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(Astronomy) Mars: The Rovers That Just Won't Stop
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 29, 2005 1:11 pm    Post subject: (Astronomy) Mars: The Rovers That Just Won't Stop Reply with quote






The Rovers That Just Won't Stop
Leonard David
Senior Space Writer
SPACE.com
Mon Dec 26,12:00 PM ET

The Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity have exceeded NASA's expectations by such a large margin that 2005 was just more icing on the cake as both rovers continue to return invaluable insights into Mars' past.

Each spacecraft was originally expected to last 90 days. On Nov. 21, Spirit completed one martian year--some two Earth years--on Mars. Opportunity, reached that same milestone Dec. 12. Both rovers found what they were sent to probe: signs of past water on Mars.

One of the things that helped prolong the lives of the rovers was the repeated removal of the dust that gathered on the solar panels of each of the robots. Occasional wind events cleared dust from the wing-like panels, thereby increasing the amount of energy yielded by the solar collectors to power the robots.

Spirit, which likes its twin Opportunity is about the size of a golf cart has now wheeled itself over three miles since landing in Gusev Crater. Opportunity's odometer reads over 4 miles following its touchdown in Meridiani Planum on the opposite side of the planet. A literal high point in Spirit's exploration was a year-long climb through the Columbia Hills, the first robot explorer to ascend a mountain on another planet.

In late September, Spirit reached the top of Husband Hill--a spot nearly as tall as the Statue of Liberty from the floor of Gusev Crater. From that vantage point, Spirit produced a sweeping panorama of the surrounding martian territory--including a view of miniature tornados in the form of dust devils that raced across Mars' surface.

From that same scenic spot, Spirit also snagged images of the two Martian moons, Phobos and Deimos. Other nighttime duties included charting meteor showers skirting across the red planet's sky.

Spirit also found rocks in the Columbia Hills that were either formed in, or altered by, water. Furthermore, rover scientists discerned that the hills hold the highest sulfur content ever found on Mars: sulfate salts, deposited by water. Spirit spent over a month exploring the summit region, then began a descent to additional scientific targets. In a far distant region of Mars, the Opportunity rover went through a year of trial, tribulation and triumph.

Early in the year, Opportunity, wrapped up surveying its own heat shield. The broken and twisted remains of the hardware were examined by the robot's microscopic imager -- the first time engineers could examine a heat shield after it had entered another planet's atmosphere.

During its heat shield survey work, Opportunity came across an iron meteorite, the first meteorite of any type ever identified on another planet. The basketball-sized object was inspected by the rover, including use of onboard spectrometers, determining that the meteorite was mostly made of iron and nickel.

The robot was then commanded to drive toward a region within Meridiani Planum called Etched Terrain, with Opportunity setting new distance and speed records in the process. In late April, however, ground controllers found that the rover had bogged down in sand, digging itself in to wheel-hub depth.

Through delicate and well-practiced maneuvers using a backup rover on Earth, Opportunity successfully extracted itself -- an effort that took nearly five weeks before the robot was free from its sand trap.

In carefully orchestrated spurts of driving, Opportunity made its way forward, wheeling around Erebus Crater and to its next investigative campaign. The rover performed extensive studies of outcrops in the area, utilizing tools on its robotic arm to examine the material.

At year's end, the robot was parked at Erebus Crater. A balky motor on Opportunity's instrument-laden arm crimped scientific study of the outcrops for several weeks, although work-around-procedures were being studied. Erebus has turned out to be a nasty place to work for the rover, with widely separated outcrops of rock between numbers of dunes and drifts.

Still, expectations were that Opportunity would continue south through the etched terrain and head toward the large Victoria Crater -- a feature eight times larger than the 430-foot-diameter Endurance Crater that the robot explored earlier in its mission.

Scientists studying the bounty of data from Opportunity now believe that life at Meridiani Planum would have likely had a tough time getting started eons ago. Conditions in this region of Mars were strongly acidic, oxidizing and sometimes wet. Those circumstances probably posed drastic challenges to the potential origin of martian life.

While Spirit and Opportunity continued their independent roving of the red planet, NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter was launched on August 12, 2005. It will join an armada of U.S. and European spacecraft now orbiting Mars, reaching the planet on March 10, 2006.

Work also continued throughout the year in preparing two future NASA Mars landers: Phoenix for a 2007 sendoff and the Mars Science Laboratory that heads for the planet in 2009.

New Studies Question Mars Water Assumptions The Original Story: Water Once Filled Mars Opportunity Rover Landing Site Ice Packs and Methane on Mars Suggest Present Life Possible, European Team Says Vote for the Best Cosmic Images of 2005!

Visit SPACE.com for more space-related news including videos, launch coverage and interactive experiences. Explore our huge collection of Image Galleries, view our Image of the Day and Amazing Images. Follow the latest developments in the search for life in our universe in our SETI: Search for Life section. Join the community, sign up for our free daily email newsletter, listen to our Podcasts, and check out our RSS feeds today!

************************************************************

Questions to explore further this topic:

What is Mars?

http://www.dustbunny.com/afk/planets/mars/
http://imaginemars.jpl.nasa.gov/info/
http://seds.lpl.arizona.edu/ni...../mars.html

A History of Missions to Mars:

http://marsprogram.jpl.nasa.gov/missions/

Why explore Mars?

http://marsprogram.jpl.nasa.gov/science/

What are the technologies necessary for Mars' exploration?

http://marsprogram.jpl.nasa.gov/technology/

What are the Mars rovers?

http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/overview/
http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov.....hicle.html
http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov.....craft.html
http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov.....rover.html

When were the rovers launched?

http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov.....aunch.html

Cruise Phase:

http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov.....ruise.html

Approach Phase:

http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov.....roach.html

Entry, Descent, and Landing Phase:

http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov.....entry.html

Egress Phase:

http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov.....rover.html

Surface Operations:

http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov.....rface.html

Where are the rovers now?

http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov....._maps.html

The Diary of Spirit and Opportunity (The Mars Rovers):

http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov.....index.html

Who are the people behind the Mars Rovers' Mission?

http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/people/

Explore Mars with the rovers:

http://www.marsquestonline.org/mer/

Can we live on Mars?

http://imaginemars.jpl.nasa.gov/info/dreaming.html

Views from Mars:

http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/targetFamily/Mars
http://marsprogram.jpl.nasa.go.....mages.html

Videos of Mars' mission

http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/gallery/video/

GAMES

http://kids.msfc.nasa.gov/Puzzles/Weight.asp
http://spaceplace.nasa.gov/en/.....cket.shtml
http://spaceplace.nasa.gov/en/.....cket.shtml
http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/funzone/marsbuildaworld/


Last edited by adedios on Sat Jan 27, 2007 5:02 pm; edited 2 times in total
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 30, 2005 8:25 am    Post subject: Mars Region Probably Less Watery In Past Than Thought, Says Reply with quote

Mars Region Probably Less Watery In Past Than Thought, Says Study
Dec. 21, 2005

A region of Mars that some planetary scientists believe was once a shallow lakebed and likely habitable for life may not have been so wet after all, according to a new University of Colorado at Boulder study.

