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    Comets Are More Dangerous Than We Thought

    Could a comet, not an asteroid, have killed the dinosaurs?

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    We’re the Cosmic 1 Percent But Our Solar System Isn’t a Complete Weirdo

    About half of all stars seem to have “super-Earth” planets on orbits closer to their stars than Mercury is to the Sun, but we don’t.Illustration by Vadim Sadovski / Shutterstock Is Earth unique? Once a grand philosophical question, it has, over the past two decades, become, with the discovery of thousands of planets around other […]

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    The Sight of Jupiter and Saturn Together Is a Beautiful Thing

    A conjunction is a good time to reflect on our cosmic heritage, and on the long shadows cast by the gas giants.Illustration by SN VFX / Shutterstock Today, December 21, Jupiter and Saturn will appear extremely close to each other in the sky, less than a tenth of a degree apart, about one fifth the […]

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    Forget “Earth-Like”—We’ll First Find Aliens on Eyeball Planets

    Artist’s conception of a hot Eyeball planet. The permanent day side is sun-baked and dry. The permanent night side is covered with ice. In between lies a thin habitat: the ring of life.Illustration by Beau.TheConsortium Imagine a habitable planet orbiting a distant star. You’re probably picturing a variation of Earth. Maybe it’s a little cloudier, […]

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    The Genetics of the Earth and Moon

    Imagine that two very similar-looking neighbors undergo a genetic test. The exam shows that the pair’s genetic fingerprints are virtually identical. They feel a flash of shock and excitement. What does this mean? Could they be long-lost twins, separated in a hospital mixup? The Earth and Moon share a similar issue, one that poses a […]

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    Give Thanks to Jupiter, our Little Planet’s Big Protector

    Jupiter is famous for its Great Red Spot, but the stormy planet may also be responsible for keeping the inner solar system calm.NASA/JPL You are special, just like your parents used to tell you. You are a rare flower, a unique snowflake. Just like everyone else. How about our solar system? Is it special? Earth […]

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    Forget “Earth-Like”—We’ll First Find Aliens on Eyeball Planets

    Imagine a habitable planet orbiting a distant star. You’re probably picturing a variation of Earth. Maybe it’s a little cloudier, or covered in oceans. Maybe the mountains are a little higher. Maybe the trees are red instead of green. Maybe there are scantily clad natives … OK, let’s stop there. That image may very well […]