Metals discovered in atmosphere of planet Mars

This video says about itself:

11 April 2017

MAVEN makes first direct detection of the presence of metallic ions in the ionosphere.

Mars has electrically charged high-ion metal atoms in its atmosphere, according to new results from the NASA spacecraft MAVEN.

Metal ions may reveal previously invisible activity in the mysterious atmosphere charged electrically ionosphere of Mars. MAVEN has made the first direct detection of the permanent presence of metal ions in the ionosphere of a planet other than Earth.

Because metal ions have a long shelf life and are transported away from their region of origin by neutral winds and electric fields, they can be used to infer movement in the ionosphere, similar to the way we use a fluted leaf to reveal how the wind is blowing. Grebowsky is the lead author of an article on this research appears April 10 in Geophysical Research Letters.

MAVEN (Mars Environment and volatile Mission Evolution) is exploring the upper atmosphere of Mars to understand how the planet missed most of its air, transforming a world that could have endured a billion years ago life on a cold desert planet today. The understanding of ionospheric activity is shedding light on how the atmosphere of Mars is being lost to space, according to the team.

The metal comes from a constant rain of small meteorites on the red planet. When a high-velocity meteoroid strikes the atmosphere of Mars, it vaporizes. Metal atoms in the vapor wake get some of their electrons pulled out by other atoms and molecules charged in the ionosphere, transforming the metal atoms into electrically charged ions.


MAVEN Detects Metal Ions in Martian Atmosphere

Apr 11, 2017

NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) mission has made the first detection of the continuous presence of iron, magnesium, and sodium ions in the electrically charged upper atmosphere (ionosphere) of the Red Planet.

Sounding rockets, radar and satellite measurements have detected metal ion layers high in the atmosphere above Earth.

There’s also been indirect evidence for metal ions above other planets in our Solar System.

When spacecraft are exploring these worlds from orbit, sometimes their radio signals pass through the planet’s atmosphere on the way to Earth, and sometimes portions of the signal have been blocked.

This has been interpreted as interference from electrons in the ionosphere, some of which are thought to be associated with metal ions.

However, long-term direct detection of the metal ions by MAVEN is the first conclusive evidence that these ions exist on another planet.

“MAVEN has detected iron (Fe+), magnesium (Mg+), and sodium (Na+) ions in the upper atmosphere of Mars over the last two years using its Neutral Gas and Ion Mass Spectrometer instrument, giving us confidence that the metal ions are a permanent feature,” said Dr. Joseph Grebowsky, a researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, and his colleagues from the United States and UK.

According to the team, the metal comes from a constant rain of tiny meteoroids onto the planet.

When a high-speed meteoroid hits the Martian atmosphere, it vaporizes. Metal atoms in the vapor trail get some of their electrons torn away by other charged atoms and molecules in the ionosphere, transforming the metal atoms into electrically charged ions.

“Observing metal ions on another planet gives us something to compare and contrast with Earth to understand the ionosphere and atmospheric chemistry better,” said Dr. Grebowsky, who is the lead author of a paper on this research published online in the journal Geophysical Research Letters on April 10.

“Because metallic ions have long lifetimes and are transported far from their region of origin by neutral winds and electric fields, they can be used to infer motion in the ionosphere, similar to the way we use a lofted leaf to reveal which way the wind is blowing.”

Dr. Grebowsky and co-authors also found that the metal ions behaved differently on Mars than on Earth.

Our planet is surrounded by a global magnetic field generated in its interior, and this magnetic field together with ionospheric winds forces the metal ions into layers.

However, Mars has only local magnetic fields fossilized in certain regions of its crust, and the authors only saw the layers near these areas.

“Elsewhere, the metal ion distributions are totally unlike those observed at Earth,” Dr. Grebowsky said.

Bubbles may put mysterious fizz in [Saturn moon] Titan’s polar sea, by Ashley Yeager. 11:00am, April 18, 2017: here.