The new study indicates chemical signatures in the bedrock, interpreted in 2004 by the Mars Exploration Rover, or MER, mission team as evidence for widespread, intermittent water at Mars' surface, may have instead been created by the reaction of sulfur-bearing steam vapors moving up through volcanic ash deposits. Known as Meridiani Planum, the region may have been more geologically similar to volcanic regions in parts of North America, Hawaii or Europe, said Thomas McCollom of CU-Boulder's Center for Astrobiology.

"Our study indicates it was probably more like parts of Yellowstone, Hawaii or Italy than something like the Great Salt Lake," said McCollom, also a research associate at CU-Boulder's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics. "We think it was far less favorable for past biological activity than other scenarios that have been proposed."

A paper on the subject by McCollom and CU-Boulder Research Associate Brian Hynek of CU-Boulder's LASP appears in the Dec. 22 issue of Nature.

A series of scientific papers published in December 2004 by the Mars Exploration Rover team and based on data gathered by the rover Opportunity, concluded that the Meridiani Planum region once probably had a large sea or huge lake that may have waxed and waned over eons. The authors proposed that the evaporation of surface and subsurface water over time left behind various chemical precipitates -- predominately sulfate salts -- which they interpreted as evidence for a watery environment that would have been conducive for life to exist.

But if the sulfate was the result of precipitation from an evaporating brine of surface and subsurface water as has been proposed, McCollom and Hynek contend the bedrock should be enriched with a large amount of positively charged atoms, known as cations, from minerals like iron, calcium and magnesium. But it is not, they said.

"We think the bedrock was laid down by enormous volcanic ash flows over time that were then permeated by sulfur dioxide-rich steam vapors," said McCollom. "The sulfur dioxide and water combined to form sulfuric acid, which reacted with and altered the bedrock to give it its present chemical composition."

The new scenario does not require prolonged interaction between bedrock and a standing body of surface water as proposed by the MER team, and the process likely occurred at high temperatures, perhaps more than 200 degrees F, said McCollom. "Everything about the site seems to be consistent with our conclusions," he said.

"In our scenario, the water required to support the chemistry in this bedrock would only have had to have been around for months, years or perhaps as much as a few centuries," said Hynek. "This is very different than previous scenarios, which require that a much larger amount of water be present for many millennia."'

The European Space Agency's Mars Express spacecraft recently showed the chemistry of layered deposits surrounding the Meridiani Planum region is similar to the bedrock at the Opportunity landing site, implying the entire area hosted volcanic activity, said Hynek. The size of the suspected Meridiani Planum volcanic deposits appears much larger than any similar deposit on Earth and encompasses an area roughly the size of Arizona, according to the CU-Boulder researchers.

McCollom described the geology of the region as "solfatara-like,"' a term that originated from Solfatara Crater, a volcanic region near Naples, Italy, harboring vents that emit vapors. "While solfataras are riddled with vents and fissures giving off sulfurous vapors at the surface, the deposits we see at Meridiani probably represent the subsurface beneath such fissures," said McCollom.

On Earth, solfataras host microbes that are capable of using sulfur for sustenance, McCollom said. Some of the areas are now under study by astrobiologists looking to characterize extreme environments on Earth that support life.

"My view is that there is a good possibility there is life on Mars, probably in the subsurface," he said. "We know from examples on Earth that life can exist in extreme places, and Mars seems to have the necessary ingredients for that."

Hynek said that in the distant past, Meridiani Planum may have had all the necessary ingredients to support organisms like those found in solfataras. "But the unique and probably short-lived nature of the environment suggests it may not be the best place to look for evidence of Martian life today," he said.



Contact: Thomas McCollom, (303) 735-3072
cell phone, (720) 840-7765
mccollom@lasp.colorado.edu
Brian Hynek, (303) 735-4312
cell phone, (303) 775-5997
hynek@lasp.colorado.edu
Jim Scott, (303) 492-3114


URL: http://www.colorado.edu/news/releases/2005/470.
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 30, 2005 3:40 pm    Post subject: The Planets in 2006 Reply with quote

The Planets in 2006
Joe Rao
SPACE.com Skywatching Columnist
SPACE.com
Fri Dec 30,11:00 AM ET

Venus, Mars and Saturn light the cold, frosty evenings of winter as the New Year opens up, but 2006 will be hardly a week old when Venus plunges rapidly down into the sunset. Mars, meanwhile, fades into the distance.


As warmer weather approaches, Saturn takes over to dominate the milder evening skies of late winter and early spring, only to be replaced in turn by Jupiter later in the spring and summer. Meanwhile, speedy Mercury will pass in front of the Sun in early November, then joins Mars and Jupiter to form a tight triangle in the dawn skies of early December.


Sound like a busy year for planet watching? Let's take a look at the visibility of each of these worlds during 2006.


MERCURY: Mercury usually appears as a bright "star" with a yellowish or ochre hue. At its best evening apparitions, it can be found almost directly above where the Sun has set, being visible for up to 90 minutes after sundown. As viewed from the Northern Hemisphere, such an opportunity will come between Feb. 10 to March 3. It will also be positioned to the north of a razor-thin crescent Moon on the evening of February 28.


During its best morning apparitions, you'll find it positioned almost directly above where the Sun will rise up to 90 minutes prior to sunup. Such an occasion will come between Nov. 18 to Dec. 9 and it will appear to ride well to the north a slender sliver of a crescent Moon on the morning of November 19. On Nov. 8, a transit of Mercury will take place, with the planet appearing in silhouette as a tiny black dot on the Sun's disk. This event will be visible from the Americas, the Pacific Ocean, Australia, New Zealand and eastern Asia.


VENUS: Always appears brilliant, and shines with a steady, silvery light. It starts 2006 very low in the west-southwestern evening sky at dusk for the first several days of January. It then passes roughly between the Sun and the Earth (inferior conjunction) on Jan. 13 and makes its transition into the morning sky.


You'll find it during the final week of January, low in the east-southeast sky at the first light of dawn and it will continue to be a prominent morning object right on through the end of August. It will then be hidden again by the bright solar glare almost through the balance of the year. Passing through superior conjunction on Oct. 27, it will then return to the evening sky, though not likely readily visible for most until the waning days of December. During late January and through much of February, it will resemble a beautiful crescent in steadily held binoculars and telescopes.


Venus will reach its greatest brilliancy in the morning sky on Feb. 17. Venus will appear to pass very close to Saturn on the morning of Aug. 27; the planets will appear low to the eastern horizon and separated by only about a half-degree (the apparent width of the Moon).


MARS: Shines like a star with a yellowish-orange hue. This will evolve into an "off year" for Mars, although it will be just coming off a splendid opposition during mid-autumn of 2005. It will appear brightest in 2006 on New Year's Day, still glowing brilliantly at magnitude –0.6 in the constellation of Aries and outshining all the stars in the sky with the exception of Sirius and Canopus. It will then be 72 million miles from Earth, but it will also be receding from us each night thereafter and hence will be getting progressively fainter.


By March 1, it will appear more than 3½ times dimmer and by May 9 it will have fallen into the ranks of a second magnitude object. Mars will pass just over one-half degree from Saturn in the evening sky of June 17. A month later, it is all but gone from view, becoming too deeply immersed in the solar glare to be seen. It will be in conjunction with the Sun on Oct. 23, becoming a morning object. Not until about the middle of December will it emerge from the bright morning twilight.


JUPITER: will appear as a brilliant "star" with a silver-white luster in the constellation of Libra, the Scales. It will be primarily a late-night/early morning object from January through April.


