From Astronomy Now:
Mars has belts of glaciers composed of water ice
8 April 2015
Mars has distinct polar ice caps, but Mars also has belts of glaciers at its central latitudes in both the southern and northern hemispheres. A thick layer of dust covers the glaciers, so they appear as surface of the ground, but radar measurements show that underneath the dust there are glaciers composed of frozen water. New studies have now calculated the size of the glaciers and thus the amount of water in the glaciers. It is the equivalent of all of Mars being covered by more than one metre of ice. The results are published in the scientific journal Geophysical Research Letters.
Several satellites orbit Mars and on satellite images, researchers have been able to observe the shape of glaciers just below the surface. For a long time scientists did not know if the ice was made of frozen water (H2O) or of carbon dioxide (CO2) or whether it was mud. Using radar measurements from the NASA satellite, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, researchers have been able to determine that it is water ice. But how thick is the ice and do the glaciers resemble glaciers on Earth? A group of researchers at the Niels Bohr Institute have now calculated this using radar observations combined with ice flow modelling.
Data Combined with Modelling
“We have looked at radar measurements spanning ten years back in time to see how thick the ice is and how it behaves. A glacier is after all a big chunk of ice and it flows and gets a form that tells us something about how soft it is. We then compared this with how glaciers on Earth behave and from that we have been able to make models for the ice flow,” explains Nanna Bjørnholt Karlsson, a postdoc at the Center for Ice and Climate at the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen.
Nanna Bjørnholt Karlsson explains that earlier studies have identified thousands of glacier-like formations on the planet. The glaciers are located in belts around Mars between the latitudes 30° and 50° — equivalent to just south of Denmark’s location on Earth. The glaciers are found on both the northern and southern hemispheres.
From some locations on Mars they have good detailed high-resolution data, while they only have more sparse data from other areas. But by supplementing the sparse data with information about the flow and form of the glaciers from the very well studied areas, they have been able to calculate how thick and voluminous the ice is across the glacier belts.
Could Cover the Entire Planet
“We have calculated that the ice in the glaciers is equivalent to over 150 billion cubic metres of ice — that much ice could cover the entire surface of Mars with 1.1 metres of ice. The ice at the mid-latitudes is therefore an important part of Mars’ water reservoir,” explains Nanna Bjørnholt Karlsson.
That the ice has not evaporated out into space could actually mean that the thick layer of dust is protecting the ice. The atmospheric pressure on Mars is so low that water ice simply evaporates and becomes water vapour. But the glaciers are well protected under the thick layer of dust.
Nasa’s Curiosity rover finds water below surface of Mars. New measurements from the Gale crater contradict theories that the planet is too cold for liquid water to exist, but Mars still considered hostile to life: here.
This video is from the film War Of The Worlds (2005)– The First Tripod.
Very probably, extra-terrestrial life, if any will be discovered soon, will be very unlike that.
From daily The Independent in Britain:
We will have definitive evidence of alien life in 20 years, Nasa chief scientist believes
Strong indications of life beyond Earth could be found within a decade
Wednesday 08 April 2015
The discovery of extra-terrestrial life, probably the most exciting event in human history, may well take place within most of our lifetimes, a high-ranking Nasa scientist has predicted.
“I think we’re going to have strong indications of life beyond Earth within a decade, and I think we’re going to have definitive evidence within 20 to 30 years,” Nasa chief scientist Ellen Stofan said on Tuesday, during a panel discussion focusing on the space agency’s search for habitable environments outside of Earth.
“We know where to look. We know how to look,” Stofan added, “In most cases we have the technology, and we’re on a path to implementing it. And so I think we’re definitely on the road.”
Sharing Stofan’s optimism, associate administrator for Nasa’s Science Mission Directorate John Grunsfeld said: “I think we’re one generation away in our solar system, whether it’s on an icy moon or on Mars, and one generation [away] on a planet around a nearby star.”
The Milky Way is “a soggy place,” Paul Hertz, director of Nasa’s Astrophysics Division, explained.
“We can see water in the interstellar clouds from which planetary systems and stellar systems form.
“We can see water in the disks of debris that are going to become planetary systems around other stars, and we can even see comets being dissipated in other solar systems as [their] star evaporates them.”
