An artist’s conception of future Mars astronauts. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
While asking questions about habitability on Mars, one thing that scientists also need to consider is whether it’s safe enough for humans to even do exploration there. Radiation is definitely a big factor — in a press conference yesterday (Dec. 9) for the American Geophysical Union’s conference, scientists said the environment is unlike anything we are used to naturally on Earth.
Radiation on Mars comes from two sources: galactic cosmic rays (over the long term) and solar energetic particles (in short bursts of activity when the sun gets super-active). Of note, the sun has had a muted peak to its solar cycle, so that’s affecting the expected amount of particles on Mars. But the Mars Curiosity rover, in its first 300 Earth days of roaming, has plenty of data on galactic cosmic rays.
On the Martian surface, the average dose is about 0.67 millisieverts (mSv) per day, at least between the measurement period of August 2012 and June 2013. The journey to Mars had a dose of 1.8 mSv per day inside the spaceship. So what does that means for NASA’s human health consideration concerns?
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Molecular hydrogen in the Whirlpool Galaxy M51. The blueish features show the distribution of hydrogen molecules in M51, the raw material for forming new stars. The PAWS team has used this data to create a catalogue of more then 1,500 molecular clouds. The background is a color image of M51 by the Hubble Space Telescope. Superimposed in blue is the CO(1-0) radiation emitted by carbon monoxide (CO) molecules, as measured for the PAWS study using the millimeter telescopes of the Institut de Radioastronomie Millimétrique. The CO molecules are used as tracers for molecular hydrogen. Credit: PAWS team/IRAM/NASA HST/T. A. Rector (University of Alaska Anchorage)
It didn’t happen overnight. By studying the properties of giant molecular clouds in the Whirlpool Galaxy for several years with the millimeter telescopes of IRAM, the Institut de Radioastronomie Millimétrique, astronomers have been given a whole, new look at star formation. Encompassing 1,500 maps of molecular clouds, this new research has found these building blocks of future suns to be encased in a sort of molecular hydrogen mist. This ethereal mixture appears to be far denser than speculated and is found throughout the galactic disc. What’s more, it would appear the pressure created by the molecular fog is a critical factor in determining whether or not stars are able to form within the clouds. [click to continue…]
Outcrops in Yellowknife Bay are being exposed by wind driven erosion. These rocks record superimposed ancient lake and stream deposits that offered past environmental conditions favorable for microbial life. This image mosaic from the Mast Camera instrument on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover shows a series of sedimentary deposits in the Glenelg area of Gale Crater, from a perspective in Yellowknife Bay looking toward west-northwest. The “Cumberland” rock that the rover drilled for a sample of the Sheepbed mudstone deposit (at lower left in this scene) has been exposed at the surface for only about 80 million years. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
NASA’s Curiosity rover has discovered evidence that an ancient Martian lake had the right chemical ingredients that could have sustained microbial life forms for long periods of time – and that these habitable conditions persisted on the Red Planet until a more recent epoch than previously thought.
Furthermore researchers have developed a novel technique allowing Curiosity to accurately date Martian rocks for the first time ever – rather than having to rely on educated guesses based on counting craters.
All that and more stems from science results just announced by members of the rover science team. [click to continue…]
With remote-sensing satellites, scientists have found the coldest places on Earth, just off a ridge in the East Antarctic Plateau. The coldest of the cold temperatures dropped to minus 135.8 F (minus 93.2 C) — several degrees colder than the previous record.
Image Credit: Ted Scambos, National Snow and Ice Data Center.
What is the coldest place on Earth? Scientists say it’s a place so cold that ordinary mercury or alcohol thermometers won’t work there. If you were there, every breath would be painful, your clothing would crackle every time you moved, and if you threw hot water into the air, it would fall to the ground as tiny shards of ice. At this place, the new record of minus 136 F (minus 93.2 C) was set on Aug. 10, 2010. Researchers analyzed data from several satellite instruments and found the coldest place on Earth in the past 32 years is … [click to continue…]
Here’s how the Moon will look to us on Earth during the entire year of 2014. Using data from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, the Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio can project how the Moon will appear, and compresses one month into 24 seconds and a year to about 5 minutes. Above is the video where Celestial north is up, corresponding to the view from the northern hemisphere, and below is how the Moon will look from the southern hemisphere.
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