Archive for September, 2015

Tuesday 29th September 2015

Posted in Stuffed. on September 29, 2015 by uppyalf

Nasa scientists find evidence of flowing water on Mars
Researchers say discovery of stains from summertime flows down cliffs and crater walls increases chance of finding life on red planet
Liquid water runs down canyons and crater walls over the summer months onMars, according to researchers who say the discovery raises the chances of being home to some form of life.
The trickles leave long, dark stains on the Martian terrain that can reach hundreds of metres downhill in the warmer months, before they dry up in the autumn as surface temperatures drop.
Images taken from the Mars orbit show cliffs, and the steep walls of valleys and craters, streaked with summertime flows that in the most active spots combine to form intricate fan-like patterns.
Scientists are unsure where the water comes from, but it may rise up from underground ice or salty aquifers, or condense out of the thin Martian atmosphere.
“There is liquid water today on the surface of Mars,” Michael Meyer, the lead scientist on Nasa’s Mars exploration programme, told the Guardian. “Because of this, we suspect that it is at least possible to have a habitable environment today.

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The water flows could point Nasa and other space agencies towards the most promising sites to find life on Mars, and to landing spots for future human missions where water can be collected from a natural supply.
“Mars is not the dry, arid planet that we thought of in the past,” said Nasa’s Jim Green. “Liquid water has been found on Mars.”
Nasa announce that there are watery flows on the surface of Mars during the red planet’s summer months.
Some of the earliest missions to Mars revealed a planet with a watery past. Pictures beamed back to Earth in the 1970s showed a surface crossed by dried-up rivers and plains once submerged beneath vast ancient lakes. Earlier this year, Nasa unveiled evidence of an ocean that might have covered half of the planet’s northern hemisphere in the distant past.

Dark narrow streaks called recurring slope lineae emanate out of the walls of Garni crater on Mars. Photograph: Nasa/AFP/Getty Images
But occasionally, Mars probes have found hints that the planet might still be wet. Nearly a decade ago, Nasa’s Mars Global Surveyor took pictures of what appeared to be water bursting through a gully wall and flowing around boulders and other rocky debris. In 2011, the high-resolution camera on Nasa’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured what looked like little streams flowing down crater walls from late spring to early autumn. Not wanting to assume too much, mission scientists named the flows “recurring slope lineae” or RSL.
Researchers have now turned to another instrument on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to analyse the chemistry of the mysterious RSL flows.Lujendra Ojha, of Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, and his colleagues used a spectrometer on the MRO to look at infrared light reflected off steep rocky walls when the dark streaks had just begun to appear, and when they had grown to full length at the end of the Martian summer.

Nasa faces contamination dilemma over Mars water investigations
Curiosity rover already on red planet cannot study streaks left by flowing water because it could be carrying bugs from Earth

Nasa scientists may still be celebrating their discovery of liquid water on Mars, but they now face some serious questions about how they can investigate further and look for signs of life on the red planet.
The problem is how to find life without contaminating the planet with bugs from Earth.
The Guardian view on the discovery of liquid water on Mars: cause for great celebration
Editorial: Now the search is on to find living organisms on the red planet. Even traces of primitive microbes would rank among the most important discoveries in history