These estimates don’t even take into account the fact that alien life may be able to prosper in conditions different to those required by humans, e.g without need for water.
NASA SUPER-TEAM TO LOOK FOR HABITABLE PLANETS, EXTRATERRESTRIAL LIFE The news comes a week after NASA’s chief said we’d have strong evidence of extraterrestrial life in a decade. [Ed Mazza, HuffPost]
This video says about itself:
9 February 2015
Meet the people who’ve volunteered to be on the first manned mission to Mars … and stay there.
Three volunteers are on the shortlist to be among four people on the Mars One programme, the first manned space flight to Mars – a one-way trip that’s effectively a suicide mission. A physics student in the UK, a young doctor from Mozambique and an Iraqi-American woman, all happy to sacrifice their futures for a place in history.
Why do they want to leave Earth, and who are they leaving behind? As the list of potential Mars explorers is whittled down further on 16 February, meet those competing to be the first to land on the Red Planet.
See also here.
MEET THE FINAL 100 PEOPLE COMPETING FOR A LIFE ON MARS Dutch nonprofit Mars One has narrowed the field to 100 applicants for a one-way trip to Mars. Ultimately, 24 will be chosen to train, and, organizers claim, four will go on the official mission. [WaPo]
An extremely high-altitude plume seen at Mars’ morning terminator: here.
Life on Mars: chemicals found on red planet indicate it once could have supported life: here.
From the Washington Post in the USA:
India becomes first Asian nation to reach Mars orbit, joins elite global space club
By Rama Lakshmi
September 24 at 2:55 AM
NEW DELHI — India became the first Asian nation to reach the Red Planet when its indigenously made unmanned spacecraft entered the orbit of Mars on Wednesday — and the first nation in the world to successfully reach Mars on its first attempt.
The spacecraft called “Mangalyaan,” or “Mars craft” in Hindi, which was launched last November, slowed down just enough to reach orbit early Wednesday, securing India a place in the elite global space club of Martian explorers.
Images of beaming scientists clapping and hugging each other at the command center in the southern city of Bangalore were shown live in a nationally televised broadcast after a breathless, nail-biting countdown during the spacecraft’s final leg.
Over an hour after reaching the orbit, the space agency received the first photographic data of the red planet’s terrain which were transmitted via an antenna located in Canberra, Australia.
Calling it the “national pride event,” the Indian Space Research Organization also showed it live on Facebook and Twitter.
The Headline Today news TV channel called it “India’s date with the Red Planet,” and NDTV 24×7 called it “India’s big leap,” reflecting the surge of national pride. NASA tweeted congratulations to India for its “Mars arrival.” …
More than half of the 51 Mars missions launched globally have failed. India’s successful mission follows those of the United States, Europe and Russia. But India’s mission cost a fraction of NASA’s $670 million Maven, which entered Mars orbit Sunday. The Curiosity Rover, which touched down on Mars in 2012, cost nearly $2 billion.
By comparison, India’s $72 million Mars orbiter is the cheapest interplanetary mission ever. …
Over the next six months, India’s Mangalyaan will study the mineral composition on Mars and also look for the presence of methane, a chemical key to life on Earth.
The spacecraft will send its first set of pictures by Wednesday afternoon.
India has launched 75 satellites since 1975, and its space program has over the years worked on collecting weather data, predicting natural disasters, feeding television and radio stations and also teaching children in remote villages without schools. …
India’s Mars mission has its share of critics, who have said it is an extravagant indulgence for a country where one-third of the population of 1.2 billion have no access to electricity.
A Dutch entrepreneur’s plan to launch a one-way trip to Mars funded by a reality TV show has been criticized by scientists who say that current technology means that the colonists would start dying after just 68 days: here.
The missing Mars robot Beagle2 has been found on the surface of the Red Planet, apparently intact: here.
This video from the USA says about itself:
The War of the Worlds was an episode of the American radio drama anthology series Mercury Theatre on the Air. It was performed as a Halloween episode of the series on October 30, 1938 and aired over the Columbia Broadcasting System radio network. Directed and narrated by Orson Welles, the episode was an adaptation of H. G. Wells‘ novel The War of the Worlds.
