Mars Invasion #wateronmars #amacrojot @profmcateer

Great video from the Guardian newspaper in UK.

Guardian video on water on Mars
Not for the first time, NASA have announced they have found water on Mars. The difference this time is that this water must have flowed recently, within days to months of this image being taken. The evidence is piling up – it now looks very likely that Mars has some sort of the surface for at least part of year. And where water flows, life is. 

The idea that there may be some sort of life somewhere beyond Earth scares some people. It upsets some people. It suggests that we were are not created in some special way. This makes the journey to confirming life fraught with problems, not the least of which is how to protect this Exo-life. As a species we don’t have a stellar record in protecting native life while we explore. We have generally accepted that exploration requires a certain amount of collateral damage.  There is an international treaty on space exploration that all space – exploring countries have signed up to. The question is how we will adhere to this as the search for life progresses. In the end, the only way of confirming life might be send such an experiment that disobeys this treaty. The science and moral dilemma will only become harder to adress as we get closer to the moment that we’ve been waiting on since we started looking up.

Watch the video – what do you think?


water, water everywhere… #curiosity #WaterOnMars

.. But no one to drink it.

The temperature is actually just right. But the lack of an atmosphere on Mars means they water boils ten degrees above the freezing point. However if it could be protected, say by existing below ground, or by adding some chemicals, then water could be abundant on our little brother planet.

New research show that Mars may have ample liquid water just below its surface, according to new measurements by Nasa’s Curiosity rover.

Prof Andrew Coates, head of planetary science at the Mullard Space Mullard Space Science Laboratory, University College London, said: “The evidence so far is that any water would be in the form of permafrost. It’s the first time we’ve had evidence of liquid water there now.”

The latest findings suggest that Martian soil is damp with liquid brine. The presence of a salt significantly lowers the freezing point of water to around -70C, and the salt also soaks up water vapour from the atmosphere.

Plenty of water then, but no one around to drink?

The Earth, Moon and Comet 67/P showing how they would appear in the same light conditions (Not to correct size scale)

BOGOF? For asteroids? #rosetta #DuckComet

7 papers in the free special edition of Science magazine yesterday with results from the Rosetta mission. The duck-shaped comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko,is giving up its secrets one by one. And its biggest secret may be BOGOF.

Recall this great mission had a long journey to its target and then even landed on the surface of the asteroid.

These set of initial results present new light on many different topics.

First up, the type of water on the comet is not the same type of water we have on Earth. So while comets may still have brought water to Earth, this comet is not an example of one that could have done so.

Second, the comet is spitting out gas in very strange and complex manned. It is a weird comet, after all – it looks more like two comets stuck together, which leads is nicely onto the next finding – maybe it is 2 comets stuck together.It may well turn out that the two blobs of the comet are different material, so this may have started out as two bodies, coallesed into one. So, Buy One Get One Free

Finally, it density is similar to that in the insoles of your new shoes – that aerogel that gives you a nice smooth walk. This is much lighter than anticipated, so the scientific models will have to adapt.

More to come as the comet gets closer to the Sun over the next 8 months.

Geysers 101 #enceladus #IceMoon

Old Faithful has nothing on his on. Yellowstone may be impressive, but it turns out that Enceladus is covered with geysers. Enceladus, one of Saturn’s many moons, has a strange fractured surface, with large ‘tiger’ stripes running the width of the planet. We’ve long suspected that here stripes are fractures in the icy crust of the moon, but never suspected they would be the source of quite so much activity.

Then, back in 2005, we saw the first geysers on Enceladus. These were vast plumes of water ice stretching far above the surface of the moon, and led to the the new train of thought that these moons could harbor a liquid pool under the surface.

Now, we’ve got enough data to show that the geysers do in fact come directly from these fractures. Turns out these must be powered from deep down inside the moon. 101 geysers were viewed in total, and they each lie along one of the main 4 stripes. Discovery of the geysers has excited astrobiologists, who see water as a crucial ingredient for alien life. Next up has to be a lander to sample the geyser plumes.