Jupiter, Mars, Saturn space news

This video says about itself:

Juno Listens to Jupiter’s Auroras

2 September 2016

Thirteen hours of radio emissions from Jupiter’s intense auroras are presented here, both visually and in sound. The data was collected when the spacecraft made its first orbital pass of the gas giant on Aug 27, 2016, with all spacecraft instruments turned on. The frequency range of these signals is from 7 to 140 kilohertz. Radio astronomers call these “kilometric emissions” because their wavelengths are about a kilometer long.

The full story and more images from Juno‘s first pass of Jupiter with all instruments on is here.

From Science News:

Juno spacecraft goes into ‘safe mode’, continues to orbit Jupiter

by Christopher Crockett

6:57pm, October 19, 2016

PASADENA, Calif. — NASA’s Juno spacecraft, in orbit around Jupiter since July 4, is lying low after entering an unexpected “safe mode” early on October 19. A misbehaving valve in the fuel system, not necessarily related to the safe mode, has also led to a delay in a planned engine burn that would have shortened the probe’s orbit.

Juno turned off its science instruments and some other nonessential components this morning at 1:47 a.m. EDT after computers detected some unexpected situation, mission head Scott Bolton reported at an October 19 news conference. The spacecraft was hurtling toward its second close approach to the planet, soaring about 5,000 kilometers from the cloud tops. It has now passed that point and is moving back away from the planet with all science instruments switched off.

The rocket firing was intended to take Juno from a 53.5-day orbit to a 14-day orbit. Juno can stay in its current orbit indefinitely without any impact on the science goals, Bolton said. The goal of the mission — to peer deep beneath Jupiter’s clouds — depends on the close approaches that it makes with every orbit, not how quickly it loops around. “We changed to a 14-day orbit primarily because we wanted the science faster,” he said. “But there’s no requirement to do that.”

For now, mission scientists are trying to figure what happened with the fuel valve and what triggered the safe mode before proceeding with further instructions to the probe.

First peek under clouds reveals Jupiter’s surprising depths. Colorful bands stretch hundreds of kilometers inward, Juno spacecraft data show. By Christopher Crockett, 9:00am, October 21, 2016: here.

Also from Science News:

Mission scientists await signal from Mars lander

ExoMars probe went silent before touchdown

by Christopher Crockett

5:16pm, October 19, 2016

From the European Space Agency:

20 October 2016

Essential data from the ExoMars Schiaparelli lander sent to its mothership Trace Gas Orbiter during the module’s descent to the Red Planet’s surface yesterday has been downlinked to Earth and is currently being analysed by experts.

Early indications from both the radio signals captured by the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT), an experimental telescope array located near Pune, India, and from orbit by ESA’s Mars Express, suggested the module had successfully completed most steps of its 6-minute descent through the martian atmosphere. This included the deceleration through the atmosphere, and the parachute and heat shield deployment, for example.

But the signals recorded by both Pune and Mars Express stopped shortly before the module was expected to touchdown on the surface. Discrepancies between the two data sets are being analysed by experts at ESA’s space operations centre in Darmstadt, Germany.

ExoMars mission has both success and failure: here.

First signs of boron on Mars hint at past groundwater, habitability: here.

Red Planet’s interior may not churn much. Composition of 2.4-billion-year-old Martian meteorite matches that of younger ones. By Thomas Sumner
2:00pm, February 1, 2017: here.

Experts don’t agree on age of Saturn’s rings. Data from orbiting Cassini craft may help resolve debate. By Christopher Crockett, 8:53am, October 20, 2016: here.

Possibly cloudy forecast for parts of Pluto. Bright patches in New Horizons images hint at rare atmospheric formation. By Christopher Crockett, 3:05pm, October 19, 2016: here.

WE’RE STILL MOURNING PLUTO’S PLANET DEMOTION But there might just be another ninth planet out there. [NYT]

Spacecraft Schiaparelli landing on Mars today

This video says about itself:

5 October 2016

Visualisation of the ExoMars Schiaparelli module entering and descending through the martian atmosphere to land on Mars.

Schiaparelli will enter the atmosphere at about 21 000 km/h and in less than six minutes it will use a heatshield, a parachute and thrusters to slow its descent before touching down in the Meridiani Planum region close to the equator, absorbing the final contact with a crushable structure.