By May and June it will be visible most of the night and will continue to be a convenient evening object through the end of October. It is at opposition to the Sun on May 4. It will disappear into the Sun's glow in early November and will again become visible in the morning sky during early December.


SATURN: Usually shines like a yellowish-white "star" of moderate brightness. It will be primarily a late-night/early morning object through much of January. By late January into February it will be visible most of the night and will continue to be a convenient evening object through the middle of July. It is at opposition to the Sun on Jan. 27 and will also have two close encounters with other naked-eye planets in 2006.


It will pass just over one-half degree from a much-dimmer Mars on the evening of June 17 and will lie a similar distance from the much-more dazzling Venus on the morning of Aug. 27. Saturn is located within the relatively dim stars of Cancer, the Crab. On February 2 and again on June 5, Saturn will be situated just below the beautiful cluster of stars popularly known as the "Beehive." The famous ring system is visible in telescopes magnifying over 30-power.


From mid-March until the beginning of May, the rings will be tilted at a 20º angle toward Earth. You should take full advantage of this circumstance, because, we won't see the rings tipped 20º or more to our line of sight again until the year 2014!


URANUS: can be spied with the unaided eye under a clear, dark sky. However, it is more easily seen in binoculars. At magnitude +5.7, it is located in Aquarius and is at opposition to the Sun on Sept. 5.


NEPTUNE: is an 8th magnitude object visible in binoculars and in 2006 resides in Capricornus, the Sea Goat. It arrives at opposition on August 11.


PLUTO: the smallest and most distant planet is, at magnitude 14 (about 900 times fainter than the faintest star visible to the unaided eye), the most difficult to observe. You'll need a very dark sky, at least an 8-inch telescope and a finder chart to locate it. In the constellation of Serpens, the Serpent, it's at opposition on June 16.

The Highlight of 2006: A Planet Trio

Jupiter, Mercury and Mars will engage in a most intriguing pre-Christmas gathering, very low in the east-southeast sky during the second week of December. The best time to look will be around 6:30 a.m. local time. Unfortunately, the low altitude, plus this gathering's proximity to the Sun likely will render Mars invisible (or nearly so) to the unaided eye. Binoculars are strongly recommended. In contrast, Mercury and Jupiter should be more readily visible to the eye with only slight difficulty, as they will shine much brighter than Mars.

The trio will be most compact—fitting within just a 1-degree circle—on Dec. 10. On this morning, the three planets will resemble a compact arrowhead pointing west, with Mars at the arrowhead.

There will also be separate conjunctions between Mercury and Mars (Dec. 9), Mercury and Jupiter (Dec. 10) and Mars and Jupiter (Dec. 11). Also, for binocular viewers on the morning of Dec. 10, Mercury will appear to lie very close below and to the right of the second magnitude star Graffias in Scorpius, the Scorpion.

Joe Rao serves as an instructor and guest lecturer at New York's Hayden Planetarium. He writes about astronomy for The New York Times and other publications, and he is also an on-camera meteorologist for News 12 Westchester, New York.

DEFINITIONS



1 AU, or astronomical unit, is the distance from the Sun to Earth, or about 93 million miles.

Magnitude is the standard by which astronomers measure the apparent brightness of objects that appear in the sky. The lower the number, the brighter the object. The brightest stars in the sky are categorized as zero or first magnitude. Negative magnitudes are reserved for the most brilliant objects: the brightest star is Sirius (-1.4); the full Moon is -12.7; the Sun is -26.7. The faintest stars visible under dark skies are around +6.

Degrees measure apparent sizes of objects or distances in the sky, as seen from our vantage point. The Moon is one-half degree in width. The width of your fist held at arm's length is about 10 degrees. The distance from the horizon to the overhead point (called the zenith) is equal to 90 degrees.

Declination is the angular distance measured in degrees, of a celestial body north or south of the celestial equator. If, for an example, a certain star is said to have a declination of +20 degrees, it is located 20 degrees north of the celestial equator. Declination is to a celestial globe as latitude is to a terrestrial globe.

Arc seconds are sometimes used to define the measurement of a sky object's angular diameter. One degree is equal to 60 arc minutes. One arc minute is equal to 60 arc seconds. The Moon appears (on average), one half-degree across, or 30 arc minutes, or 1800 arc seconds. If the disk of Mars is 20 arc seconds across, we can also say that it is 1/90 the apparent width of the Moon (since 1800 divided by 20 equals 90).



Visit SPACE.com for more space-related news including videos, launch coverage and interactive experiences. Explore our huge collection of Image Galleries, view our Image of the Day and Amazing Images. Follow the latest developments in the search for life in our universe in our SETI: Search for Life section. Join the community, sign up for our free daily email newsletter, listen to our Podcasts, and check out our RSS feeds today!
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 21, 2006 2:51 pm    Post subject: Martian Snow Source Of Tropical Glaciers Reply with quote

Source: Brown University
Date: 2006-01-20
URL: http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....232017.htm

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Martian Snow Source Of Tropical Glaciers, Research Team Reports

Snow is the source of glacial deposits found at the base of the majestic volcanoes and mountains dotting the mid-latitude and tropical regions of Mars. Based on an innovative blend of geological observations and climate modeling created by a team of American and French scientists, the finding appears in Science.

Discovery of the source of the tropical glaciers ends a 30-year Martian mystery. In 1976, cameras aboard NASA’s Viking Mission to Mars captured unprecedented views of the canyons and craters of the Red Planet – including polar ice caps. Recent spacecraft data reveal curious rock-strewn deposits found at the foot of volcanoes and mountains close to the equator.

In the last two years, Brown University planetary geologist James Head and other Mars experts have offered up mounting evidence that these ice-rich landforms – which appear to ooze out of valleys in the Eastern Hellas region or puddle on the western flanks of the three giant volcanoes known as the Tharsis Montes – are the remnants of geologically recent glaciers.

But how could ice form so far from the planet’s poles? Long-ago landslides? Upwelling from an underground reservoir?

“What we found,” Head said, “was that the glaciers were formed from snow brought from the polar regions.”

A few million years ago, Head and the team explain, the axis of Mars was tilted in such a way that the poles were pointing dramatically closer to the sun. Sun rays hit the polar ice caps nearly head on, releasing massive amounts of water vapor into the atmosphere. Monsoon-like winds carried the water vapor south, up and over the soaring slopes of the Tharsis Montes volcanoes and Olympus Mons, the solar system’s largest volcano. The vapor cooled, condensed and fell in the form of snow. Over time, the snow turned to ice, the ice formed glaciers, and the glaciers created the deposits seen today.

The Martian precipitation cycle described in Science is similar to the one on Earth that routinely blankets mountainous regions such as the Rockies in snow. Another Earthly analog: the tropical mountain glaciers described in the article can be found in places such as Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa or the Andean peaks in South America.

The team arrived at their finding using a climate model that simulated the present-day Mars water cycle but assumed a 45-degree axial tilt found on the planet millions of years ago. The model created a near-perfect match of predicted ice accumulation and direct observational evidence from images taken by the Mars Express, Mars Global Surveyor and Mars Odyssey orbiters.

“The findings are important because they tell us that Mars has experienced big climate changes in the past, the kinds of climate change that led to the Great Ice Age here on Earth,” said Head, the Louis and Elizabeth Scherck Distinguished Professor at Brown. “The findings are also interesting because this precipitation pattern may have left pockets of ice scattered across Mars. This is good information for NASA as officials plan future space missions, particularly with astronauts.”

