VIEW HEADLINES ONLY

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 […]

Mars Annually Pops Its Polar Cork

A unique geological phenomenon has been found on Mars.  Every year, when the southern polar cap heats up, carbon dioxide gas forms underneath a layer of translucent ice.  This gas levitates large portions of the ice cap until it finds weaknesses, and bursts out at over a hundred miles an hour in spectacular fumaroles (see […]

It’s Tough to Get a Date, but Fun to Keep Trying

Geochronology is a perverse sort of game.  Like the proverbial clock shop apprentice who went crazy trying to get all the grandfather clocks to tick together, the scientist trying to interpolate earth’s past climate patterns from geochronometers has so many uncooperative variables, he can never hope for anything better than partial conformity to accepted visions […]

Ten Years Later: Mars Rock Was a Useful Lie

Almost nobody believes any more that the Martian meteorite ALH84001 contained evidence of life, but the iconic rock launched the science of astrobiology (see 04/17/2006).  So said Matt Crenson for AP (see Space.com and Chron.com) on the tenth anniversary of the highly-publicized NASA announcement that purported to show bacteria-like fossils, magnetites and PAHs thought to […]

More Reasons You Wouldn’t Want to Live on Mars

Electric charges in dust devils on Mars may generate toxic chemicals, says a report on Space.com (see also later story posted on National Geographic News).  According to two recent reports in Astrobiology journal, “Small dust devils and planet-wide storms – combined with static electricity – may lead to the formation of hydrogen peroxide and other […]

Titan’s Land-o’-Lakes Found

The Cassini spacecraft has found features that look like methane lakes in the northern latitudes of Titan (see JPL press release).  The large dark patches, some about 30 miles across with rounded edges, appear to be associated with fluid channels.  Radar echoes cannot determine for sure whether the surface is liquid (dark means smooth, light […]

Saturn E-Ring Oxygen Bubble Blown by Enceladus

From a distance, the little moon Enceladus at Saturn looks for all the world like a leaking water balloon.  The Cassini Mission just released a new photo of Enceladus that fits that description well.  The plumes are faintly visible emanating from the south pole of the 300-mile-across moon as it orbits beyond the rings.  A […]

Update:  Crater-Count Dating Squabble Unresolved

Remember the revelation last year that many craters on Mars used to infer ages may have been secondary impacts from fallback debris? (see 10/20/2005 entry).  Well, a microsymposium on this subject was held in Houston in March, and Richard Kerr in Science1 said that “125 planetary scientists deadlocked over how to apply crater-dating techniques to […]

Asteroid Sticks Together While Theories Disintegrate

[Guest article]  In an story entitled “Rubbly Itokawa revealed as ‘impossible’ asteroid,” New Scientist Space reported on findings gathered from the recent visit of Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa to the asteroid Itokawa (see 11/28/2005 bullet).  There seems to be no end of problems for scientists trying to fit the solar system into billions of years.  Now […]

See Comet Crumble

A comet is breaking up before our eyes.  Comet Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 has split into dozens of pieces and is crumbling quickly, like pieces of dried meringue.  Science News tells about the breakup, and it made Astronomy Picture of the Day.  The Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes are also documenting the event.     This is […]

The Porridge Before the Soup: Too Hot?

In the evolutionary theory of everything, there is a soup before the primordial soup we normally think of.  It’s the solar nebula, the whirling disk of dust, gas and ice that preceded the planets.  Scientists used to think the nebula was differentiated like chemicals in a giant centrifuge, with the rocks close to the sun […]

Solar Eclipses Unique to Earth, SETI Researcher “Finds”

Like many before him, Seth Shostak pondered the significance of total solar eclipses for the one planet with observers to appreciate them.  “OK, I’ve done the math,” the SETI Institute director said for SETI Thursday on Space.com.  “What you always suspected might be true … is true: namely that the best place in the solar […]
All Posts by Date