The first two thirds of the 60-minute broadcast were presented as a series of simulated “news bulletins”, which suggested to many listeners that an actual alien invasion by Martians was currently in progress. Compounding the issue was the fact that the Mercury Theatre on the Air was a ‘sustaining show’ (it ran without commercial breaks), thus adding to the program’s quality of realism.
Although there were sensationalist accounts in the press about a supposed panic in response to the broadcast, the precise extent of listener response has been debated. In the days following the adaptation, however, there was widespread outrage. The program’s news-bulletin format was decried as cruelly deceptive by some newspapers and public figures, leading to an outcry against the perpetrators of the broadcast, but the episode secured Orson Welles’ fame.
So, according to recent research, it is possible that long ago, simple forms of life could live on planet Mars.
However, there is no evidence (yet) that any simple living beings used that opportunity.
Still far less than zero evidence exists of not so simple beings, like the Martians described in H.G. Wells’ science fiction book War of the Worlds, living on the red planet or elsewhere in outer space and going to planet Earth.
From the Columbus Dispatch in the USA:
Archaeology | No evidence of aliens helping ancient cultures
Sunday January 26, 2014 10:20 AM
Did aliens visit Earth in ancient times? It’s possible.
The late Carl Sagan once argued that there was a “statistical likelihood that Earth was visited by an advanced extraterrestrial civilization at least once during historical times.”
A statistical likelihood is one thing. Is there any reliable evidence that any such thing ever actually happened?
So why do 2 out of 4 Americans believe there are signs that aliens have visited Earth in the past? I think there are two reasons. First and most fundamentally, when most people see a wonder of the ancient world, such as the Egyptian pyramids, they can’t imagine how our so-called primitive ancestors possibly could have built it.
Second, there are charlatans out there willing to take advantage of that lack of imagination by making exuberant claims that various cultural achievements in antiquity could have been accomplished only with the help of friendly aliens.
In the current issue of Skeptic magazine, documentary filmmaker Chris White shoots down a few of the most popular claims of past alien intervention.
For example, ancient alien enthusiasts find it unbelievable that Egyptians could have carved the huge stone blocks used to build the pyramids, especially since they didn’t have iron tools. Yet there is abundant archaeological evidence that shows teams of stonemasons used simple hammer stones to shape the blocks.
But fans of ancient aliens say that even if Egyptians somehow shaped the enormous blocks of stone, no mere humans could have moved them into place.
The truth, however, is indeed out there.
White explains that there are many ancient carvings that show “Egyptians using wooden sleds to move … blocks the size and shape of the ones used for the pyramids.” It is amazing what our ancestors could achieve with creativity, determination and a large workforce.
Believers in ancient aliens frequently point to an engraved stone slab from a Mayan tomb, which they claim depicts an astronaut at the controls of a spacecraft.
If you take the time to study the symbolism of the Mayan religion, however, it is clear that the “spacecraft” actually is the primordial world tree with a celestial bird perched in its upper branches. And the barefoot “astronaut” really is the deceased Mayan king descending into the underworld.
These examples are typical of what is offered as evidence of ancient aliens. The purveyors of this nonsense assume our ancestors were ignoramuses. If they accomplished some great thing, then aliens must have helped them.
Champions of ancient astronauts look through volumes of prehistoric art and cherry-pick images that bear — at best — only a superficial resemblance to something that could be construed as alien technology.
They give no thought to what those images represented in their original cultural contexts. Using this method, an Egyptian carving of a lotus flower can be reinterpreted as an electric light bulb, and a South American sculpture of a sucker-mouth catfish can be imagined to be a delta-wing fighter jet.
Archaeologists don’t take these views seriously, but by ignoring them, we allow 3 out of 4 Americans to buy into a fantasy.
Bradley T. Lepper is curator of archaeology at the Ohio Historical Society.
Unbelievable story: A man is suing NASA for (allegedly) failing to investigate alien life: here.
Physicists from the FOM Foundation and the University of Amsterdam have discovered that the ancient Egyptians used a clever trick to make it easier to transport heavy pyramid stones by sledge. The Egyptians moistened the sand over which the sledge moved. By using the right quantity of water they could halve the number of workers needed. The researchers published this discovery online on 29 April 2014 in Physical Review Letters. Read more here.
