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Crisis in Comet Formation Theories

Results from the Stardust mission last week (12/15/2006) are causing quite a stir.  Detailed analysis of comet dust particles from Comet Wild 2, published in Science Dec 15, reveal the wrong stuff.  Scientists found olivine, pyroxene and osbornite – minerals said to form at high temperatures – instead of the cold volatiles expected for an […]

Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week:  Comets as Life’s Lego Jumper Cables

Results of the Stardust mission made the cover of Science this week.1  The Jet Propulsion Laboratory put out a press release that condensed the abstruse papers into a simplistic story built around the L word life.  Publicist David Agle wrote for the Lego generation: Just as kits of little plastic bricks can be used to […]

Mars Waterpark a Booming Place

Two surprises about Mars came from NASA this week: (1) water may be flowing today down gullies in places (NASA press release), and (2) meteorites are still hitting the surface (NASA press release).  The water evidence comes from fresh deposits downslope of a gully on a crater wall.  One photo in the second article shows […]

SETI a Descendant of OOL

The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) may seem a different subject than origin of life (OOL), but researchers in both depend on each other’s assumptions.  The common bond is illustrated in a SETI article on Space.com today.  Devon Burr of the SETI institute wrote an article not about intelligent aliens trying to broadcast signals to […]

Moon Gas Indicates Recent Geologic Activity

It’s aliv-v-v-v-e!  Evidence for recent geological activity on our moon has been reported in Nature.1  Katharine Sanderson introduced the findings in News@Nature, in an item titled, “The moon has gas: Eruptions confound the idea that our nearest neighbour is a geological dead zone” – Some think the Moon has been geologically dead for billions of […]

Geologists Puzzle Over Egyptian Craters

A set of craters deep in the Egyptian desert has geologists scratching their heads.  Discovery Channel News says that they look neither like impact craters nor known volcanic phenomena.  “It is a strange and new thing,” reported one French scientist.  Jay Melosh of the University of Arizona remarked, “There’s nothing in our current geological literature […]

Mars Life: Hope Against Hope

Good news: the Viking landers (1976) may have been unable to detect life on Mars if it were present.  Bad news: the dust devils on Mars probably would kill anything alive on the surface.  These contrasting stories recently tugged in opposite directions on hopes to find life on the red planet.  A report on PNAS1 […]

New Titan Ethane Theory Proposed

They wonder where the ethane went (see 09/14/2006 and its links).  The case of the missing ethane on Titan has only gotten more puzzling since the Huygens Probe landed last year and found almost none, when oceans a mile deep were anticipated.  In Nature last week,1 D. M. Hunten (U of Arizona) posited a new […]

Science Potpourri

Interesting articles from recent issues of Science have piled up in the queue.  These might have made separate entries in CEH if time and space were unlimited. Deep Impact:  The team of the Deep Impact mission to a comet published spectral results in the July 13 issue.  “Emission signatures due to amorphous and crystalline silicates, […]

Glory Be Behind Saturn

Don’t look at this picture till you’re ready.  Switch off the phone, turn off the radio, rub your eyes, and sit down.  Ready?  Click Here.     This is a view of Saturn we could never see from Earth.  It’s the backside of the planet, with the sun shining through the rings.  According to a […]

Intelligent Design Detected on Mars

Astronomy Picture of the Day used design detection reasoning to infer the presence of intelligent agents at work on another world.  “An unusual spot has been found on Mars that scientists believe is not natural in origin,” the caption says of a photo taken from orbit by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.  “The spot appears mobile […]

Mars Radiation Would Fry Astronaut Brains

Imagine the first Martian astronauts coming home confused, impaired and demented.  This is the risk from solar radiation on Mars, say a group of NASA medical researchers (see RxPG News).  Among the gravest risks of a manned flight to Mars ranks the possibility that massive amounts of solar and cosmic radiation will decimate the brains […]

Farewell to the “Face on Mars” – A Teachable Moment

ESA’s Mars Express orbiter has just sent back pictures of the Cydonia region on Mars.  Objects seen in early Viking images of this region resembled a face, a skull and pyramids that gave rise to a cult following on late-night talk shows.  NASA always discounted these resemblances as coincidental, and when JPL released higher-resolution photos […]

Cassini Photographs Earth from Saturn, Discovers New Ring

A new ring, geysers from a distance, and our home planet from 930 million miles away – these and more wonders are visible in new photos taken by the Cassini spacecraft orbiting Saturn.  Now at opposition (facing the sun), the orbiter’s cameras can pick out fainter details in backlighting.  Highlights of the three published photos […]

Ethane Cloud at Titan: Too Little, Too Late?

Those following the Titan exploration by Cassini-Huygens have wondered where the ethane went.  Oceans of ethane hundreds of meters deep, if not kilometers deep, were predicted but not found, as reported previously (see 04/25/2003 and 10/16/2003 pre-Huygens reports, 01/15/2005 and 01/21/2005 Huygens early results, and 12/05/2005 review; see also New Scientist analysis of the “total […]
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