The team also includes scientists from the Institut Pierre Simon Laplace and the Institut de Mecanique in Paris as well as the NASA Ames Research Center. The Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, the European Space Agency and NASA funded the work.
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 09, 2006 10:48 am    Post subject: MARS' ATMOSPHERE ALTERED BY SOLAR FLARES Reply with quote

Boston University
7 April 2006

BOSTON UNIVERSITY SCIENTISTS DISCOVER MARS' ATMOSPHERE ALTERED BY SOLAR FLARES

New research shows X-ray bursts from the Sun cause dramatic changes to the planet’s ionosphere
(Boston) – Boston University astronomers announced today the first clear evidence that solar flares change the upper atmosphere of Mars. In an article published in the February 24th issue of the journal Science, the researchers describe how X-ray bursts from the Sun in April 2001 recorded by satellites near Earth reached Mars and caused dramatic enhancements to the planet’s ionosphere – the region of a planet’s atmosphere where the Sun’s ultraviolet and X-rays are absorbed by atoms and molecules. The measurements were made by the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) spacecraft at the Red Planet as it transmitted signals to NASA’s antenna sites back on Earth.

“On April 15th and 26th of 2001, radio signals from MGS showed that the Martian ionosphere was unusually dense, and this was the clue that some extra production of ions and electrons had occurred,” explained Michael Mendillo, professor of astronomy, who led the BU research team in its Center for Space Physics.

“At Earth, the GOES satellites measure the Sun’s X-rays almost continuously,” said Dr. Paul Withers of BU. “Our search of their large database discovered several cases of flares occurring just minutes before MGS detected enhancements in Mars’ ionosphere.”

The extra electrons produced by the Sun’s X-rays cause subtle changes in how the MGS radio waves travel toward Earth. Therefore, the team wanted to find several unambiguous case study events before announcing their findings.

The Radio Science Experiment on MGS has made observations of Mars’ ionosphere since its arrival there in late 1999. Its radio transmissions are received by NASA and then cast into scientifically meaningful data by Dr. David Hinson at Stanford University who provides open access to researchers worldwide via a Web site. “We needed Dr. Hinson’s expert advice to make sure that some odd changes in the MGS radio signal had not occurred just by chance,” Dr. Withers added.

To confirm that the photons from these flares had sufficient fluxes to actually modify an ionosphere, additional evidence was sought using measurements on Earth. “During this period, the Sun, Earth and Mars were nearly in a straight line and thus the X-rays measured at Earth should have caused enhancements here as well as at Mars,” Mendillo added.

Using several ionospheric radars spread over the globe, operated by scientists at the University of Massachusetts/Lowell, Professor Bodo Reinisch confirmed that the Sun’s X-rays caused equally impressive modifications to Earth’s ionosphere at the precise times required on those days.

“The science yield from this work will be in the new field of Comparative Atmospheres,” Mendillo pointed out. “By that I mean studies of the same process in nature, in this case making an ionosphere on two planets simultaneously, offer insights and constraints to models not always possible when studying that process on a single planet. The fifth member of our team, Professor Henry Rishbeth of the University of Southampton in England, provides the expertise in theory and modeling that will be the focus of our follow-up studies.”

Founded in 1839, Boston University is an internationally recognized institution of higher education and research. With more than 30,000 students, it is the fourth largest independent university in the United States. BU contains 17 colleges and schools along with a number of multi-disciplinary centers and institutes which are central to the school’s research and teaching mission.

************

Note to Editors: Images available online at: http://sirius.bu.edu/data/press.html
Author Contacts: (a) Professor Michael Mendillo, Center for Space Physics, Boston University,(617) 353-2629, mendillo@bu.edu (b) Dr. Paul Withers, Center for Space Physics, Boston University,(617) 353-1531, withers@bu.edu (c) Dr. David Hinson, Department of Electrical Engineering, Stanford University,(650) 723-3534, dhinson@stanford.edu (d) Professor Bodo Reinisch, Center for Atmospheric Research, University of Massachusetts/Lowell,(978) 934-4903, Bodo_Reinisch@uml.edu (e) Professor Henry Rishbeth, School of Physics & Astronomy, University of Southampton, UK, hr@phys.soton.ac.uk
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 16, 2006 4:33 pm    Post subject: Are there Martians among us? Reply with quote

Are there Martians among us?[/b]
STAR SCIENCE By [b]Ronie J. Calugay, PhD

The Philippine STAR 08/17/2006

Nope, this isn’t Hollywood or tabloid stuff. Truth is, for years, scientists have been intensely debating and scrutinizing evidence that life forms from Mars may have flourished on Earth, way, way back before the dinosaurs or the pyramids! Scientists have been breeding and meticulously studying these alleged Martians for almost 30 years! In fact, zillions are bred in US, Europe and Asian facilities and some may have escaped from their breeding vessels! I swear this is not a hoax. Read on and you may realize that numerous species of these life forms may be gaining in numbers fast… right in your neighborhood! What on Earth are they?
Eleven thousand years ago, a piece of rock ejected from the surface of Mars landed in Antarctica. According to some scientists, the 4.5-billion-year-old Martian meteorite tagged as ALH84001, must have shuttled life forms from the red planet. Their evidence? Magnetic crystals aligned in chains embedded in the meteorite with striking resemblance to the composition and arrangement of magnetic crystals found within a group of bacteria thriving here on Earth called magnetotactic bacteria. Starstruck!
What are magnetotactic bacteria? An accidental observation on a routine, ordinary day, by an unknown and inquisitive graduate student of microbiology, led to a completely unexpected discovery of a unique group of microbes. While most of the young men of America were fighting in Vietnam and out in the streets getting high and yelling flower power in the early 70s, Richard P. Blakemore was busy peering under the microscope at bacteria from mud samples in a lab at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. Rich wanted to isolate the microbes but he noticed something else… a strange kind of movement like that of a flock of birds or a school of fish. He observed a group of bacteria moving in unison! The cells swam in the same direction with high speed when a magnet was brought near the microscope. After repeated tests, he finally confirmed that the cells were, in fact, magnetically responsive. Rich’s discovery has evoked the interest of microbiologists, evolutionists, biochemists, physicists, geochemists, paleontologists, animal behaviorists, biotechnologists and astrobiologists worldwide! Rich shot to stardom in the scientific community, from serendipity and beyond!

Scientists so far have isolated magnetotactic bacteria from riverbeds, lakes, estuarine and marine waters. They found out that the magnetotactic behavior of the bacteria is due to the presence of nano-sized membrane-bound magnetic crystals of magnetite (Fe3O4) or greigite (F3S4) aligned in chains perpendicular to the cell axis. These highly organized structures are termed magnetosomes. For geochemists and paleontologists, they are referred to as magnetofossils. The geomagnetic field lines in the Northern Hemisphere are inclined downward, upward in the Southern Hemisphere, and horizontal in the equator. Correspondingly, magnetotactic bacteria thriving in these geologic locations migrate according to the inclination of the magnetic field lines. Hence, it is proposed that the magnetic particles function as navigating compass needles for the bacterium to migrate through the Earth’s geomagnetic field lines. Deep impact
In 1996, NASA geologist David McKay and his group shook the scientific community by reporting the striking morphological and chemical similarities of magnetofossils on Earth and in ALH84001 strongly indicating that life existed in ancient Mars. Scientists opposing McKay’s theory demonstrated that the magnetic crystals in ALH84001 may have been formed by non-biological reactions. The recent evidence gathered by NASA’s rovers of the possible past existence of water, and hence, life in Mars, supports McKay’s claim. MacKay’s report has ushered a whole new school of thought that meteorites can transfer life between planets in space. If this postulation is true, a mind-blowing question pops up: where in the vast universe did we come from? * * *
References:

1. Ronie J. Calugay, Hideaki Miyashita, Yoshiko Okamura, and Tadashi Matsunaga, Siderophore production by the magnetic bacterium Magnetospirillum magneticum AMB-1, FEMS Microbiol. Lett. 218 (2003) 371-375.

