Posted: November 1st, 2012 | Author: Michael Courtenay | Filed under: NASA | Tags: AMES, CheMin, Curiosity, JPL, JPL-Caltech, Mars, Mars Rover, NASA, Planetary Science Institute, X-Ray | No Comments »
NASA’s superneat Mars rover Curiosity has found soil that bears a striking resemblance to volcanic sand in Hawaii. In the first study of the red planet’s soil, Curiosity determined the grains have crystals similar to basaltic soils found in volcanic regions on Earth.
The rover uses an X-ray imager to reveal the atomic structures of crystals in the Martian soil, the first time the technology – x-ray diffraction – has been used to analyse soil beyond our planet.
“The mineralogy of Mars’s soil has been a source of conjecture until now,” Curiosity scientist David Vaniman said, from the Planetary Science Institute.”This interest isn’t just academic,” he added. “Soils on planets’ surfaces are a reflection of surface exposure processes and history, with information on present and past climates.”
The minerals were identified in the first sample of Martian soil ingested recently by the rover. Curiosity used its Chemistry and Mineralogy instrument – CheMin – to obtain the results, which are filling gaps and adding confidence to earlier estimates of the mineralogical makeup of the dust and fine soil widespread on the Red Planet.
NASA plan to use the information about Mars’s minerals to figure out if the planet most like Earth in the solar system could have supported and preserved microbial life :: Read the full article »»»»
Posted: June 28th, 2011 | Author: Buster Cookson | Filed under: Astronomy, Blip, Buster Cookson, Science | Tags: 2011 MD, Asteroid, astronomy, Australian Astronomical Observatory, Ben Weiss, Buster Cookson, Fred Watson, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, JPL, LINEAR, NASA | Comments Off
Just in case you haven’t been paying attention to the news – There’s an asteroid hurtling toward Earth - astronomers clocked its top speed at around 63,000 mph / 101,000 kph. Ooops, you missed it!? An asteroid – named 2011 MD - with an estimated girth as large as a garbage truck has soared within 12,000 km of the Earth, passing harmlessly over the Atlantic Ocean. The space rock, measuring 5 to 20 metres in diameter, followed the same near-Earth path that scientists had earlier predicted, looping around the planet in a boomerang-shaped trajectory, said DC Agle from NASA’s – JPL – Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Its nearest approach to Earth, about 12,000 km, was 30 times farther away than the International Space Station, which orbits the planet at a distance of 400 km. On a more celestial scale, the asteroid’s closest distance to Earth was just 3 per cent of the 400,000 kilometres separating the Earth from the moon. If the asteroid had been on a collision course with Earth, the space rock would have been large enough and fast enough that it would have made it to the ground, said MIT planetary scientist Ben Weiss. ”You’d end up with some sort of explosion and a decent-size crater,” he said. “You wouldn’t have wanted something like this to land in Manhattan.” Researchers with MIT’s Lincoln Near Earth Asteroid Research LINEAR program discovered the asteroid on June 22 and pegged its size between 20 feet (6.3 meters) and 46 feet (14 meters) wide. Although small by asteroid standards, 2011 MD was close enough for amateur astronomers to spot it with modest telescopes.
Asteroid 2011 MD is considered an Apollo-type asteroid, because its orbit is very similar to Earth’s yet longer in duration and more oval-shaped. Astronomers expect the space rock to swing by again in the future, perhaps more closely the next time around. Australian Astronomical Observatory’s Fred Watson says the closeness of 2011 MD is a reminder to people that events on Earth have the potential to be shaped by asteroids – “like the annihilation of the dinosaurs, t reminds people we live in an environment littered with debris of this kind, which is actually the leftovers of the solar system’s formation about 4.6 billion years ago”
“It alerts people to the fact we live in a dynamic environment and space is worth watching, astronomers are keeping a close eye on an asteroid called Apophis, which will come very close to the Earth in 2029.
“It’s not impossible that something will collide with the Earth in the future, there are objects that we know will present a potential threat. In 2029 there is one that will pass very close to the Earth but probably won’t hit the Earth. But depending on how near the Earth it goes, it might be deflected into an orbit that will take it onto a collision course, probably in the 2030s.” said Watson.
Eyes to the sky people!?