Archive for space
Researchers attached to NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program, who sometimes jokingly call themselves the Solar System Defense Team, have been tracking the asteroid since its discovery in late November.
The scientists, at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge, put the chances that it will hit the Red Planet on Jan. 30 at about 1 in 75.
A 1-in-75 shot is “wildly unusual,” said Steve Chesley, an astronomer with the Near-Earth Object office, which routinely tracks about 5,000 objects in Earth’s neighborhood.
“We’re used to dealing with odds like one-in-a-million,” Chesley said. “Something with a one-in-a-hundred chance makes us sit up straight in our chairs.”
The asteroid, designated 2007 WD5, is about 160 feet across, which puts it in the range of the space rock that exploded over Siberia. That explosion, the largest impact event in recent history, felled 80 million trees over 830 square miles.
Read more here: Asteroid on track for possible Mars hit
NASA says its Mars rover Spirit has discovered “the best evidence yet” of a past habitable environment on the planet’s surface. Spirit found a patch of silica-rich soil earlier this year, which scientists believe is a promising sign that Mars hosted at least niche environments that could have potentially harbored life. Spirit has been exploring a plateau called Home Plate, where it discovered silica-rich soil in May.
Researchers are now trying to determine what produced the patch of nearly pure silica. So far, they believe that the deposits must have come from an ancient hot-spring environment or a fumarole, in which acidic steam rises through cracks. On Earth, these types of environments are teeming with microbial life, said rover chief scientist Steve Squyres.
Read more here: Mars Rover Finds “Best Sign Yet” of Microbial Life
The icy feature has been spotted in images from the European Space Agency’s (Esa) Mars Express spacecraft.
Ancient glaciers, many millions of years old, have been seen before on the Red Planet, but this one may only be several thousand years old.
The young glacier appears in the Deuteronilus Mensae region between Mars’ rugged southern highlands and the flat northern lowlands.
“If it was an image of Earth, I would say ‘glacier’ right away,” Dr Gerhard Neukum, chief scientist on the spacecraft’s High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) told BBC News.
“We have not yet been able to see the spectral signature of water. But we will fly over it in the coming months and take measurements. On the glacial ridges we can see white tips, which can only be freshly exposed ice.”
This is found in very few places on the Red Planet because as soon ice is exposed to the Martian environment, it sublimates – or turns from a solid state directly into gas.
Read more here: ‘Active glacier found’ on Mars