Thanks to spacecraft and probes, scientists accumulate new data about the Universe and the Solar System on a daily basis.
The tireless Mars Rover, Curiosity, has discovered traces of boron in some rocks inside a crater on the Red Planet. The presence of this element indicates that there was once water on the surface of Mars, which may have supported life.
Hawking’s plan involves building a spacecraft that will use thousands of miniaturized devices to search for potentially habitable planets. The project’s ultimate goal is to reach Alpha Centauri, the nearest star system to our own. The ship will have to achieve 20% of the speed of light, which will allow it to reach the distant star in just 24 years.
For 20 years, scientists have believed that Jupiter’s powerful gravitational field sucks in asteroids and comets that enter the Solar System. However, recent research suggests that Jupiter and Neptune are in fact “throwing” these objects into the inner Solar System, raising the possibility that one may someday hit Earth.
Judging by data from NASA’s New Horizons probe, there’s an ocean of liquid water no less than 100 km deep beneath Pluto’s crust of 300-kilometer-thick surface ice. The salinity of this ocean is suspected to be around 30% — the same as the Dead Sea on Earth.
Source: Brown University
Today, Venus is the hottest planet in the Solar System. However, 4 billion years ago, there were liquid oceans there that lasted for around 2 billion years. This makes it entirely possible that it once supported life.