Thursday, October 17, 2013
Some meteorites that drop in on Earth come from Mars.
We have suspected this for years, but this week, NASA's Curiosity rover confirmed their origin.
Using Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument — a highly sophisticated onboard chemistry lab that can conduct hundreds of the same experiments we do on Earth — Curiosity rover found two forms of argon, a noble gas that doesn't react to other compounds. This is an important gas because it tells the straightforward history of Mars, which was once a wet planet similar to Earth.
While argon exists throughout our solar system, on Mars, the ratio of heavy to light argon is skewed due to the loss of its atmosphere over billions of years. This fundamentally changed it into the cold, desert-like planet that exists today.
Modern Mars is filled with the heavy form, Argon 38. The lighter form, Argon 36, rose to the top where it then easily escaped. In a sense, Curiosity uncovered the planet's hidden signature by pinning down the ratio of these two forms at 4:2. To put that into context, NASA's Viking landers estimated the planet's atmospheric value to be in the range of 4:7.
"We really nailed it," said lead study author Sushil Atreya of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, who published the work in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. "This direct reading from Mars settles the case with all Martian meteorites," he said.br />
Out of the tens of thousands of known meteorites to slam into Earth, less than 50 have been identified with Mars origins.
The study appears in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.
Saturday, September 21, 2013
Credit: Sean McNaughton and Samuel Velasco, National Geographic and 5W Infographics
Almost 200 launches and their destinations detailed in one image.
Full size: http://bit.ly/15LeQi2
Thursday, September 19, 2013
Mars Rover Curiosity Detects No Methane in Martian Gas Samples at Ground Level: Hope of Life on Mars Fades.
Researchers using an unusually sensitive gas detector aboard the Mars Curiosity robot rover reported that they can't find any methane in the thin Martian air, dealing a blow to hopes that life today might be lurking in the soil of the cold, arid world.
"Methane on Mars would be an exciting find because most of the methane on Earth comes from life-related processes," such as microbial activity or organic decay, said planetary scientist Malynda Chizek at New Mexico State University who studies the planet's atmosphere. "Everyone wants to be the one who discovers life on Mars."
Upon the first close inspection at ground level on Mars, however, the crucial methane gas was nowhere to be found by Mars Rover Curiosity.
More Mars probes, including India's first mission to the planet and a $1 billion European effort with Russia, are poised to search for methane there in the years ahead. In light of the new finding, some researchers now doubt these efforts will find any evidence of the life-related gas.
Since 2003, astronomers using Earth-based telescopes and readings from a European satellite orbiting Mars have reported detecting periodic plumes of methane on Mars—up to 50 parts per billion in the air. Although often challenged by other researchers, those readings raised expectations among astrobiologists that microbes might be at work on the planet.
Saturday, September 7, 2013
Mean while back on the planet Earth: Professor Steven Benner "Life on Earth came from elements that arrived from Mars on a Martian meteorite,.”
All living things are made from organic matter, but simply adding energy to organic molecules will not create life. Instead, left to themselves, organic molecules become something more like tar or asphalt, said Prof Benner told the conference. He described the oxidised mineral form of the element molybdenum, believed to be a catalyst that fostered the development of organic molecules into the first living structures.
“It’s only when molybdenum becomes highly oxidised that it is able to influence how early life formed,” said Prof Benner, from The Westheimer Institute for Science and Technology in the USA. “This form of molybdenum couldn’t have been available on Earth at the time life first began, because three billion years ago the surface of the Earth had very little oxygen, but Mars did. “It’s yet another piece of evidence which makes it more likely life came to Earth on a Martian meteorite, rather than starting on this planet.”
He added: “Certain elements seem able to control the propensity of organic materials to turn to tar, particularly boron and molybdenum, so we believe that minerals containing both were fundamental to life first starting. “Analysis of a Martian meteorite recently showed that there was boron on Mars; we now believe that the oxidised form of molybdenum was there too.”
Study: Life On Earth May Have Started On Mars American Voices • Opinion • ISSUE 49•36 • Sep 3, 2013 5315337According to scientist Steven Benner, conditions on Mars 3 billion years ago were more conducive than those on Earth to creating one of the earliest molecules of life, RNA, and that meteorites may have transported these molecules to Earth’s surface. What do you think?
Sunday, August 25, 2013
NASA’s rover Curiosity begins extended exploration on Mars
NASA's Mars Curiosity rover is beginning a long-awaited, 5-mile-long journey across the terrain of the red planet to begin exploring a rocky area known as Mount Sharp, 11 months after the rover arrived on the planet's surface, according to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “With drives on July 4 and July 7, NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has departed its last science target in the 'Glenelg' area and commenced a many-month overland journey to the base of the mission's main destination, Mount Sharp,” NASA reported in a July 8 announcement.
Curiosity has already checked off its main mission goal, finding that a site called Yellowknife Bay was indeed habitable billions of years ago. The car-size rover — which is nuclear- rather than solar-powered — has embarked on a months-long trek to the base of a 3.4-mile-high (5.5 km) mountain called Mount Sharp.
NASA's long-lived Opportunity Mars rover has reached the site where it will wait out its sixth Red Planet winter.
Opportunity — which touched down on Mars in January 2004 just after its twin, Spirit, arrived on the planet — is studying rocks at the foot of a location called Solander Point, whose north-facing slope will allow the robot to tilt its solar panels toward the sun during the coming southern Martian winter.
"We made it," Opportunity project scientist Matt Golombek, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said in a statement. "The drives went well, and Opportunity is right next to Solander Point. We know we could be on that north-facing slope with a one-day drive, but we don't need to go there yet.
The days are getting shorter in Mars' southern hemisphere, and the amount of sunlight available to the solar-powered Opportunity will reach a minimum in mid-February 2014 (the southern winter solstice occurs on Feb. 14).
Saturday, August 3, 2013
Still Rocking and Rolling afer ONE YEAR on Mars! :Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California can still produce a pretty compelling movie
Thursday, July 25, 2013
Mars Rover Curiosity was captured by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) on its way to Mount Sharp
|Mars Rover Curiosity was captured by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) on its way to Mount Sharp|
Mars Rover Curiosity Rover captured by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) as it makes its way to Mount Sharp, leaving a weaving set of tracks in its wake. The image released today by NASA scientists, shows Rover making its way across the planet, leaving tracks back to a dark, blast spot on the surface of Mars. That spot called the 'Bradbury Landing' is where Mars Rover Curiosity landed on Mars, named after the late science fiction author Ray Bradbury.