Kuiper-belt Object Was Broken up by Massive Impact 4.5 Billion Years Ago, Study Shows

In the outer reaches of the solar system, there is an object known as 2003 EL61 that looks like and spins like a football being drop-kicked over the proverbial goalpost of life.

Astronomers Puzzled by Spectra of Transiting Planet Orbiting Nearby Star

A team of astronomers led by Carl Grillmair of the California Institute of Technology has discovered some puzzling things about a Jupiter-sized planet that passes in front of a nearby star in the constellation Vulpecula.

Geologists Provide New Evidence for Reason Behind Rise of Life in Cambrian Period

Geologists have uncovered evidence in the oil fields of Oman that explains how Earth could suddenly have changed 540 million years ago to favor the evolution of the single-celled life forms to the multicellular forms we know today.

Anticipating Another Sumatran Tsunami

Research by the California Institute of Technology, the University of Southern California, and Indonesian scientists indicates that within the next few decades another big tsunami could flood densely populated sections of western coastal Sumatra, south of those that suffered from the tsunami of December 2004.

Geobiologists Solve "Catch-22 Problem" Concerning the Rise of Atmospheric Oxygen

Two and a half billion years ago, when our evolutionary ancestors were little more than a twinkle in a bacterium's plasma membrane, the process known as photosynthesis suddenly gained the ability to release molecular oxygen into Earth's atmosphere, causing one of the largest environmental changes in the history of our planet. The organisms assumed responsible were the cyanobacteria, which are known to have evolved the ability to turn water, carbon dioxide, and sunlight into oxygen and sugar, and are still around today as the blue-green algae and the chloroplasts in all green plants.

Watson Lecture: Natural Disasters

The recent devastations caused by earthquakes in south and southwest Asia, by the Indian Ocean tsunami, and by hurricane Katrina offer dramatic proof that communities all over the world are both unaware of, and unprepared for, natural hazards. Unfortunately, while scientists understand much about these natural hazards, that knowledge commonly is not used to reduce the risks.

The Dwarf Planet Formerly Known as Xena Has Officially Been Named Eris, IAU Announces

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) today announced that the dwarf planet known as Xena since its 2005 discovery has been named Eris, after the Greek goddess of discord.

Xena Awarded "Dwarf Planet" Status, IAU Rules; Solar System Now Has Eight Planets

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) today downgraded the status of Pluto to that of a "dwarf planet," a designation that will also be applied to the spherical body discovered last year by California Institute of Technology planetary scientist Mike Brown and his colleagues. The decision means that only the rocky worlds of the inner solar system and the gas giants of the outer system will hereafter be designated as planets.

Study of 8.7-Magnitude Earthquake Lends New Insight into Post-Shaking Processes

Although the magnitude 8.7 Nias-Simeulue earthquake of March 28, 2005, was technically an aftershock, the temblor nevertheless killed more than 2,000 people in an area that had been devastated just three months earlier by the December 2004, magnitude 9.1 earthquake. Now, data returned from instruments in the field provide constraints on the behavior of dangerous faults in subduction zones, fueling a new understanding of basic mechanics controlling slip on faults, and in turn, improved estimates of regional seismic risk.

Hubble Space Telescope Obtains Best-Ever Size Measurement of Xena; Still Larger Than Pluto

To paraphrase a certain young lady from literature, the tenth planet Xena is getting curiouser and curiouser. Data released today by the Space Telescope Science Institute reveals that Xena is about 5 percent larger than Pluto, which means that it must be the most reflective planet in the solar system.

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