Lunar and Planetary Institute

LPI Earth and Space Science Newsletter

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Why the Earth's Atmosphere is Oxygenated
A new model suggests that the rise of oxygen in Earth's atmosphere was an inevitable consequence of the formation of continents in the presence of life and plate tectonics, explaining how atmospheric oxygen was added to Earth's atmosphere at two key times: one about 2 billion years ago and another about 600 million years ago.

Europa's Ocean May Have Earthlike Chemical Balance
A new study indicates that the ocean of Jupiter's moon Europa could have the necessary balance of chemical energy for life, even if the moon lacks volcanic hydrothermal activity. The balance of hydrogen and oxygen is a key indicator of the energy available for life. The study found that the amounts would be comparable in scale; on both worlds, oxygen production is about 10 times higher than hydrogen production.

Hubble Finds Clues to Forming Supermassive Black Holes
Astrophysicists have found the best evidence yet for the seeds that ultimately grow into these cosmic giants. For years astronomers have debated how the earliest generation of supermassive black holes formed so quickly after the Big Bang. New observations of massive black hole "seeds" suggest that they may form when a massive cloud of gas collapsed, jump-starting the formation of the supermassive black hole.

Tsunamis on Ancient Mars?
Scientists suggest that some of the deposits of rocks and sediments at the edges of basins were left by tsunamis on an ancient Mars ocean.

Impacts May Have Made Ancient Mars Habitable
New research suggests that when Mars was bombarded with comets and asteroids 4 billion years ago, the heat from the largest impacts may have produced martian hot springs, allowing life to flourish.

NASA’s Spitzer Maps Climate Patterns on a Super-Earth
Observations from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope have led to the first temperature map of a super-Earth planet -- a rocky planet nearly two times as big as ours. The map reveals extreme temperature swings from one side of the planet to the other, and hints that a possible reason for this is the presence of lava flows.

Flowing Lava on Distant Planet
Astronomers have new data suggesting that planet 55 Cancri e (which orbits a star 40 light years away from our solar system), may have flowing lava circulating the heat across its surface.