The entire process will take less than six minutes: the animation has been sped up.

Schiaparelli is set to separate from the Trace Gas Orbiter on 16 October, after a seven-month cruise together through space, and will enter the atmosphere on 19 October at 14:42 GMT.

For an overview of the key timings and altitudes corresponding to the events portrayed in this animation see the Schiaparelli descent sequence graphic, see here.

Both Schiaparelli and the Mars scenery in this animation were computer generated.

More about ExoMars: here.

From Science News:

ExoMars mission set to arrive at Red Planet on October 19

Lander will touch down on Mars and a spacecraft will go into orbit around planet

by Christopher Crockett

5:30pm, October 18, 2016

Mars is about to get another visitor. The European Space Agency’s ExoMars mission arrives at the Red Planet on October 19. A spacecraft known as the Trace Gas Orbiter will go into orbit around Mars while a lander named Schiaparelli will touch down on the surface.

ESA will live stream the landing starting at 9 a.m. EDT on October 19.

The arrival ends a roughly seven-month journey. Schiaparelli, which separated from the orbiter on October 16, is expected to enter the Martian atmosphere at 10:42 a.m. and land in a plain dubbed Meridiani Planum about six minutes later. Parachutes will ease its entry and rockets will slow the lander down until it is about two meters from the ground, at which point it will drop the rest of the way, cushioned by a collapsible structure.

Schiaparelli will test technology needed for a future European Mars rover. The lander doesn’t have a long-term power source, so it will last for only a few Martian days. But it is carrying a few scientific instruments, such as a camera and weather sensors.

The orbiter will stick around to study trace gases such as methane in the Martian atmosphere. It will eventually become a communication hub between Earth and another European Mars rover expected to arrive in 2021.

From the ExoMars FAQ page:

The ExoMars programme is a cooperation between ESA and the Russian space agency, Roscosmos. Roscosmos is providing the Proton rockets to launch both missions to Mars, along with contributions to the scientific payload. On the 2016 mission, two of the four science instrument packages on the TGO are European-led and two are Russian-led, while the Schiaparelli package is European-led. The 2020 mission comprises a European-led rover and a Russian-led surface science platform. NASA also contributes some equipment to both missions. …

Participating countries outside Europe are Russia, the United States, Canada, and Israel.

The Schiaparelli Mars lander, missing in action since its October 19 descent, dinged the surface of the Red Planet. A black spot framed by dark rays of debris mark the lander’s final resting place, the European Space Agency reports online October 27. Its parachute, still attached to the rear heat shield, lies about 1.4 kilometers to the south, new images from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter show. The front heat shield, ejected about four minutes into the descent, sits roughly 1.4 kilometers to the east of the impact site: here.

Growing plants on Mars?

This video from Leiden University in the Netherlands says about itself:

A Garden on Mars

22 August 2016

We are the Leiden iGEM 2016 team. In context of the iGEM competition, we are raising money through crowdfunding to support our research! You can support us by donation via the website, or you can support us by sharing this video and spreading the word.

From Leiden University in the Netherlands:

‘A garden on Mars‘ crowdfunding campaign starts today

22 August 2016

Today, 13 students at Leiden University have started a crowdfunding campaign to collect money for research into the possibilities of growing crops on Mars. Their research will contribute to the knowledge of our galaxy. The project is in the context of the iGEM competition.

Food for Martians

Martian soil contains a toxin known as perchlorate, which causes all crops grown to be toxic to humans. If we manage to land men on Mars in the near future, this is a problem that will have to be resolved. It is not possible to take adequate supplies of food, and crops therefore have to be grown as a sustainable source of nutrition. The students are developing a bacterial system that will break down perchlorate and at the same time release much-needed oxygen in the process: a win-win situation for future Martian explorers. The bacteria will do their work in the enclosed environment of a bioreactor with Martian soil.