2. Ronie J. Calugay, Yoshiko Okamura, Aris Tri Wahyudi, Haruko Takeyama, and Tadashi Matsunaga, Siderophore production of a periplasmic transport binding protein kinase gene defective mutant of Magnetospirillum magneticum AMB-1, Biochem. Biophys. Res. Commun. 323 (2004) 852-857.

3. Ronie J. Calugay, Haruko Takeyama, Daikichi Mukoyama, Yorikane Fukuda, Takeyuki Suzuki, Kaneo Kanoh and Tadashi Matsunaga, Catechol siderophore excretion by the magnetotactic bacterium Magnetospirillum magneticum AMB-1. J. Biosci. Bioeng. 101 (2006) 445-447.

4. Takeyuki Suzuki, Yoshiko Okamura, Ronie J. Calugay, Haruko Takeyama and Tadashi Matsunaga, Global gene expression analysis of iron-inducible genes in Magnetospirillum sp. strain AMB-1. J. Bacteriol. 188(2006) 2275-2279.

5. Hiroko Yokouchi, Yayoi Fukuoka, Daikichi Mukoyama, Ronie Calugay, Haruko Takeyama1 and Tadashi Matsunaga, Whole Metagenome Amplification of Microbial Community Associated with Scleractinian Coral by Multiple Displacement Amplification Using _29 Polymerase. Environ. Microbiol. (In press). * * *
Dr. Ronie Calugay recently obtained a Ph.D. in Life Sciences and Biotechnology from the Department of Life Sciences and Biotechnology, Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, Japan. He has a Master of Science in Microbiology (1997) from the University of the Philippines. He is currently a science writer (for English manuscripts) for the Matsunaga Laboratory, Department of Life Sciences and Biotechnology, Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, Tokyo (2003-2006). E-mail at ronix5@yahoo.com
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 21, 2006 12:06 pm    Post subject: 'Face on Mars' in Cydonia region Reply with quote

'Face on Mars' in Cydonia region

21 September 2006
European Space Agency

ESA's Mars Express has obtained images of the Cydonia region, site of the famous 'Face on Mars.' The High Resolution Stereo Camera photos include some of the most spectacular views of the Red Planet ever.

After multiple attempts to image the Cydonia region from April 2004 until July 2006 were frustrated by altitude and atmospheric dust and haze, the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) on board Mars Express finally obtained, on 22 July, a series of images that show the famous 'face' on Mars in unprecedented detail.

For the full article and images:

http://www.esa.int/SPECIALS/Ma.....URE_0.html
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 20, 2006 10:01 am    Post subject: Decoding Mars’s Cryptic Region Reply with quote

Decoding Mars’s Cryptic Region


19 October 2006
ESA

Mars Express's OMEGA instrument has given planetary scientists outstanding new clues to help solve the mystery of Mars's so-called 'cryptic region'.

In the 1970s, orbiter missions around Mars revealed that during southern spring, large areas near Mars's south pole became much darker than the rest of the seasonal ice cap. How could this area be in the polar region and not be covered in bright ice? Intrigued, planetary scientists called the area the 'cryptic region' of the south seasonal cap.

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http://www.esa.int/SPECIALS/Ma.....BTE_0.html
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 24, 2006 7:56 am    Post subject: Mineral discovery explains Mars’ landscape Reply with quote

Mineral discovery explains Mars’ landscape
Friday October 20, 2006
Queen's University

A Queen’s University researcher has discovered a mineral that could explain the mountainous landscape of Mars, and have implications for NASA’s next mission to the planet.

“Satellites orbiting Mars show us images of canyons and gullies that appear to have been created by a flood or rapid out-washing,” says Ron Peterson, Queen’s geologist. “Exploration rovers, currently moving about on the planet’s surface, also show us that there is no visible water on the surface of Mars, but that there was in the past.”

Dr. Peterson suggests that Mars was likely wetter in the past. All of the images that are coming back from the rovers show layering in the rock which is indicative of sediment manipulated by water. This kind of out-wash would require a fair amount of water on the planet at some point.

The study, published this week in GEOLOGY, a publication of the Geological Society of America, suggests that these findings may provide insight into how to retrieve a sample of Mars' surface and return it to earth.

Dr. Peterson will share his findings with NASA at the Johnson Space Centre in Houston next week to provide insight into designing the next Mars exploration rover and planning its mission.

The discovery was made in Dr. Peterson’s unheated garage using epsomite, also known as Epsom salts. The solution was left to crystallize for several days at temperatures below freezing, which formed crystals that have unusual properties. The crystals were then rapidly melted, which created mould-like channels and gullies – similar to what we see on the surface of Mars.

Martian terrain may have been created in a similar fashion. Dr. Peterson suggests that many years ago, water interacted with rocks on the surface of the planet to create an acidic cocktail, which created layers of material. When the surface layer melted, it created the topography that exploration rovers show us today.

“These findings may help us better understand the surface of Mars,” says Dr. Peterson, expert in geological science and engineering. “These possible new minerals that may be found on Earth help us see that although there are many differences between Earth and Mars, such as atmosphere and gravity, there are many things that are the same – it is another world, but there are certainly similarities.”
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 07, 2006 3:30 pm    Post subject: Spacecraft fleet zeroing in on Martian water reserves Reply with quote

Spacecraft fleet zeroing in on Martian water reserves
European Space Agency


7 December 2006
The discovery of bright deposits on Mars, announced today by NASA, could indicate that liquid water has recently flowed on a few locations on the planet. The new data help planetary scientists involved with several missions orbiting the Red Planet focus their quest to understand the Martian water cycle.

It has been an established fact for several years now that water exists on Mars. However, the big question is how much of it – if any – is in liquid form. The newly discovered deposits were identified by comparing different images of the same area taken by NASA's Mars Global Surveyor (MOC camera), over a period of few years. The images suggest that water may have flowed there sometime within the past seven years.
This gives planetary scientists an excellent target for follow-up work. Yet, just because water appears to have flowed does not automatically mean that underground reservoirs of liquid water are present.

ESA’s Mars Express has found large reservoirs of water underground using its radar experiment MARSIS. All are frozen, with the largest in Mars's polar regions. Such frozen underground lakes might be driven to temporarily thaw and flow across the surface by changes in temperature, caused by changes in illumination from the Sun or, possibly, by local variations in the underground pressure.

In addition, much water is locked into so-called hydrated minerals that have been found by the OMEGA instrument on ESA's Mars Express.

The new observations demonstrate the crucial need for continuous monitoring of Mars. Only by studying the same areas over and over again will any temporary processes by revealed. In an extremely lucky case, instruments may even catch the water flowing.