Water, water everywhere…. #water #life

… Even where we didn’t think it should be


When the Earth formed it could not have had water. It was simply too hot at that part of the early system. Instead water probably condensed on comets and the general consensus is that water was brought to Earth through collisions with these comets. However new research adds another dimension. The water we have now may have been around long before the solar system was even formed.

This means that come of the water molecules in your drinking glass were created more than 4.5 billion years— even older than the sun itself. In a study published Thursday in Science, researchers say the distinct chemical signature of the water on Earth and throughout the solar system could occur only if some of that water formed before the swirling disk of dust and gas gave birth to the planets, moons, comets and asteroids. This primordial water makes up 30% to 50% of the water on Earth.

This finding suggests that water, a key ingredient of life, may be common in young planetary systems across the universe. Think about that next time you turn on your facet.

An astronomical stepping stone? #ceres #amacrojot

Ceres has never quite decided exactly what is should be when it grows up. Originally declared a planet when it was found in the nineteenth century, it was quickly demoted to being ‘star-like’ – asteroid. But it has always stood out from its fellow asteroid. For a start it, by itself, accounts for 1/3 the mass of the entire asteroid belt. Then when Pluto got demoted, Ceres got promoted to the status of dwarf planet. It is important enough to have it’s own mission, called Dawn. Now the big suppose is how much water it might have.

From The Verge

Scientists have speculated for decades that Ceres — the planet-like heavenly body embedded in our solar system’s asteroid belt — might contain water, still considered a rarity in our solar system. They haven’t been sure, though, until now: researchers at the European Space Agency and the Observatoire de Paris (Paris Observatory) have used the Herschel space telescope to detect two “geysers” on Ceres’ surface, blasting plumes of water vapor into the void. Further analysis indicated that some of the water ends up falling back onto the dwarf planet’s surface.

What’s less clear, though, is where the water is coming from. Scientists involved in the research speculate that an ocean could lie beneath Ceres’ surface, or there could just be isolated zones of liquid fueling each of the geysers. Fortunately, help is on the way: NASA’s Dawn spacecraft arrives at Ceres in February of next year after studying asteroid Vesta, which should provide the high-resolution images researchers need to decode the mysteries of the largest object between Mars and Jupiter.

Water, water everywhere


In the search for life, one feature stand out as hard to find. Water. Find water. Find life. In a solar system only 100 light years from Earth, researchers have spotted this building block. That building block may not sound like much: just a single asteroid containing a lot of water. But it’s this same type of asteroid that may have brought water to earth when it was first being formed. And this marks the first time that such an asteroid has been detected outside our own solar system — indicating that this far-off realm may once have been home to habitable planets.

Asteroids are the Legos that go into planets. Thousands and thousands of asteroids come together to create a planet. But the process of putting them together is inefficient. You don’t use up all of the pieces.
Scientist have spotted evidence of asteroid bits still speckling in that solar system. But the odds that any remaining planets there still sustain life as we know it are slim: the system’s sun, GD 61, is a white dwarf — a burning out star in the final throes of life.

The team found that over a quarter of the asteroid’s mass must have been from water — a quantity that drastically eclipses the Earth’s surface water mass of just .02 percent. It’s also just about identical to how much water many expect that we’ll find on Ceres, the largest asteroid in our own solar system,

Water in a sphere


Image: All the Water on Earth as a Blue Sphere

Living in the southwestern desert makes me appreciate water more than I did previously. However this figure really brings it down to Earth (so to speak). Considering how completely, totally, and utterly we rely on water and how little there actually is, you would think we would be better job of looking after it. Clearly spilling bunch of oil in it is a bad idea, heating the atmosphere is a bad idea, interfering in an way is a bad idea. Maybe this sort of work will make the necessary impact.

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Water, water, who cares


We still teach that the search for life elsewhere in the universe is he essentially a search for water in its liquid form. This seems based on sound principals- every form of life we know of requires water. New research is turning up more opportunities for life though. In this article above, they find a new way for proteins to fold without requiring liquid water. Water still is a vital element, but this result shows that somewhere life may have formed without access to liquid water, meaning the search to ET can widen.