Students and the public work together to enable research

The project is completely student led and student run. This includes financing their own materials, including perchlorate, simulated Martian soil and laboratory disposables. State-of-the-art techniques are used, including Martian gravity simulation. The students hope to finance a part of the costly project through crowdfunding. Communication is a key aspect of the project and the students are presenting their project at events, including the Night of Art and Knowledge on September 17.

International science competition

The students’ research is part of the world’s biggest competition in synthetic biology: the international Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition, organised by the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In total, over 300 teams are participating in the competition, using synthetic biology to solve a problem of their own choosing. The results will be announced at the end of October 2016 at the Giant Jamboree in Boston.

Crowdfunding campaign

The crowdfunding starts on 22 August 2016 and will continue until the students travel to Boston on 27 October. Their target is €8,600, the amount they need to complete their research.

Mars spacecraft narrowly avoids exploding booster

This video says about itself:

Replay of the ExoMars 2016 liftoff on a Proton-M rocket from Baikonur, Kazakhstan at 09:31 GMT on 14 March 2016.

Credit: ESA/Euronews

From Universe Today:

ExoMars Mission Narrowly Avoids Exploding Booster

24 March 2016 by Bob King

On March 14, the ExoMars mission successfully lifted off on a 7-month journey to the planet Mars but not without a little surprise. The Breeze-M upper booster stage, designed to give the craft its final kick toward Mars, exploded shortly after parting from the probe. Thankfully, it wasn’t close enough to damage the spacecraft.

Michel Denis, ExoMars flight director at the European Space Operations, Center in Darmstadt, Germany, said that the two craft were many kilometers apart at the time of the breakup, so the explosion wouldn’t have posed a risk. Still, the mission team won’t be 100% certain until all the science instruments are completely checked over in the coming weeks.

Spaceship ExoMars 2016 to Mars today

This video says about itself:

ExoMars 2016: launch to Mars

17 February 2016

Animation visualising milestones during the launch of the ExoMars 2016 mission and its cruise to Mars. The mission comprises the Trace Gas Orbiter and an entry, descent and landing demonstrator module, Schiaparelli, which are scheduled to be launched on a four-stage Proton-M/Breeze-M rocket from Baikonur during the 14–25 March 2016 window.

About ten-and-a-half hours after launch, the spacecraft will separate from the rocket and deploy its solar wings. Two weeks later, its high-gain antenna will be deployed. After a seven-month cruise to Mars, Schiaparelli will separate from TGO on 16 October. Three days later it will enter the martian atmosphere, while TGO begins its entry into Mars orbit.

From Universe Today:

Countdown Begins for Blastoff of ExoMars 2016 Spacecraft on March 14 – Watch Live

The countdown has begun for blastoff of the ambitious European/Russian ExoMars 2016 spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on March 14. Its goal is to search for minute signatures of methane gas that could possibly be an indication of life or of nonbiologic geologic processes ongoing today.

Final launch preparations are now in progress. Liftoff of the powerful Russian Proton booster from Baikonur carrying the ExoMars spacecraft is slated for 5:31:42 a.m. EDT (0931:42 GMT), Monday morning, March 14.

You can watch the launch live courtesy of a European Space Agency (ESA) webcast:

The prelaunch play by play begins with live streaming at 4:30 a.m. EDT (08:30 GMT).

The first acquisition of signal from the spacecrft is expected at 21:29 GMT.

Liquid water discovery on planet Mars?

This video says about itself:

28 September 2015

This animation simulates a fly-around look at one of the places on Mars where dark streaks advance down slopes during warm seasons, possibly involving liquid water. This site is within Hale Crater. The streaks are roughly the length of a football field.

From NASA in the USA:

Sept. 28, 2015

NASA Confirms Evidence That Liquid Water Flows on Today’s Mars

New findings from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) provide the strongest evidence yet that liquid water flows intermittently on present-day Mars.

Using an imaging spectrometer on MRO, researchers detected signatures of hydrated minerals on slopes where mysterious streaks are seen on the Red Planet. These darkish streaks appear to ebb and flow over time. They darken and appear to flow down steep slopes during warm seasons, and then fade in cooler seasons. They appear in several locations on Mars when temperatures are above minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 23 Celsius), and disappear at colder times.