Planetary scientists on both sides of the Atlantic will now be focusing their efforts on combing this region for more evidence of water. Scientists responsible for the MARSIS instrument on Mars Express are looking ahead to see when the ESA spacecraft will next bring the region into view.

MARSIS can probe as deeply as 5 kilometres below the surface, and it is complementary to SHARAD, the radar flown on NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). The latter will be help to detect possible water reservoirs contained in the first kilometre, just below the surface of the discovery area.

In addition, other instruments such as cameras and spectrometers will collect more valuable information about this exciting area on Mars. In this way, scientists will continue to piece together the fascinating behaviour of Mars, both in its past and its present.
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 29, 2007 1:57 pm    Post subject: Study: Surface of Mars Devoid of Life Reply with quote

Study: Surface of Mars Devoid of Life
By Ker Than
Staff Writer
posted: 29 January 2007
10:34 am ET

The last refuge for Martian life, if it exists, might be deep below the planet’s surface and beyond the reach of any currently planned missions, according to a new study.

After mapping cosmic radiation levels at various depths on Mars, researchers have concluded that any life within the first several yards of the planet’s surface would be killed by lethal doses of cosmic radiation.

The finding will be detailed in the Jan. 30 issue of the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

For the full article:

http://www.space.com/scienceas....._mars.html
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 16, 2007 8:18 am    Post subject: Mars Express radar gauges water quantity around Mars south p Reply with quote

European Space Agency
15 March 2007

Mars Express radar gauges water quantity around Mars south pole

The amount of water trapped in frozen layers over Mars' south polar region is equivalent to a liquid layer about 11 metres deep covering the planet.

This new estimate comes from mapping the thickness of the dusty ice by the Mars Express radar instrument that has made more than 300 virtual slices through layered deposits covering the pole. The radar sees through icy layers to the lower boundary, which in places is as deep as 3.7 kilometres below the surface.

"The south polar layered deposits of Mars cover an area as wide as a big portion of Europe. The amount of water they contain has been estimated before, but never with the level of confidence this radar makes possible," said Dr. Jeffrey Plaut of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena (California), co-Principal Investigator for the radar and lead author of the study.

The instrument, named the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionospheric Sounding (MARSIS), is also mapping the thickness of similar layered deposits at the north pole of Mars.

“Our radar is doing its job extremely well,” said Prof. Giovanni Picardi of the University of Rome ‘La Sapienza,’ Principal Investigator for the instrument. “MARSIS is showing to be a very powerful tool to probe underneath the Martian surface, and it’s showing how our team’s goals – such as probing the polar layered deposits - are being successfully achieved,” he continued. “Not only MARSIS is providing us with the first ever views of Mars’ subsurface at those depths, but the details we are seeing are truly amazing. We are expecting even greater results when we will have concluded an on-going, sophisticated fine-tuning of our data processing methods. These should enable us to understand even better the surface and subsurface composition.”

Polar layered deposits hold most of the known water on modern Mars, though other areas of the planet appear to have been very wet at times in the past. Understanding the history and fate of water on Mars is a key to studying whether Mars has ever supported life, because all known life depends on liquid water.

Plaut, Picardi and 22 other researchers report analysis of the Mars Express radar instrument's south polar observations in the online edition of the journal Science this week.

The polar layered deposits extend beyond and beneath a polar cap of bright-white frozen carbon dioxide and water at Mars' south pole. Dust darkens many of the layers. However, the strength of the echo that the radar receives from the rocky surface underneath the layered deposits suggests the composition of the layered deposits is at least 90 percent frozen water. One area with an especially bright reflection from the base of the deposits puzzles researchers. It resembles what a thin layer of liquid water might look like to the radar instrument, but the conditions are so cold that the presence of melted water is deemed highly unlikely.

Detecting the shape of the ground surface beneath the ice deposits provides information about even deeper structure of Mars. "We didn't really know where the bottom of the deposit was," Plaut said. "We can see now that the crust has not been depressed by the weight of the ice as it would be on the Earth. The crust and upper mantle of Mars are stiffer than the Earth's, probably because the interior of Mars is so much colder."

###
Notes for editors:

The MARSIS instrument on board ESA’s Mars Express spacecraft was developed jointly by the Italian Space Agency and NASA, under the scientific supervision of the University of Rome ‘La Sapienza,’ in partnership with the JPL and the University of Iowa. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages NASA's roles in Mars Express for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington.

Understanding the history and fate of water on Mars is a key goal for the whole Mars Express mission. The HRSC high-resolution stereo camera imaged surface traces of glacial activity and flowing water. The OMEGA mapping spectrometer made unprecedented measurements of the mineralogical alterations of the surface due to the amount and state of water on the surface during various ages of Mars. The PFS and SPICAM instruments provided relevant new information about the presence of water vapour in the atmosphere.
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 01, 2007 7:19 am    Post subject: The MARSIS radar estimates the volume of water in the south Reply with quote

CNRS
31 March 2007

The MARSIS radar estimates the volume of water in the south pole of Mars

By studying the South Polar region of Mars, the MARSIS (Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionospheric Sounding) radar of the Mars Express space probe has enabled the structure of the layered deposits of this region to be elucidated. For the first time in the history of planetary exploration, topographic maps of the Martian sub-soil have been produced, revealing considerable volumes of ice. The LPG (Grenoble Planetary Laboratory) (CNRS – Université Grenoble 1) has been closely involved in processing and analyzing data from the Marsis radar. These results were published on the website of the journal Science on March 15, 2007.

The Marsis low frequency radar has been designed so that its signals penetrate into the Martian sub-soil. Consequently, its radar signals can reach a depth of more than 3.7 km, which has made it possible to map the boundary between the layered deposits and the floor of the basin.

In addition, the study of the Marsis radar signal has revealed that the South Polar region of Mars, which has the shape of a giant dome of around 1000 km diameter, is mainly composed of ice. Another important result: highly variable distribution and depth of the ice deposits have been observed. In particular, a series of depressions of 50 to 200 km diameters and with a depth of around 1 km compared to the average level of the subsurface (sub-soil) have been identified at high latitudes.

Thanks to the Marsis instrument, it has been possible to estimate the total volume of ice in this region at 1.6 million cubic kilometers. If this volume of ice was distributed in a uniform manner over the whole surface of the planet, Mars would be covered by 11 m of water.

###
REFERENCE

Subsurface Radar Sounding of the South Polar Layered Deposits of Mars, J. J. Plaut, G. Picardi, A. B. Ivanov, S. M. Milkovich, A. Cicchetti, W. Kofman, J. Mouginot, W. M. Farrell, R. J. Phillips, S. M. Clifford, A. Frigeri, R. Orosei, C. Frederico, I. P. Williams, D. A. Gurnett, E. Nielsen, T. Hagfors, E. Heggy, E. R. Stofan, D. Plettemeier, T. R. Watters, C. J. Leuschen, P. Edenhofer, Science Online publication, March 15, 2007.
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 02, 2007 8:27 pm    Post subject: NAU researchers find possible caves on Mars Reply with quote

NAU researchers find possible caves on Mars
2 April 2007
Northern Arizona University

Applying techniques used to scope out caves on Earth to probe the possibility of caves on Mars is paying off.

