If conditions had been just a little different an eon ago, there might be plentiful life on Venus and none on Earth, according to a new hypothesis. Minor evolutionary changes could have altered the fates of both Earth and Venus in ways that scientists may soon be able to model through observation of other solar systems, particularly ones in the process of forming.
In the first billion years of Earth’s history, the planet was bombarded by primordial asteroids, while a faint Sun provided much less heat. A Southwest Research Institute-led team posits that this tumultuous beginning may have ultimately fostered life on Earth, particularly in terms of sustaining liquid water.
An international team of researchers have found a new way to measure the pull of gravity at the surface of a star. The new method allows scientists to measure surface gravity with an accuracy of about four percent, for stars too distant and too faint to apply current techniques. For remote stars with planets orbiting them, this information is key in determining whether any of those planets can harbour life.
Australian astronomers from the University of New South Wales have discovered the closest potentially habitable planet found outside our solar system so far, orbiting a star just 14 light-years away. The planet, more than four times the mass of the Earth, is one of three that the team detected around a red dwarf star called Wolf 1061.