“Our quest on Mars has been to ‘follow the water,’ in our search for life in the universe, and now we have convincing science that validates what we’ve long suspected,” said John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “This is a significant development, as it appears to confirm that water — albeit briny — is flowing today on the surface of Mars.”

These downhill flows, known as recurring slope lineae (RSL), often have been described as possibly related to liquid water. The new findings of hydrated salts on the slopes point to what that relationship may be to these dark features. The hydrated salts would lower the freezing point of a liquid brine, just as salt on roads here on Earth causes ice and snow to melt more rapidly. Scientists say it’s likely a shallow subsurface flow, with enough water wicking to the surface to explain the darkening.

“We found the hydrated salts only when the seasonal features were widest, which suggests that either the dark streaks themselves or a process that forms them is the source of the hydration. In either case, the detection of hydrated salts on these slopes means that water plays a vital role in the formation of these streaks,” said Lujendra Ojha of the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) in Atlanta, lead author of a report on these findings published Sept. 28 by Nature Geoscience.

Ojha first noticed these puzzling features as a University of Arizona undergraduate student in 2010, using images from the MRO’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE). HiRISE observations now have documented RSL at dozens of sites on Mars. The new study pairs HiRISE observations with mineral mapping by MRO’s Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM).

The spectrometer observations show signatures of hydrated salts at multiple RSL locations, but only when the dark features were relatively wide. When the researchers looked at the same locations and RSL weren’t as extensive, they detected no hydrated salt.

Ojha and his co-authors interpret the spectral signatures as caused by hydrated minerals called perchlorates. The hydrated salts most consistent with the chemical signatures are likely a mixture of magnesium perchlorate, magnesium chlorate and sodium perchlorate. Some perchlorates have been shown to keep liquids from freezing even when conditions are as cold as minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 70 Celsius). On Earth, naturally produced perchlorates are concentrated in deserts, and some types of perchlorates can be used as rocket propellant.

Perchlorates have previously been seen on Mars. NASA’s Phoenix lander and Curiosity rover both found them in the planet’s soil, and some scientists believe that the Viking missions in the 1970s measured signatures of these salts. However, this study of RSL detected perchlorates, now in hydrated form, in different areas than those explored by the landers. This also is the first time perchlorates have been identified from orbit.

MRO has been examining Mars since 2006 with its six science instruments.

“The ability of MRO to observe for multiple Mars years with a payload able to see the fine detail of these features has enabled findings such as these: first identifying the puzzling seasonal streaks and now making a big step towards explaining what they are,” said Rich Zurek, MRO project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.

For Ojha, the new findings are more proof that the mysterious lines he first saw darkening Martian slopes five years ago are, indeed, present-day water.

“When most people talk about water on Mars, they’re usually talking about ancient water or frozen water,” he said. “Now we know there’s more to the story. This is the first spectral detection that unambiguously supports our liquid water-formation hypotheses for RSL.”

The discovery is the latest of many breakthroughs by NASA’s Mars missions.

“It took multiple spacecraft over several years to solve this mystery, and now we know there is liquid water on the surface of this cold, desert planet,” said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA’s Mars Exploration Program at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. “It seems that the more we study Mars, the more we learn how life could be supported and where there are resources to support life in the future.”

Water on Mars: What Does It Really Mean? Here.

MARS ONCE HAD EARTH-LIKE CONDITIONS “An Earth-like atmosphere on Mars was once violently stripped away by solar wind, according to new findings from NASA’s ongoing exploration of the red planet. In a press conference on Thursday, the space agency confirmed that solar wind played a major role in the disappearance of the red planet’s atmosphere and water.” Is anyone else now terrified of solar winds? [Jacqueline Howard, HuffPost]

2 March 2017: ESA’s Mars Express has captured images of one of the largest outflow channel networks on the Red Planet. The Kasei Valles channel system extends around 3000 km from its source region in Echus Chasma – which lies east of the bulging volcanic region Tharsis and just north of the Valles Marineris canyon system – to its sink in the vast plains of Chryse Planitia: here.