NAU researchers Glen Cushing and Jut Wynne, working at the U.S. Geological Survey, propose that photos from the Mars Odyssey mission reveal football-field size holes that could be entrances to caves.

"If there is life on Mars, there is a good chance you'd find it in caves," said Wynne, an NAU graduate student in biological sciences and project leader for the USGS Earth-Mars Cave Detection Program.

He said the possible discovery could lead to more focused Mars explorations.

Martian caves are considered the "best potential havens for life" because they would be protected from surface radiation and other factors, he said.

"The Martian surface is an extremely harsh environment, so the significance of caves is in their protective nature," said Cushing, a graduate teaching assistant in NAU's Department of Physics and Astronomy, who was the first to spot the black areas on the photographs. "Caves on Mars could become habitats for future explorers, or could be the only structures that preserve evidence of past or present microbial life."

Cushing and Wynne, along with Tim Titus, an astrophysicist with USGS, and Phil Christensen, the chief scientist for the NASA imaging instrument and a researcher from Arizona State University, recently submitted their findings in a research paper at the 38th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference.

"We're suggesting that the seven black spots are skylights to areas where the surface may have collapsed into a chamber below," Wynne said. "Preserved evidence of past life on Mars might only be found in caves, and such discovery would be of unparalleled significance."

The claim for caves is based on an analysis of photographs from the Thermal Emission Imaging System aboard NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter, which revealed seven black spots near a massive Martian volcano, Arsia Mons. Although this area of Mars is known for geological occurrences, the researchers said the dark spots do not look like impact craters because they don't have raised rims or blast patterns.

"This is a very interesting discovery with positive implications," said Nadine Barlow, an associate professor in physics and astronomy at NAU and expert on Martian impact craters. "Caves on Mars could be good places for long-term ice accumulation and that would make them ideal locations to look for life on Mars as well as valuable reservoirs for water to support future human exploration of the planet."

The Earth-Mars Cave Detection Program's overall objective is to develop techniques for systemically detecting caves on Earth in the thermal infrared and then applying these techniques to searching for caves on Mars, Wynne explained.

The team reported possible caverns ranging from 330 to 825 feet wide and 425 feet deep They've been named after loved ones of the researchers: Dena, Chloe, Wendy, Annie, Abbey, Nikki and Jeanne.

Christensen said the first avenue for further observations could be provided by NASA's latest Red Planet probe, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

"The spacecraft's high-resolution camera could take a closer look at the seven sisters—including sidelong glances that might show whether the features open up into wider chambers beneath," Christensen said.
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 07, 2007 7:47 am    Post subject: A Darker, Warmer Red Planet Reply with quote

A Darker, Warmer Red Planet
C. Gramling

April 11, 2007

Our planet is getting warmer, and ice at the North and South Poles is melting. Global warming may be happening on Mars too.
When the sun shines on a planet, the planet's surface reflects some of the sunlight back into space. Other sunlight gets absorbed and warms the planet. Light-colored surfaces, such as white ice caps, reflect more sunlight than dark surfaces do. By contrast, dark surfaces absorb more of the sun's radiation, which makes them get hotter.

For the full article:

http://www.sciencenewsforkids....../Note3.asp
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 15, 2007 6:48 am    Post subject: Martian Caves Reply with quote

Martian Caves
Emily Sohn

April 18, 2007

Mars is a fully featured world. Scientists have already discovered hills, craters, and dry riverbeds on the Red Planet. New images now show that some parts of the Martian landscape might also be dotted with caves.
If confirmed, these caves "could be among the only places on Mars to find evidence of past or present microbial life," says Glen Cushing of the U.S. Geological Survey in Flagstaff, Ariz.

For the full article:

http://www.sciencenewsforkids....../Note3.asp
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PostPosted: Mon May 07, 2007 10:29 am    Post subject: Mars Rover Finds Volcanic Remains Reply with quote

Mars Rover Finds Volcanic Remains
Irene Klotz, Discovery News


May 4, 2007 — The robotic Mars scout Spirit has found the first evidence of a volcanic deposit on the planet's surface, a finding that fortifies theories that the dry planet was once rich in water.

It was during Spirit's second foray to a flat, finely layered rock formation called Home Plate that scientists gleaned enough information to announce their finding, which is published in this week's issue of the journal Science.

Home Plate, which juts up about six feet in height and sprawls about 260 to 295 feet in diameter, caught scientists' eyes more than a year ago.


For the full article:

http://dsc.discovery.com/news/.....02-ak-0000
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PostPosted: Wed May 09, 2007 11:42 am    Post subject: Rover Spirit finds evidence of early Martian volcanic activi Reply with quote

May 8, 2007
Rover Spirit finds evidence of early Martian volcanic activity at Home Plate plateau -- and further hints of a watery past
By Lauren Gold

A plateau on Mars known as Home Plate shows evidence of long-past explosive volcanic activity, say scientists on NASA's Mars Exploration Rover mission. And data collected during the rover Spirit's initial pass across the 90-meter (295 feet) wide plateau also supports earlier findings indicating that water once existed at or beneath the planet's surface.

The research appeared in the May 4 issue of the journal Science.

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http://www.news.cornell.edu/st.....astic.html
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 14, 2007 9:25 am    Post subject: Mystery Solved: Mars Had Large Oceans Reply with quote

Mystery Solved: Mars Had Large Oceans
By Dave Mosher

posted: 13 June 2007 01:00 pm ET

Since 1991, planetary scientists have floated the idea that Mars once harbored vast oceans that covered roughly one-third of the planet. Two long shore-like lips of rock in the planet's northern hemisphere were thought to be the best evidence, but experts argued that they were too "hilly" to describe the smooth edges of ancient oceans.

The view just changed dramatically with a surprisingly simple breakthrough.

The once-flat shorelines were disfigured by a massive toppling over of the planet, scientists announced today. The warping of the Martian rock has hidden clear evidence of the oceans, which in any case have been gone for at least 2 billion years.

For the full article:

http://www.livescience.com/spa.....ceans.html
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 28, 2007 8:14 am    Post subject: Huge Dust Storm Breaks Out on Mars Reply with quote

Huge Dust Storm Breaks Out on Mars
By Dave Mosher, Staff Writer

posted: 27 June 2007 02:37 pm ET

Updated at 1:40 p.m. ET

A major dust storm has developed on the red planet, blocking sunlight and prompting Mars mission managers to keep a close eye on it, SPACE.com has learned.

It is not known how large the storm might grow, but already it is thousands of miles across. If it balloons, as dust storms have done in the past, it could hamper operations of NASA's Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity.

For now, officials don't think the storm will threaten rover operations, however. In fact, the windy conditions on the planet have blown off large amounts of dust from the rovers' solar arrays, giving them more power. The power boost may lend a helping hand to the Opportunity rover, should officials decide to send it into Victoria Crater.

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http://www.livescience.com/spa.....storm.html
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 05, 2007 12:01 pm    Post subject: Mars Rovers Lose Power as Massive Dust Storm Grows Reply with quote

Mars Rovers Lose Power as Massive Dust Storm Grows
By Robert Roy Britt, Senior Science Writer

posted: 04 July 2007 02:01 pm ET

A major dust storm on Mars has worsened and is causing the Mars Exploration Rovers to lose power.

Opportunity's highly anticipated and risky entry into Victoria Crater is delayed for at least several days, NASA announced.