Researchers at the space agency are keen for the Curiosity rover to take a closer look at the long dark streaks created by liquid water running down craters and canyon walls during the summer months on Mars.
But the rover is not sterile and risks contaminating the wet areas with earthly bugs that will have hitched a ride to the planet and may still be alive.
The vehicle has been trundling around the large Gale crater looking for evidence that Mars was habitable in the ancient past. It hasso far uncovered evidence of past river networks and age-old lakes.
However, the dark, damp streaks, called recurring slope lineae (RSL), are a different prospect. Because they are wet at least part of the time, they will be designated as special regions where only sterile landers can visit. But such a restriction could hamper scientists’ hopes of looking for current life on Mars.
“There will be heated discussions in the next weeks and months about what Curiosity will be allowed to do and whether it can go anywhere near the RSLs,” said Andrew Coates of University College London’s Mullard space science laboratory.
Nasa announces that there are watery flows on the surface of Mars during the red planet’s summer months.
“Curiosity now has the chance, for example, to do some closer up, but still remote, measurements, using the ChemCam instrument with lasers, to look at composition. I understand there is increasing pressure from the science side to allow that, given this new discovery.”
An organisation called the committee on space research (Cospar) draws up the rules on what is called planetary protection, which exist to prevent missions from Earth contaminating the pristine environments of other worlds. Landers that are searching for life must be exceptionally clean, and fall under category IVb, but those entering special regions are category IVc missions and must be cleaner still.
Curiosity was designed for category IVb, and under Cospar rules is not allowed to enter areas where water might be flowing. But that might be up for discussion. Nasa’s Jim Green argues that the intense radiation environment on Mars, in particular the ultraviolet light, might have killed any bugs Curiosity carried into space, and so may be clean enough to move into the sites.
A recent report from the US National Academy of Sciences and the European Science Foundation, however, suggests that UV light might not do the job, and could make matters worse. “Although the flux of ultraviolet radiation within the Martian atmosphere would be deleterious to most airborne microbes and spores, dust could attenuate this radiation and enhance microbial viability,” the report states.
Curiosity could inspect the flows from a distance, using its onboard laser to take more measurements of the dark streaks. But a more controversial option is to find a flat region at the bottom of one of the flows, and scoop up some Martian soil for analysis.
The next rover due to land on the planet is a joint mission named ExoMars from the European and Russian space agencies, set to launch in 2018. The plan is for the rover to drill up to two metres into the Martian soil to look for life past or present.
“For the ExoMars 2018 rover, the planetary protection is being very carefully looked at and a combination of baking and cleaning is planned to avoid any possible mishaps and make sure it is IVb so it can make the best possible life-searching measurements in the regions it can get to,” said Coates, who is leading the camera team on the rover.

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Thursday 17th September 2015

Posted in Stuffed. on September 18, 2015 by uppyalf

Forest School at Compton Verney.

IMG_6773IMG_6774IMG_20150917_130750IMG_20150917_134742  IMG_20150917_133815 IMG_20150917_133808IMG_20150917_132103 IMG_20150917_13205344IMG_6775IMG_6776A-blood-red-moon

On September 28, we will witness an astronomical event that hasn’t happened since 1982: a supermoon lunar eclipse.
A supermoon occurs when the moon reaches its full phase at the same time as it hits its closest approach to Earth.
The result is a stunning sight as it appears to be much larger and brighter than normal.
What is a supermoon?
“When the moon is farthest away it’s known as apogee, and when it’s closest it’s known as perigee,” explained Noah Petro, deputy project scientist for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.
“On Sept. 28, we’re going to have a perigee full moon—the closest full moon of the year,” he said.

When can I see it?
The moon will be at its brightest at around 2am on the morning of September 28.
But what makes that night so important is that a second lunar phenomenon will also be taking place.
We will witness a lunar eclipse as the moon falls completely within the Earth’s shadow during its passage.
When the direct light from the sun is blocked, the moon will turn a reddish colour as it instead reflects the sunsets and sunrises happening on Earth.

The Blood Moon will also occur on September 28
The supermoon will become a so-called Blood Moon.
Is the world going to end?
This is the fourth Blood Moon of the year which those who believe the Blood Moon Prophecy says will bring on the apocalypse.
Many biblical theorists maintain the event will trigger the Rapture and the start of a seven-year-tribulation.
These theories, which are restricted to tiny minority of churches and groups, have been dismissed by scientists and are thought to be well wide of the mark.
Despite some claims, the apocalypse won’t occur on September 28
Fortunately for us, almost all asteroids are destroyed due to the extreme atmospheric friction heating they receive, breaking up into harmless shards that burn up before hitting the ground.
And, even NASA has dismissed claims of the end of days.
“The only thing that will happen on Earth during an eclipse is that people will wake up the next morning with neck pain because they spent the night looking up,” said Petro.
How long will it last and where can I see it?
The lunar eclipse will last for around one hour and 12 minutes.
It will be visible to Europe, North and South America, Africa parts of West Asia and the eastern Pacific.

