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  • Dinosaur apocalypse: The last day | PBS
    Friday, May 13, 2022
    PBS NOVA explores a new theory for what caused the dinosaur extinction, based on evidence from Montana. UW Provost Mark Richards, professor of Earth and space sciences, is interviewed (beginning at 16:50). Read More
  • Pandemic delays afflict polar science
    Monday, May 9, 2022
    The COVID19 pandemic has had a significant impact on Antarctic sciences, hitting an enterprise that was already stretched. Among the projects affected is the UW-led "Hercules Dome ice core". Project lead Eric Steig (ESS faculty member and Chair) is quoted in the article in the journal, Science. Read More
  • Huge groundwater system discovered under Antarctica | Gizmodo
    Friday, May 6, 2022
    Geophysicists used remote sensing to see reservoirs beneath the surface. That water could speed up the loss of ice as the climate warms. Brad Lipovsky, assistant professor of Earth and space sciences at the UW, is quoted. Read More
  • New hope that alien life could thrive in oceans on Jupiter and Saturn's moons | Yahoo! News
    Thursday, May 5, 2022
    Could alien life forms lurk in the icy oceans of Jupiter and Saturn's moons such as Titan, Ganymede or Europa in our own solar system? NASA and others aim to find out, with planned robotic missions aiming to explore the frigid seas of the moons, and a new study has helped to pave the way for these missions. Baptiste Journaux, acting instructor in Earth and space sciences at the UW, is quoted. Read More
  • 'Expedition Titan' turns Saturn's moon into a mixed-reality thrill ride | GeekWire
    Wednesday, May 4, 2022
    It's doubtful anyone alive today will get to ride through the ice volcanoes of Saturn's largest moon -- but you can do the next best thing at Seattle's Pacific Science Center, thanks to a mixed-reality experience called Expedition Titan. Baptiste Journaux, a postdoctoral researcher at the UW, is quoted. Read More
  • Experiments measure freezing point of extraterrestrial oceans to aid search for life
    Tuesday, May 3, 2022

    Researchers from the University of Washington and the University of California, Berkeley have conducted experiments that measured the physical limits for the existence of liquid water in icy extraterrestrial worlds. This blend of geoscience and engineering was done to aid in the search for extraterrestrial life and the upcoming robotic exploration of oceans on moons of other planets.

    The results were recently published in Cell Reports Physical Sciences.

    "The more a liquid is stable, the more promising it is for habitability," said co-corresponding author Baptiste Journaux, an acting assistant professor of Earth and space sciences at the UW. "Our results show that the cold, salty, high-pressure liquids found in the deep ocean of other planets' moons can remain liquid to much cooler temperature than they would at lower pressures. This extends the range of possible habitats on icy moons, and will allow us to pinpoint where we should look for biosignatures, or signs of life."

    Europa Image

    This image, taken by the Galileo spacecraft in 1996, shows two views of Jupiter’s ice-covered satellite, Europa. The left image shows the approximate natural color while the right is colored to accentuate features. Europa is about 3,160 kilometers (1,950 miles) in diameter, or about the size of Earth’s moon.NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

    Jupiter and Saturn's icy moons -- including Europa, Ganymede and Titan -- are leading candidates within our solar system for hosting extraterrestrial life. These ice-encrusted moons are thoughtto harbor enormous liquid oceans, up to several dozen times the volume of oceans on Earth.

    "Despite its designation as the 'blue marble,' Earth is remarkably dry when compared to these worlds," Journaux said.

    cutout view of Europa

    The left panel's gray and blue layers show the deep, ice-covered ocean on Europa, a moon of Jupiter that could host extraterrestrial life. This ocean is thought to be much deeper than oceans on Earth. New research hints at where liquid water might be found in these environments.Image by NASA/JPL-Caltech, with modifications by Baptiste Journaux

    The oceans on these moons may contain various types of salts and are expected to range from about 100 miles deep, on Europa, to more than 400 miles deep, on Titan.

    "We know that water supports life, but the major part of the oceans on these moons are likely below zero degrees Celsius and at pressures higher than anything experienced on Earth," Journaux said. "We needed to know how cold an ocean can get before entirely freezing, including in its deepest abyss."

    The study focused on eutectics, or the lowest temperature that a salty solution can remain liquid before entirely freezing. Salt and water are one example -- salty water remains liquid below the freezing temperature of pure water, one of the reasons people sprinkle salt on roads in winter to avoid the formation of ice.

    UC Berkeley: "Study of aqueous salt solutions deepens our understanding of icy planets' oceans"

    The experiments used UC Berkeley equipment originally designed for the future cryopreservation of organs for medical applications and for food storage. For this research, however, the authors used it to simulate the conditions thought to exist on other planets' moons.

    Journaux, a planetary scientist and expert on the physics of water and minerals, worked with UC Berkeley engineers to test solutions of five different salts at pressures up to 3,000 times atmospheric pressure, or 300 megapascals -- about three times the pressure in Earth's deepest ocean trench.

    "Knowing the lowest temperature possible for salty water to remain a liquid at high pressures is integral to understanding how extraterrestrial life could exist and thrive in the deep oceans of these icy ocean worlds," said co-corresponding author Matthew Powell-Palm, who did the work as a postdoctoral researcher at UC Berkeley, also co-founder and CEO of the cryopreservation company BioChoric, Inc.

    Journaux recently started working with NASA's Dragonfly mission team, which will send a rotorcraft in 2027 to Saturn's largest moon, Titan. NASA also is leading the Europa Clipper mission in 2024 to explore Europa, one of the many moons orbiting Jupiter. Meanwhile, the European Space Agency in 2023 will send its JUICE spacecraft, or Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer, to explore three of Jupiter's largest moons: Ganymede, Callisto and Europa.

    "The new data obtained from this study may help further researchers' understanding of the complex geological processes observed in these icy ocean worlds," Journaux said.

    Other authors are Boris Rubinsky, Brooke Chang, Anthony Consiglio, Drew Lilley and Ravi Prasher, all at UC Berkeley. The study was funded by the National Science Foundation and NASA.

     

    For more information, contact Journaux at bjournau@uw.edu or Powell-Palm at mpowellp@berkeley.edu.

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  • Devastating ice age floods that occurred in the pacific northwest fascinate scientists | Smithsonian Magazine
    Wednesday, April 20, 2022
    The Scablands were formed by tremendous and rapid change, and may have something to teach us about geological processes on Mars. Kelsay Stanton, a doctoral student in Earth and space sciences at the UW, is quoted. Read More
  • Forensic seismology reveals details of nearly-simultaneous (but unrelated) explosion and fireball
    Friday, April 15, 2022
    Updates to PNSN investigations about recent mystery booms on Orcas Island. Part of the mystery was a fireball high in the atmosphere seen around the same time as probably man-made explosions on the island. In an update to the post, Paul Bodin elaborates on this fireball, which created signals that reached all the way to Mt Rainier. Read More
  • Discovering the cause of mystery booms on Orcas Island | KUOW
    Friday, April 1, 2022
    Steve Malone, research professor emeritus of Earth and space sciences at the UW, discusses using seismic readings for tracking down the causes of the noise. Read More
  • Food grown on regenerative farms could actually be healthier for you | Modern Farmer
    Friday, April 1, 2022
    A preliminary study led by UW's David Montgomery looks at the link between regenerative agriculture methods and their impact on food nutrients. Read More