Organic Matter Found on Mars — Two NASA Studies

For many decades, the idea of life outside Earth has intrigued many of us, but most especially scientists, astronomers, and well, sci-fi writers. For them and other Mars enthusiasts (a.k.a. people who eagerly believe that Mars can harbor life), the recent year has shown us great updates. Snow has been discovered in the planet. Soil made to simulate the planet’s conditions has grown earthworms.

Due to updates like these, some organizations are being inspired to plan ahead for life on Mars. MIT designed dome forests that will adapt to the environment there. The UAE is building a Mars-like metropolis as well, in preparation for a future in that planet. And it looks like they are bound to be more inspired as NASA releases the results of two new major studies about the Red Planet in the journal Science.

The first study centers on methane, a simple organic molecule that forms the basis for natural gas. Biological sources produce most of the methane on Earth, so researchers suspected that methane on Mars could point them towards biological sources — life! — on Mars.

Astronomers were already detecting methane in Mars as far back as 2003, but they first confirmed its presence there in 2015. After analyzing years worth of data, they realized that the methane was probably coming from pockets of ice. When these ice pockets melt during “summer” in Mars, methane slips out and methane levels go higher. Scientists say the seasonal presence of methane might clue us in on how there used to be life in the Red Planet, though the current study is still inconclusive about that.

The next study, however, also implies the idea of ancient life, as scientists find evidence of organic matter in soil that came from Mars.

In the second study, [NASA’s Curiosity rover] collected soil samples from two spots in Gale crater estimated to be about three billion years old. When Curiosity heated them up, the researchers recognized several organic molecules commonly found in Earth’s organic-rich sedimentary rock.

The discovery of methane in the Martian atmosphere and organic matter on Martian soil suggests interesting similarities between that planet and ours. Thus, it further spurs the question of life on Mars. And since the Curiosity rover is still roving around and looking for signs, one can only hope its next breakthrough will finally answer that question.

--> Help make the world a better place by sharing this story with your friends:

Earth-like Planet Is Only 11 Lightyears Away

Since the discovery of four Earth-sized planets along Tau Ceti, Mars-like community simulations are being set in motion. While space studies are progressing, new intergalactic breakthroughs may be calling for NASA to pick up the pace. The planet may not look much like Earth, but it appears to be the most potentially habitable — and it’s only 11 lightyears away.

“Those flares can sterilize the atmosphere of the planet,” said Xavier Bonfils of the Institute of Planetology and Astrophysics in Grenoble, France… “Ross 128 is one of the quietest stars of the neighborhood.”

The planet’s mother star, Ross 128, is significantly calmer than most others, and minimally eruptive. Though astronomers have only managed to observe the planet with a telescope, the facts don’t lie. The planet is warm enough to sustain liquid water, and has since stabilized in its billions of years of existence.

The star may have been more turbulent in its youth. But even if solar flares billions of years ago stripped away the planet’s atmosphere, it could have been replenished by gases emanating from the planet’s interior.

Whatever the case, I’m glad to know that if our own planet bites the dust, there are others to hold future generations.

--> Help make the world a better place by sharing this story with your friends:

Second Home: Four Earth-Sized Planets Discovered

NASA couldn’t have sought planetary protection officers at a better time because we may be facing life in space. A team of astronomers has detected four Earth-sized planets orbiting a nearby sun-like star. Tau Ceti is close enough to Earth that it’s visible to the naked eye.

These planets have masses as low as 1.7 Earth mass, making them among the smallest planets ever detected around nearby sun-like stars. Two of them are super-Earths located in the habitable zone of the star, meaning they could support liquid surface water.

Researchers discovered the planets using a sensitive movement-detection technique. Two of the planets are potentially habitable, though prone to disruption by asteroids and comets. How these planets were studied is anything but simple.

“We are slowly learning to tell the difference between wobbles caused by planets and those caused by stellar active surface. This enabled us to essentially verify the existence of the two outer, potentially habitable planets in the system.”

We may not be migrating to the four planets anytime soon, but due to tau Ceti’s similarity to the sun, it could eventually be possible.

--> Help make the world a better place by sharing this story with your friends:

Man Uses Game Boy To Photograph Jupiter

People never fail to impress me. I’ve seen million-dollar equipment built in the safety of one’s own home. Astronomy student Alex Pietrow is no exception. Using a Game Boy and antique telescope, Pietrow was able to photograph Jupiter, and clearly!

Pietrow used a Gosky Universal Cell Phone Adapter to attach the Game Boy Camera to the 6-inch’ Fraunhofer telescope in the Old Observatory of Leiden.

Pietrow set the sight of his late 90s Game Boy Camera a bit further… all the way to Jupiter. Surprisingly, the Game Boy Camera, which can capture black and white images at a 128×112 resolution… was able to capture not only Jupiter but also its four Galilean moons.

Way to put professional astronomers in their place! But the fun doesn’t stop there. Pietrow plans to use his invention to photograph Saturn as well.

If you’re interested in trying your hand at shooting celestial objects with your trusty Game Boy… you’re going to be in for a lot of work. Not only do you need a Game Boy and its Camera peripheral, but also a few devices meant to hack the Game Boy as well as either an installation of Windows XP on a computer with parallel port or some fiddling with drivers on Windows 7.

While I may not be smart enough to come up with anything like this, I do know that Pietrow is going places. He may even put billion-dollar telescope industries out of business!

--> Help make the world a better place by sharing this story with your friends: