Showing posts from November, 2018

NASA’s InSight Mission Has Touched Down on Mars to Study the Red Planet’s Deep Secrets Source:   By Kenneth Chang, The New York Times. Excerpt: The InSight lander, NASA’s latest foray to the red planet, has landed. ...In the months ahead, InSight will begin its study of the Martian underworld, listening for tremors — marsquakes — and collect data that will be pieced together in a map of the interior of the red planet and help would help scientists understand how Mars and other rocky planets formed. ...“We can basically use Mars as a time machine to go back and look at what the Earth must have looked like a few tens of millions of years after it formed,” said Bruce Banerdt, the principal investigator of the mission. ... The main scientific part of the mission will not begin for a few months. ...InSight will use two main instruments: a dome-shape package containing seismometers and a heat probe that is to burrow about 16 feet down. ... Two identical spacecraft known as Mars Cube One, or MarCO for

How to Land on Mars Source:   By Jonathan Corum, The New York Times.

NASA’s next Mars rover will land in Jezero crater, which once hosted a lake and a river delta Source:   By Paul Voosen, Science Magazine. Excerpt: Update: NASA today announced the destination for its next Mars rover, due for launch in 2020. The agency said it would send the rover to the 50-kilometer-wide Jezero crater, which billions of years ago harbored a lake that half filled the 500-meter-deep basin. The crater also contains within its rim a fossilized river delta, the sediments from a river that spilled into the crater—a promising place to search for evidence of past life. [see photo in article; ] “Getting samples from this unique area will revolutionize how we think about Mars and its ability to harbor life,”  Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s associate administrator for science in Washington, D.C., said in a press con

Anything faster than a brisk walk on this martian moon could send you spinning off into space Source:    By Joshua Rapp Learn, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: Walk, don’t run, on the martian moon Phobos. A new study finds that traveling faster than about 5 kilometers per hour on some regions of the Red Planet’s largest satellite could shoot you straight off into space. Phobos... is an odd duck among our solar system’s moons. It’s tiny (a fraction of a percent the size of our own moon) and is shaped like a potato; that weird shape draws gravity to different places, depending on where you are. All these features make Phobos a challenge to travel on, researchers report in Advances in Space Research. In some places, moving any faster than 5 kilometers per hour would be enough to free you from the moon’s meager gravitational pull, sending you off into space.... The fastest you could travel anywhere on Phobos would be about 36 kilometers per hour, or a little faster than a golf cart, t

International Team, NASA Make Unexpected Discovery Under Greenland Ice Source:   NASA RELEASE 18-099. Excerpt: An international team of researchers, including a NASA glaciologist, has discovered a large meteorite impact crater hiding beneath more than a half-mile of ice in northwest Greenland. The crater — the first of any size found under the Greenland ice sheet — is one of the 25 largest impact craters on Earth, measuring roughly 1,000 feet deep and more than 19 miles in diameter, an area slightly larger than that inside Washington’s Capital Beltway....   See also 2019-02-12. Radar reveals a second potential impact crater under Greenland’s ice. By Paul Voosen, Science Magazine. [ ]

Super-Earth spied in the second-closest star system from the sun Source:   By Daniel Clery, Science Magazine. Excerpt: Our corner of the Milky Way is getting rather neighborly. In 2016, astronomers discovered a planet orbiting Proxima Centauri, the nearest star to our sun, just 4 light-years away. Now, they believe they have found an exoplanet around Barnard’s star, which at 6 light-years away is the second-closest star system. The planet—a chilly world more than three times heavier than Earth—is close enough that scientists could learn about its atmosphere with future giant telescopes. “This is going to be one of the best candidates,” says astronomer Nikku Madhusudhan of the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, who was not part of the discovery team. Barnard’s star b, as the new planet is called, was excruciatingly difficult to pin down, and the team is referring to it as a “candidate planet” though it is confident it’s there. ...Hundreds of exopl

Atacama Desert’s Unprecedented Rains Are Lethal to Microbes Source:   By Katherine Kornei, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: Chile’s Atacama Desert is the driest place on Earth. It receives just millimeters of rain each year, on average, and its parched conditions make it a commonly used stand-in for Mars. Last year, scientists working in the Atacama were astounded to find multiple lagoons of liquid water there—the ephemeral runoff from an unusual rain event. But the rainfall that created these ponds didn’t result in a bloom of life, the researchers found; it was actually lethal to the majority of microbes adapted to the extreme aridity of the Atacama. These findings have implications for future spacecraft missions that will collect samples from other planets: Incubating dry soil samples in aqueous solutions, as was done with the Viking landers on Mars in the 1970s, may have the inadvertent effect of killing microbial life. ...Azua-Bustos and his team hypothesized that the

After visits with Vesta and Ceres, asteroid-exploring Dawn spacecraft goes dark Source:   By Paul Voosen, Science Magazine. Excerpt: ...After several missed attempts to communicate with Dawn over the past 2 days, NASA declared that the spacecraft had run out of hydrazine and reached the end of its mission. ...[original coverage from 17 October]: ...After an 11-year journey to Vesta and Ceres, the asteroid belt's two largest members, NASA's Dawn spacecraft ... gave a close-up view of how the presence or absence of water can shape asteroids, will remain tumbling in orbit around Ceres for decades before ultimately crashing into it. Launched in 2007, Dawn is the only NASA mission to orbit two planetary bodies, a feat made possible by its efficient ion thrusters. In 2011, it arrived at the egg-shaped, 600-kilometer-long Vesta, orbiting for a year before departing for Ceres, where it arrived in 2015. ...The two asteroids, which together accou