The regional storm, first reported by SPACE.com, is the most severe to hit the rovers since they began exploring Mars in January 2004. Already last week it was thousands of miles wide. At first, scientists did not expect it to affect rover operations.

But dust from the storm is partly blocking sunlight, which the rovers need in order to recharge their batteries via their solar panels. Opportunity's operations were scaled back June 30 to conserve power, according to the statement.

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http://www.livescience.com/spa....._dust.html
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 11, 2007 8:07 am    Post subject: Wild Weather: Earth vs. Mars Reply with quote

Wild Weather: Earth vs. Mars
By Dave Mosher, Staff Writer

posted: 10 July 2007 06:05 am ET

In just two weeks, dust storms have obscured more than 10 million square miles of Mars' southern hemisphere.

The storms forced NASA to suspend operations of its twin Mars rovers. The biggest storm has weakened near the Opportunity rover and thickened near Spirit's location. Both rovers are gathering enough solar energy to survive and observe their surroundings, lead rover scientist Steven Squyres of Cornell University said yesterday.

Such dramatic dust storms, however, aren't the only weather phenomenon Mars has to offer. The red planet hosts clouds of ice and carbon dioxide, tornado-like dust devils, auroras and even complex jet streams--all of this, despite the fact that Mars' atmosphere is less than 1 percent as dense as Earth's.

"Mars has a similar tilt [as] Earth, so it has the same seasons Earth has with a progression of summer, fall, winter and spring," said John Wilson, a planetary scientist who studies Mars' atmosphere at the National Oceanic & Atmospheric A dministration in Princeton, New Jersey.

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http://www.livescience.com/spa.....torms.html
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 16, 2007 11:44 am    Post subject: Mars Once Shuffled Its Icy Poles Reply with quote

Mars Once Shuffled Its Icy Poles
By Dave Mosher, Staff Writer

posted: 13 July 2007 04:47 pm ET

Mars, as it turns out, once had a propensity for juggling its polar ice caps from one end of the planet to the other.

A perennial wobble in Mars' tilt pushed one pole closer to the sun, causing water ice to evaporate and refreeze at the colder pole, new research shows. Every 51,000 Martian years, the wobble would bring the colder pole closer to the sun again and shuffle the ice cap back to the opposite pole.

"It was a very slow cycle," said planetary scientist Franck Montmessin of the Service d'Aeronomie in France. "But something stopped the cycle, and we don't know what it was. This is another great mystery for Mars' polar ice caps."

For the full article:

http://www.livescience.com/spa.....s_ice.html
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 29, 2007 1:33 pm    Post subject: Rovers begin new observations on changing Martian atmosphere Reply with quote

University of Chicago
29 August 2007

Rovers begin new observations on changing Martian atmosphere


Mars rover scientists have launched a new long-term study on the Martian atmosphere with the Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer, an instrument that was originally developed at the University of Chicago.

Thanasis Economou, Senior Scientist at Chicago's Enrico Fermi Institute, suggested the new study after observing that the APXS instruments aboard NASA's twin Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, had recorded fluctuations in the argon composition of the Martian atmosphere. "The amount of argon in the atmosphere is changing constantly," Economou said.

During warmer seasons, approximately 95 percent of the Martian atmosphere consists of carbon dioxide. Nitrogen accounts for almost 3 percent and argon for less than 2 percent. But when winter sets in at one of the poles, carbon dioxide freezes out of the atmosphere to form a polar cap, causing a low-pressure system that moves air toward the pole.

Argon stays in the atmosphere and becomes enhanced because it freezes at a much lower temperature, Economou said. An instrument on NASA's Odyssey orbiter around Mars found that on the Mars south pole during the winter, the argon concentration is six times higher than during the warmer seasons.

"The amount of argon that comes with the air mass stays in the atmosphere," he explained. "Carbon dioxide drops, so the ratio of argon to carbon dioxide is increasing constantly until the next season."

With the onset of warmer spring and summer temperatures, the frozen carbon dioxide evaporates back into the atmosphere, causing a high-pressure system that pushes the air mass back toward the equator.

"The fact that we see a signal at all means there's a lot of mixing between the polar air and the air at the tropics," said Ray Pierrehumbert, the Louis Block Professor in Geophysical Sciences at the University of Chicago, who specializes in the evolution of climate on Earth and Mars. "It gives you a way of inferring aspects of the Martian circulation that you can't observe at all with any other instrument that's out there," he said.

Scientists are coupling the APXS measurements with additional data collected by the orbiting Mars Odyssey spacecraft. The APXS measures the number of argon atoms at the rover's location between the instrument and the ground-a distance of a couple of centimeters (a few inches). Odyssey's gamma-ray spectrometer, meanwhile, measures the argon in a column of air extending from the upper atmosphere to the Martian surface, but over an area spanning several hundred kilometers (a couple hundred miles)

Spirit and Opportunity landed on Mars in January 2004. Until now, their APXS instruments have focused on measuring the chemical content of rocks and dust sitting on the ground. During the mission's first 90 days, for example, Opportunity's APXS contributed to the identification and analysis of abundant sulfate salts and other minerals suggestive of once-moist environments on the vast plain known as Meridiani Planum.

"It means that at some point the site was soaked with liquid water," Economou said.

Opportunity's APXS also performed a key analysis of the first meteorite ever discovered on Mars. When Opportunity encountered Heat Shield rock in 2005, "it looked like a meteorite, but it was confirmed with the APXS," Economou said. It was the first of at least four meteorites that Opportunity has discovered.

"If you go to Antarctica you find lots of them because you can spot them," he said. "On Mars also, when you have these large, flat areas that have just sand and sand dunes, nothing else, and you now see some suspicious rock, you know that it's not from there." Either it is debris that has been ejected from an impact crater, or a meteorite.

In recent months, the APXS on the Spirit rover measured the composition of soils consisting of 90 percent pure silica, which could have formed in a hot-spring environment or some other process involving water. The finding presents some of the best evidence yet that water once existed at Gusev crater.

"This is a remarkable discovery," said Cornell University's Steve Squyres, who heads the Mars rovers' science instruments team. "The fact that we found something this new and different after nearly 1,200 days on Mars makes it even more remarkable. It makes you wonder what else is still out there."

Opportunity now has traveled more than six miles through some difficult sandy terrain to reach Victoria Crater, which measures half a mile in diameter. Rolling up to the edge of the crater, the rover has taken images of the layered sediments, various rock types and accumulations of sand visible at the base of the walls.

NASA engineers have scouted a possible route that Opportunity could safely follow onto the crater floor. A dust storm in the region has delayed plans to send Opportunity into the crater.

"This is a magnificent crater with a lot of exposed bedrocks and walls showing geologic detail with extensive layering that makes the team geologist very happy," Economou said. "What you can see is amazing."
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 22, 2007 10:08 am    Post subject: Muddying the Water? Orbiter drains confidence from fluid sto Reply with quote

Week of Sept. 22, 2007; Vol. 172, No. 12 , p. 181

Muddying the Water? Orbiter drains confidence from fluid story of Mars
Ron Cowen

Evidence for liquid water on some parts of Mars—now or in the past—looks leakier than researchers had supposed, according to an analysis of the sharpest images ever taken of the Red Planet from orbit. But in other places, the new images bolster the case that water once flowed.

For the full article:

http://sciencenews.org/articles/20070922/fob5.asp
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