The search for life beyond our solar system requires unprecedented cooperation across scientific disciplines. NASA's NExSS collaboration includes those who study Earth as a life-bearing planet (lower right), those researching the diversity of solar system planets (left), and those on the new frontier, discovering worlds orbiting other stars in the galaxy (upper right) (Image NASA)

NASA has announced the creation of the NExSS (Nexus for Exoplanet System Science), coalition, an initiative dedicated to the search for life on planets outside the solar system. It puts together different disciplines because this research goes beyond just astronomy: for example, it’s of interest to planetary and climate science researchers.

A map of the cosmic microwave background with inserts showing the Cold Spot as seen by PS1 and Planck Surveyor (Image ESA/Planck collaboration. Graphics by Gergő Kránicz)

When astronomers started studying a map of the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMB or CMBR), the residue of the earliest stages of the universe, they found what was called the Cold Spot. That’s a huge area colder than expected which could be the largest single cosmic structure never identified. According to an international team of scientists consists of a cosmic supervoid which about 1.8 billion light years across.

Artist impression of the protoplanetary disc surrounding the young star MWC 480. ALMA has detected the complex organic molecule methyl cyanide in its outer reaches (Image B. Saxton (NRAO/AUI/NSF))

For many years, scientists have known that complex molecules can form in space, including some important in the birth of life forms. This month, two studies have been published that prove the presence of various molecules of this type in an infant solar system and even in protostellar clouds in which Sun-like stars are formed together with their planets.

Images of the huge storm on Saturn taken by the Cassini space probe (Image NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI)

In late 2010, NASA’s space probe Cassini started observing a huge storm on Saturn lasting for several months. In recent days, an article was published on the journal “Nature Geoscience” that provides an explanation for this phenomenon that had been observed a number of times in the last 140 years but had remained mysterious. According to a team led by Cheng Li of CalTech, Pasadena, the presence of water is the key to its origin.