Sagan talked about humans' responsibility to "preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known." Sagan's description of Earth is nothing short of inspirational, but if scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are correct in their findings, the dot won't be pale blue much longer.
The researchers found that climate change is significantly impacting phytoplankton—microscopic algae at the bottom of the aquatic food chain. While water molecules in the ocean don't absorb the blue spectrum of sunlight—reflecting it back and creating the appearance of a blue ocean instead—phytoplankton reflect green light, endowing phytoplankton-heavy areas with greener hues than other regions.
Since Galileo and Copernicus, most of humankind has understood that planets orbit our sun and that moons orbit the planets. Astronomers have also shown that there are planets in other solar systems outside of ours called “exoplanets.” Furthermore, the definition of a planet has been refined with much criticism as Pluto got downgraded to “dwarf planet” status. Now, it has been revealed that there might be even smaller objects orbiting moons that have been bestowed the ignominious title of “moonmoons.”
According to recent reports, there might be “skyscraper-sized” objects orbiting the moons of Earth, Jupiter and Saturn. If a combination of two factors is met, if the moon is sufficiently large and distant from the planet it is orbiting, there is a good probability of it having moonmoons. Astronomers studying this phenomenon call this the “Goldilocks zone,” where the moonmoon is tethered close enough to its cognate moon gravitationally to prevent it being pulled away by the planet, but far enough away to not get pulled into the moon by its gravitational field. Within our solar system, there are three planets that meet these criteria: Earth, Jupiter and Saturn. Specifically, moonmoons have been speculated to exist in the orbits of Saturn’s moons of Iapetus and Titan, Jupiter’s moon of Callisto, and Earth’s single moon.
A question that has long dogged scientists is when did life first emerge on Earth? The answer to this question will provide context and insight to our understanding of how life developed and evolved over time on this planet. This conjures up the iconic scene from Star Trek: The Next Generation, when the Q entity transports Captain Picard to prehistoric Earth, riddled with intense volcanic activity. He points to a slimy, green puddle and says “this is you…right here, life is about to form on this planet for the very first time…the building blocks of what you call life…everything you know, your entire civilization, it all begins right here in this little pond of goo.”
Moreover, it will aid in our ongoing search for life beyond Earth.
The die-off was horrendous, and it was public.
A camera crew from BBC’s Planet Earth II were on hand, poised to capture what should have been a very successful calving of the saiga antelope, and research teams from several universities were there to estimate numbers and observe any trends. What they observed instead was the near-annihilation of the species: more than 200,000 dead antelope littered the plains.
Here on earth, litter and pollution are problems. But thanks to old satellites and other manmade contraptions, earth’s orbit is also littered with junk.
The magnitude of space junk is problematic for more than existential reasons. The high-speed junk is a “deadly cascade,” said experts at the European Space Agency, threatening future space missions and satellites already in orbit.
On November 30, thousands of people on the East Coast got a surprising afternoon jolt when a 4.1 earthquake struck Dover, Delaware. People reported feeling the quake as far north as Connecticut and as far south as Virginia. It was a rare occurrence on that side of the U.S., and it sent the hashtag #earthquake trending for a few hours. But if a couple of geophysicists in Colorado and Montana are correct, we might be talking about #earthquakes a lot more in 2018.
Vast climate changes are not new to Earth. 450 million years ago most of the present-day United States was underwater. 20,000 years ago New England was buried beneath a mile-thick glacier. Although climate change triggered mass extinctions, life on Earth continued.
But why? Climate change turned Venus into a barren hellscape, but Earth never became hot or cold enough to wipe out all life.