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Mars-Planet. Toxic Mars Chemical Throws Wrench Into Search for Red Planet Life. Astronauts sent to Mars on future space missions may have to contend with a toxic chemical known as perchlorate that's thought to be widespread in Red Planet dirt. But perchlorates are already proving problematic for researchers using robots to hunt for possible traces of Martian life, a new study has found. As part of its science mission, NASA's Mars rover Curiosity heats up scoops of Red Planet dirt to test for organic carbon compounds — the building blocks of life on Earth. But that heat can cause perchlorates in soil samples to set off a chemical reaction that destroys organics, researchers discovered.

[The Hunt for Martian Life: A Photo Timeline] "The presence of perchlorates isn't good news for some of the techniques we’re currently using with Curiosity," study lead author Daniel Glavin, an astrobiologist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., said in a statement. "This may change the way we search for organics in the future on Mars. " Dramatic Underground Explosions Responsible for Twin Crater Pits on Mars | Space Exploration.

Massive underground explosions, perhaps involving ice, have created the pits inside two large impact craters in the Thaumasia Planum region on Mars, say researchers from the European Space Agency. Arima twin craters in the Thaumasia Planum region on Mars (ESA / DLR / FU Berlin / G. Neukum) Thaumasia Planum is a large plateau that lies immediately to the south of Valles Marineris, the largest canyon in the Solar System. The twin craters, imaged by ESA’s Mars Express on January 4, 2013, are over 30 miles (50 km). The northernmost crater (at the right on the image) was officially given the name Arima, but the southernmost (left) crater remains unnamed. Multiple terraces slump from the crater walls onto a flat floor. But, according to ESA scientists, the most striking feature is the central pit, a feature it shares with Arima crater to its north. When an asteroid hits the rocky surface of a planet, both it and the surface are compressed to high densities. Curiosity Provides New Evidence for Warm, Wet Ancient Mars | Space Exploration.

A large international team of researchers used Curiosity’s Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) suite of instruments to measure the abundances of different gases and isotopes in samples of Martian air. This is an artist’s impression of habitable Mars (Daein Ballard / CC BY-SA 3.0) Isotopes are variations of the same chemical element that contain different numbers of neutrons, such as the most common carbon isotope, carbon-12, and a heavier stable isotope, carbon-13, which contains an additional neutron. “The beauty of these measurements lies in the fact that these are the first really high-precision measurements of the composition of Mars’ atmosphere,” said Prof Sushil Atreya from the University of Michigan, who is a co-author of a pair of papers published in the journal Science (paper 1 & paper 2).

Curiosity’s SAM analyzed the ratios of heavier to lighter isotopes of carbon and oxygen in the carbon dioxide that makes up most of Mars’ atmosphere today. Bibliographic information: Chris R. Paul R. Mars Lost Most of Its Atmosphere Billions of Years Ago, Scientists Say. Mars is not a nice place to live: The Red Planet is cold and dry, and its thin atmosphere is dominated by carbon dioxide. And, according to new data collected by NASA's Mars rover Curiosity and studies of ancient Martian meteorites, the planet's atmosphere hasn't changed very much in about 4 billion years. Scientists suspect that, after Mars' violent formation about 4.5 billion years ago, something caused the planet to lose its atmosphere, which is now only about 1 percent as thick as that of Earth.

[Mars Rover Curiosity's 7 Biggest Discoveries (So Far)] "A lot of the atmosphere of Mars might have been lost pretty rapidly," said Paul Mahaffy, a scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and lead author of one of two new studies of the Red Planet's atmosphere published online today (July 18) in the journal Science. Sensitive measurements These results represent the most sensitive analysis of Mars' atmospheric conditions since NASA's Viking landers probed the planet's air in the 1970s. Mars' Grander Canyon - Hebes Chasma Fly-Though | Video. 8 mysterious images of Mars: The red planet. You’ll Only See This Landform on Mars, Nowhere on Earth. Want to stay on top of all the space news? Follow @universetoday on Twitter Periodic Bedrock Ridges on Mars. Image credit: University of Washington Geologists are often surprised to find features on Earth replicated on other worlds; ancient riverbeds on Mars, lakes on Titan, and volcanic eruptions on Io.

But researchers from the University of Washington have identified a geologic feature that exists on Mars… But not on Earth. “These bedforms look for all the world like sand dunes but they are carved into hard rock by wind,” said David Montgomery, a UW professor of Earth and space sciences. A yardang in Texas. What could create such a unique feature? But on Mars, these periodic bedrock ridges are perpendicular to the flow of the prevailing wind, just how sand dunes form on Earth (and Mars). The additional ingredient in the weather on Mars is probably some kind of deflection. Apart from the fact that this is just really cool, there’s a scientific benefit too. Ancient Water Channels of Mars --The Elysium Planitia in 3-D. In this illustration, the surface has been elevated, and scaled by a factor of one to 100 for clarity. The color scale represents the elevation of the buried channels relative to a Martian datum, or reference elevation.

The reason the values are negative is because the elevation of the surface of Mars in this region is also a negative -- below average global elevation. "Our findings show the scale of erosion that created the channels previously was underestimated and the channel depth was at least twice that of previous approximations," said Gareth Morgan, a geologist at the National Air and Space Museum's Center for Earth and Planetary Studies in Washington and lead author on the paper. "This work demonstrates the importance of orbital sounding radar in understanding how water has shaped the surface of Mars.

" The channels lie in Elysium Planitia, an expanse of plains along the Martian equator and the youngest volcanic region on the planet. The Daily Galaxy via. 5 Reasons You Should Be Excited About Mars Today. Perhaps the most popular cosmic story of the past decade was that Pluto was no longer a planet. Everyone shared it, and everyone knew about it. However, on a list of the most important scientific discoveries of the past decade, "Pluto is no longer a planet" ranks just under "everything else" and just above nothing. This evening, however, at about 10:30 PST, something pretty incredible will likely occur, and it has nothing to do with the Olympics. Curiosity, the Mars Science Laboratory, is supposed to land on the red planet tonight or today, depending on where you happen to be on Earth.

Now, I don't claim to be an astrophysicist. . #5. Curiosity has been flying toward Mars for almost a year now. The hard part for Curiosity is landing, though. The above video describes the entire complicated process of Curiosity actually landing on the surface of Mars. Mars.jpl.nasa.govBum bum buuuuuuuuum! GettyYes, I meant literally.

Now, I don't want to belittle the accomplishments of our Olympic athletes. Planet of a Thousand Mysteries | Symbols of an Alien Sky Ep. 2. 91: The Search for Water on Mars. Extensive water in Mars' interior -- Science & Technology. © NASAMars, as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope. Until now, Earth was the only planet known to have vast reservoirs of water in its interior. Scientists analyzed the water content of two Martian meteorites originating from inside the Red Planet. They found that the amount of water in places of the Martian mantle is vastly larger than previous estimates and is similar to that of Earth's. The results not only affect what we know about the geologic history of Mars, but also have implications for how water got to the Martian surface.

The data raise the possibility that Mars could have sustained life. The research was led by former Carnegie postdoctoral scientist Francis McCubbin, now at the University of New Mexico. The scientists analyzed what are called shergottite meteorites. "We analyzed two meteorites that had very different processing histories," explained Hauri. "There has been substantial evidence for the presence of liquid water at the Martian surface for some time," Hauri said.