NASA has ruled out an asteroid striking the Earth on September 28 – an impact supposedly foretold by the Blood Moon.
The space agency says it is constantly monitoring the heavens for signs of any incoming asteroids and has given the all-clear.
It uses an automated collision monitoring system called Sentry that continually scans an “asteroid catalogue” for the possibility of an impact.
“NASA knows of no asteroid or comet currently on a collision course with Earth, so the probability of a major collision is quite small,” said a spokesperson.
“In fact, as best as we can tell, no large object is likely to strike the Earth any time in the next several hundred years.”
Plenty of conspiracy theorists are concerned about the appearance of a Blood Moonon September 28 – an event they believe signals the end of days.
The hypothesis was originally made famous by Christian ministers John Hagee and Mark Biltz.
They said the ongoing “tetrad” – four consecutive lunar eclipses which began in April 2014 with six full moons in between – is the indicator of the end of earth as described in the Bible in Acts 2:20 and Revelation 6:12 .
Concerned stargazers believe the Blood Moon could signal the end.
In reality, a Blood Moon is a a rather spectacular sight caused by the reflection of sunlight on the Earth’s atmosphere – which is red to the naked eye.
So if you’re worried about impending doom, check out this handy guide to tell you everything you need to know.
What is a Blood Moon?
Fans of the Twilight books are already familiar with this term, but alas it has nothing to do with blood sucking vampires.
In fact a Blood Moon is a rather spectacular sight caused by the reflection of sunlight on the Earth’s atmosphere – which is red to the naked eye. The blood moon acquires a golden, copper, or even rusty-red color depending on where the sun is – and it’s usually low in the sky or near the horizon.

Asteroid before the impact in water

What is the Blood Moon Prophecy?
The hypothesis was originally made famous by Christian ministers John Hagee and Mark Biltz who said the ongoing “tetrad” – four consecutive lunar eclipses which began in April 2014 with six full moons in between – is the indicator of the end of earth as described in the Bible in Acts 2:20 and Revelation 6:12.
The pair insist some sort of tragic event is set to hit earth and possibly wipe it out – but the reality is this is not the first time we’ve had such a phenomenon. “The last time there was a tetrad was back in the 1900s, and to my amazement, they also fell on the feasts of Passover and Tabernacles,” explains Blitz. “When I noticed the years these phenomena occurred, my mind began reeling. The last two times there were four blood moons in a row, they happened, first, right after Israel became a nation in 1948, and then again when Israel retook Jerusalem in 1967.”
The “blood moon” theory is interpreted from the Book of Joel, which says: “the sun will turn into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes.”
Why all the doom and gloom?
Well, it’s complicated and it depends who you believe. Some say it signals a significant celestial event, others say it will trigger the second coming while more yet are predicting a catastrophic asteroid hit that will blow the planet to smitherines.
Rev Efrain Rodriguez is one self-proclaimed prophet who is so convinced he got a message from God – in fact, he was so sure of it, he wrote to NASA to warn them about his fears. He regularly updates readers of his Facebook page with stark warnings he says are from a deity – and for those who believe him – it’s a pretty bleak outlook.

If what he’s saying is true then it’s time to say goodbye to loved ones as he claims an asteroid up to 2.5miles wide will strike Puerto Rico and will go on to wipe out the world as we know it.
Rodriguez’s vision saw a massive asteroid “entering the airspace of the town of Arecibo in Puerto Rico, striking the sea between the island of Mona and Mayaguez and triggering a magnitude 12 earthquake.”
If it has any basis in fact, this claim would undoubtedly cause a planet altering event – as the world’s most powerful earthquake left 4,485 people dead and injured as well as 2 million homeless after it struck southern Chile in 1960. It was 9.5 on the Richter scale.

So when is this likely to happen?
While those behind the theory claim the so-called prophecies are set to strike a blow – but they can’t pin point an exact date.
The outcome of the end of days could actually be anywhere from September 21 to 28 – with some eyeing a final date of around September 23 or 24.
For those who are simply interested in watching the spectacle of the last lunar tetrad – the fourth eclipse in this trend will take place on the night of September 27 into 28.

What are the scientists saying?
If you’re not sure what to believe and think the prophecy could come true – you are in good company. However it might not be time to pack your survival kit just yet or call up Richard Branson to see if you can book a spot on his space craft either.
Such is the hysteria in America, NASA have taken the unusual step of issuing a statement to clarify matters.
NASA/JSC
Paul Chodas, from NASA’s Near-Earth Object office, has thrown out the claims.
“There is no existing evidence that an asteroid or any other celestial object is on a trajectory that will impact Earth,” he said. “In fact, not a single one of the known objects has any credible chance of hitting our planet over the next century. There is no scientific basis, not one shred of evidence, that an asteroid or any other celestial object will impact Earth on those dates.”