The errant asteroid hurtled through space at 40,000 miles per hour. Tumbling in a wild orbit, it glinted with sunlight as it neared the Earth. At 65-feet wide, the potato-shaped object should have been easily detected but no one saw it coming.
On the morning of February 15, 2013 the asteroid exploded with the force of 500 kilotons of TNT about 15 miles above the city of Chelyabinsk in the Russian Ural Mountains. The fireball was reportedly 30 times brighter than the sun. The shockwave blew out windows in hundreds of buildings and injured more than 1,500 people.
It was Earth’s most powerful meteor strike … » More …
On the eleventh floor of the Webster Physical Sciences Building, Carol Turse watches over an array of glass tubes, flasks, and electrodes buzzing with 45,000 volts of electricity. Looking out the window, she takes in one of the better views of Pullman and the Palouse hills; looking inside the glasswork of her lab, she sees the atmosphere of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, and if all goes right, elements of life in the making.
With clouds and a thick, planet-like atmosphere, Titan is unique among the moons in our solar system. It might also be conducive to creating amino acids, the building blocks of life, which … » More …
From Percival Lowell’s maps of Mars to 1938’s ill-fated “War of the Worlds” broadcast, claims of life in outer space have been tinged with whimsy and sensationalism. But in recent decades, more rigorous thinking and evidence-based science have been able to elbow their way into the discussion. As WSU astrobiologist Dirk Schulze-Makuch and author David Darling note, we now “have real data to work with.”
A few years ago, when an academic publisher approached Dirk Schulze-Makuch about writing a book on the search for extraterrestrial life, the astrobiologist couldn’t resist.
“You’re not often getting asked to write a book about life in the universe,” he recalls. “It was just too tempting.”
Life in the Universe: Expectations and Constraints was published shortly before Schulze-Makuch joined Washington State University’s Department of Geology in 2005. Coauthored by Louis Irwin of the University of Texas-El Paso, the book takes a close look at what’s really necessary for life-not life as we know it here, but life as it might be on other worlds.