Letters to the Editor
Mission: Mars02/22/2018 - 10:39 Planetary Science, Exoplanets, Science & Society
The possibility that human visitors could carry Earth-based microbes to the Red Planet has roiled the Mars research community, Lisa Grossman reported in “How to keep humans from ruining the search for life on Mars” (SN: 1/20/18, p. 22).
Reader Bruce Merchant speculated that Mars would need a protective global magnetic field to sustain a life-friendly environment. But...
There’s a planet just next door that could explain the origins of life in the universe. It was probably once covered in oceans (SN Online: 8/1/17). It may have been habitable for billions of years (SN Online: 8/26/16). Astronomers are desperate to land spacecraft there.
No, not Mars. That tantalizing planet is Venus. But despite all its appeal, Venus is one of the hardest places in the...
Storms of powdery Martian soil are contributing to the loss of the planet’s remaining water.
This newly proposed mechanism for water loss, reported January 22 in Nature Astronomy, might also hint at how Mars originally became dehydrated. Researchers used over a decade of imaging data taken by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to investigate the composition of the Red Planet’s frequent...
News in Brief
Martian ice has a thin skin. The newly discovered exposure of ice on steep banks suggests that the Red Planet’s ice sheets are buried by just a meter or two of soil, researchers report in Science January 12.
“What’s new and exciting here is that these ice sheets start quite shallowly,” says planetary scientist Colin Dundas of the U.S. Geological Survey in Flagstaff, Ariz. That could be...
News in Brief
OXON HILL, Md. — Astronomers may soon know for sure if Europa is spouting off. After finding signs that Jupiter’s icy moon emits repeating plumes of water near its southern pole, astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope hope to detect more evidence of the geysers.
“The statistical significance is starting to look pretty good,” astronomer William Sparks of the Space Telescope Science...
T he Okarian rover was in trouble. The yellow Humvee was making slow progress across a frigid, otherworldly landscape when planetary scientist Pascal Lee felt the rover tilt backward. Out the windshield, Lee, director of NASA’s Haughton Mars Project, saw only sky. The rear treads had broken through a crack in the sea ice and were sinking into the cold water.
True, there are signs of...
NASA is going for the gold. Its GOLD mission — short for Global-scale Observations of the Limb and Disk mission — is slated for launch January 25, the agency announced January 4. GOLD will study the zone where Earth’s atmosphere meets outer space. Its goal is to better understand how both solar and terrestrial storms affect the ionosphere, an upper atmosphere region crucial for radio...
News in Brief
The first observations of Tabby’s star flickering in real time have put the last nails in the “it’s-an-alien-megastructure” coffin.
The star’s most recent winks show that the dimming is from small dust particles surrounding it, a team of more than 200 scientists and amateur astronomers reports in a paper posted at arXiv.org January 3.
The oddball star, officially named KIC 8462852...
The Name Game
In December, astronomers and space enthusiasts received an early present: 86 newly official star names.
Such designations are often derived from Arabic, Greek or Latin origins. But the new monikers also draw inspiration from ancient mythologies and historical star names from indigenous cultures around the world, including in China, Australia and southern Africa. The star names were...
Year in Review
Missions to Jupiter and Saturn made big headlines this year, offering closeup views of the two gas giants. 2017 had plenty of other updates from exciting missions of years past.Juno
The Juno spacecraft has kept a watchful eye on Jupiter since entering the gas giant’s orbit in 2016. This year, Juno had seven planned science flybys of the planet, giving researchers a first intimate look at...