Tag Archives: mars

Scientists set out to study Earth’s most forbidding – and Mars-like – locations

If we want to find life on Mars it might help to study the most forbidding places on Earth. And it turns out there are four places so inhospitable – too cold, dry, hot or salty – that match the conditions on Mars. A team of scientists visited these sites to see if life can survive.

The four places are:

  • Chott-el Jerid, a salt pan in Tunisia
  • Atacama desert in Chile
  • Rio Tinto in Southern Spain
  • Deception Island in Antarctica
Deception Island in Antarctica. (source: Astrobiology)

 

From AstroBiology:

“The big questions are: what is life, how can we define it and what are the requirements for supporting life? To understand the results we receive back from missions like Curiosity, we need to have detailed knowledge of similar environments on Earth. In the field campaigns, we have studied ecosystems…found a range of complex chemical processes that allow life to survive in unexpected places.”

The results are helping to guide NASA’s mission to Mars with the rover Curiosity. Hinting at places where life might be found, how cloud cover can help create moisture, and showing that bacteria can survive just below the surface.

More about this research and the results from each site – from AstroBiology Magazine - Mars-Like Places on Earth Provide Insight to Life.

Space in your hand – 10 amazing iPhone, Android apps from NASA, JPL

Get your space on with these 10 amazing apps from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. They will amaze you with their material from visiting a comet, to being on the surface of Mars, or joining an astronomy society.

 

**All content from NASA/JPL

 

Space Images V2! - Discover, share and explore stunning images and videos of space from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

 

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Crackpots (and me) are seeing aliens in the Mars rover pictures

Hilariously fun – Where’s Waldo for the Martian-minded.

 

Mars Photos by Curiosity Rover Teeming with ‘UFOs’

According to the fringe sector of the Internet, Mars is practically teeming with aliens.

Since NASA’s Curiosity rover touched down on the Red Planet two weeks ago and powered up its cameras, it has already managed to photograph several alleged UFOs and other “anomalies” in the surrounding landscape.

From classic flying saucers to an absurdly out-of-place fossilized human finger, here’s a rundown of what UFO believers claim to have found in Curiosity photos so far. [Gallery of Mars ‘UFO’ Photos]

 

Can you spot the fingernail?

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UCLA researcher discovers Mars has tectonic plates

Planetary geologist An Yin has made a startling discovery about Mars:

UCLA scientist discovers plate tectonics on Mars

For years, many scientists had thought that plate tectonics existed nowhere in our solar system but on Earth. Now, a UCLA scientist has discovered that the geological phenomenon, which involves the movement of huge crustal plates beneath a planet’s surface, also exists on Mars.

This is exciting news, Mars has earthquakes and lava!

The article also talks about the Grand Canyon of Mars that is 9x times bigger, called Valles Marineris.

 

 

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The best video NASA has ever produced – ’7 minutes of terror’ – landing a robot on Mars

 

On Aug. 5 or Aug. 6, depending on which part of the country you’re in, the Curiosity spacecraft careening toward Mars will hit the Red Planet’s atmosphere, deploy a supersonic parachute and either land safely on the planet’s surface or perish. It’s dramatic stuff, and NASA has produced this Hollywood-style YouTube video, complete with animation and suspenseful music, to preview the landing, evoke that drama and put viewers on the edge of their seats.

As engineers explain, it will take seven minutes for Curiosity to travel from the edge of Mars’ atmosphere to the surface, going from a speed of 13,000 mph to zero. “If any one thing doesn’t work just right, it’s game over,” engineer Tom Rivellini says.

Because Mars is so far away, it actually takes 14 minutes for the spacecraft’s signal to reach Earth. So by the time we learn the spacecraft has hit the top of Mars’ atmosphere, Curiosity will have either have survived the landing or perished for a full seven minutes.

 

Source: Skye - 7 Minutes of Terror: NASA’s Dramatic Mars-Landing Preview

Astronomers discover a close new planet – covered in oceans of magma

In a surprise find, astronomers have discovered a planet possibly covered with oceans of magma “right around the corner.”

Thirty-three light years away, “we have a sub-Earth-sized planet that’s slightly larger than Mars and essentially right around the corner, at least on a cosmic scale,” said Kevin Stevenson, a planetary scientist now at the University of Chicago

UCF-1.01 is about 5,200 miles (8,400 kilometers) wide, making about a quarter the volume of Earth. And with a year that lasts only 1.4 Earth days, the new planet’s orbit takes UCF-1.01 searingly close to its star.

“It could be a thousand degrees Fahrenheit [540 degrees Celsius]. That may be hot enough to make an ocean of molten rock.”

Researchers using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope essentially stumbled upon the new planet while studying a hot, Neptune-size planet called GJ 436b.

 

Learn more: National Geographic - New Planet Found: Molten “Mars” Is “Right Around the Corner”

 

 

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MESSENGER sends first data back to Earth – uncovers ice on Mercury

For several years scientists have been begging to test their theories about Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun. You see, the radar signals come back showing ice exists on the planet, but how could ice exist on a planet so incredibly hot?

NASA sent the spacecraft MESSENGER to orbit the planet and figure the mystery out (among other things). It turns out that ice exists at the planet north and south poles and possibly underneath some “dirt-shielding”.

All of this was uncovered by Professor David Paige, who has previous experience with Mars and the Moon, as he explains in his own words:

 

“I was able to use the Mercury laser altimeter in conjunction with a three-dimensional ray-tracing thermal model that I built to study ice on the moon, Paige said. “Using these models, I calculated the average temperature on the surface of the planet and concluded that the surface temperatures were too warm to permit the long-term stability of ice. The only possibility was some sort of thin layer of cover that allowed the ice to survive.”

This thin, dark layer is called a regolith and is probably made of organic substances like the Earth’s soil, rich in hydrocarbon compounds that may have come from the comets and meteorites that struck the planet over time. The comets and meteorites may have also contributed the water that seeped under the soil cover to form the icy patches.

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MESSENGER (Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry and Ranging) is the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury. Its goal is to collect better data about the composition and atmosphere of the planet, and it just completed its first year of information gathering.

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While the mix of water and organic compounds on another planet may raise the possibility of extraterrestrial life for some scientists, this is not what excites Paige. For him, the discovery of ice on Mercury is the triumph of science.

“We’re getting a good agreement between models and observations,” Paige said. “What we thought was true is true. The most exciting part of this? We may not know lot of things, but on Mercury we have things under control.”

via UCLA Today

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Life on Mars is possible – for cave dwellers

A study of the biology and geology of Mars, from the Australian National University, shows there is plenty of room for life on Mars.

Granted, much of that room is in caves just below the planet’s surface, and much of that life will likely be microbes rather than little green men. But here’s the kicker — fully 3% of Mars has the right conditions to support life, the researchers say.

…if you run the same numbers on Earth, just 1% of the planet’s volume can support life.

The average surface temperature on Mars is minus 63 degrees Celsius (AFP/HO/File)

Mars’ surface is too cold and too low-pressure to support liquid water…But Lineweaver’s study looked at geological data from decades of Mars missions — and concluded that it would be warm and pressurized enough for life to live just below the surface. Warmth from the planet’s core provides the heat, and soil packed in from above creates the necessary air pressure.

So are there vast empires of microbes — or even something bigger — lurking just below that dusty red surface? We should know more next August when NASA’s Curiosity Rover arrives on Mars. This next-generation space robot comes equipped with a laser beam that can blast rocks, and a robotic arm that can examine the results.

via Mashable

 

More about Mars:

 

// Photo via AFP & thx to Amelia S.