This video says about itself:
12 March 2013
Ancient Mars May Have Been Habitable for Hundreds of Millions of Years
by Mike Wall, Senior Writer | January 23, 2014 02:01pm ET
NASA’s Opportunity rover, which celebrates 10 years of Mars exploration on Friday (Jan. 24), has uncovered evidence that benign, nearly neutral-pH water flowed on the Red Planet around 4 billion years ago.
These results, reported today (Jan. 23) in the journal Science, complement the recent work of NASA’s bigger, newer Curiosity rover, which discovered a potentially habitable lake and groundwater system in a different Martian locale dating from about 3.7 billion years ago.
“These [benign] water conditions existed over a long period of time,” said Ray Arvidson, lead author of the new study and Opportunity deputy principal investigator.
Therefore, primitive organisms may have been able to survive on Mars for long stretches during a period when life was getting a foothold on Earth, said Arvidson, director of the Earth and Planetary Remote Sensing Laboratory at Washington University in St. Louis.
“That wouldn’t be a surprise,” he told SPACE.com. “Maybe not globally; [habitable environments] could have occurred here and there regionally. And it may not have been for the whole time continuously. We don’t know.”
Studying ancient rocks
The golf-cart-size Opportunity touched down on Jan. 24, 2004, three weeks after its twin, Spirit. Both robots were tasked with 90-day missions to seek out signs of past water activity on Mars. Spirit was declared dead in 2011, but Opportunity is still going strong.
The rover made the new discovery at an outcrop on the rim of Endeavour Crater, a 14-mile-wide (22 kilometers) hole in the ground that Opportunity reached in August 2011.
NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spotted evidence of exposed, aluminum-rich clay minerals at a site along the rim called Matijevic Hill. Such clays generally form in the presence of benign, mildly acidic water, so the rover team commanded Opportunity to go check out the rock formation.
When Opportunity got there, the rover encountered the oldest rocks it has ever studied on Mars. Fine-grained, layered rocks in the Matijevic outcrop date from Mars’ Noachian period, making them perhaps 4 billion years old, Arvidson said. (It’s tough to date Mars rocks and formations definitively, so such numbers have large uncertainties associated with them, he stressed.)
These clay-enriched rocks are studded with BB-size “spherules” and cut by numerous fractures, through which liquid water flowed long ago, Arvidson said.
“The groundwaters that moved through those fractures were only mildly acidic, and mildly oxidizing to reducing,” he said. “So, the earlier you go, the more clement the conditions were.”
These ancient rocks predate the asteroid or comet impact that created Endeavour Crater, and they’re covered in most places by younger material that bears the signature of hypersalty and much more acidic water — the signature, in other words, of a much less hospitable Mars.
Teaming up with Curiosity
Opportunity’s new results take on deeper meaning when combined with the observations of the 1-ton Curiosity rover, which touched down on a different part of Mars in August 2012.
Curiosity was designed to extend and advance the discoveries of Spirit and Opportunity. It sports 10 different science instruments — a suite crafted specifically to determine if the Red Planet could ever have supported microbial life.
Last month, the Curiosity team announced that an area near the rover’s landing site harbored a large, shallow and potentially habitable lake system during Mars‘ Hesperian era, which follows the Noachian in Red Planet chronology. This lake and its feeder streams likely existed about 3.7 billion years ago, or perhaps even a bit more recently, mission scientists said.
So researchers are starting to get a better idea of the Martian surface’s window of habitability, Arvidson said. It appears that window might have been open — off and on, perhaps, and here and there — for hundreds of millions of years in the distant past.
Liquid water cannot exist for long periods on the surface of present-day Mars, whose atmosphere is just 1 percent as thick as that of Earth. That atmosphere was likely thicker long ago, if lakes and river systems were, indeed, stable for lengthy stretches, Arvidson said.
“One way to do it is to have massive impacts, and to have a [temporarily thicker] atmosphere,” he said. “So it could be that you have multiple impacts over that extended period of time, and collectively they made for a sustained presence of water on the surface and in the shallow subsurface. But we don’t know, at this point, with just two examples.”
THE US National Research Council (NRC) warned space agency Nasa today that its mission to send humans to Mars would fail unless it revamped its strategy. A congressionally commissioned NRC report said that Washington should use “stepping stones” to achieve manned flight to Mars. This could involve building more international co-operation with space-capable countries like China, it noted: here.