Curiosity Rover’s Laboratory Makes First Sample Analysis

http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2012-380

The Curiosity Rover is the first Martian probe to be able to chemically analyze soil samples that it picks up off the ground. The rover did find water molecules in the soil, although nothing remotely organic has yet been found. The experts say that they will continue looking for life around a landmark known as “gale crater”, which is reputed to have a diverse array of different environments.

I am curious as to how we will find evidence for life; if Mars did have organic life early in its history it would have likely been single-celled, anaerobic organisms correct? And these organisms cannot possibly be fossilized like Earth’s Cambrian species. We do not have any Terran evidence of the blue-green algae that once dominated our planet, do we? Perhaps the rover is looking for indirect evidence, such as certain chemical compounds left behind by organic metabolisms. I do not think it will be easy to find evidence of single-celled, soft organisms living in water many millions of years ago; we would need some kind of hard-shelled organism and very unique conditions to find some kind of fossil from what I understand. They must be looking for indirect evidence.

http://www.astromart.com/news/news.asp?news_id=1303

title=”http://www.astromart.com/news/news.asp?news_id=1303″>http://www.astromart.com/news/news.asp?news_id=1303

Scientists have discovered a very unique and bizarre pulsar by detecting millisecond bursts of gamma radiation. The pulsar is unique because it has a star orbiting it at an incredibly fast rate- 90 minutes- and an amazingly close distance. It set the record in those categories for any binary neutron star system ever discovered (the companion is not another neutron star, rather it “is the compact remnant of a star which has been orbiting the pulsar since earlier times.”).

I could understand  this article thanks to the recent subject matter in class. The concept of a neutron star is incredible, that gravity can smash matter together in that way. I don’t understand nearly enough about quantum physics to know why or how neutrons have a degeneracy pressure; what are they made of that can repel or not stick together? I always thought of them as essentially being solid mass. It just seems really strange, that you could have a ball of neutrons without it being a singularity ie black hole. 

http://astronomyaggregator.com/exploration/cassini/cassini-spies-massive-storm-on-saturn-possibly-caused-by-photochemical-weather-patterns/

This article is a good example of how scientists can learn a lot about a planet and its properties by analyzing thermal emissions and looking at absorption lines, then reasoning upon that data to come up with hypotheses which eventually provides theories. The Cassini probe is a tiny piece of metal orbiting the vast Saturn, yet the probe has taught us so much about the nature of the entire planet.

The storm reminds me of Jupiter’s red spot and looks even nicer than it in the artist’s illustration, which was likely made by the same methods that our class did in lab. 

Alpha Centauri has a planet

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2012/10/16/alpha-centauri-has-a-planet/
This article was particularly relevant to the exoplanet detection methods we have been studying. It’s nice to know that if we ever send a probe to Alpha Centauri it will have a planet to orbit. This is indeed a very well-known system, and if we ever do travel to another star this will likely be our destination. 

It was interesting when the article explained the Doppler Shift and how it was used to detect the planet. I suspected that this would be the method they used, as it seems to be quite effective. Here is a graph of Alpha Centauri’s Doppler shift itself.

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2012/10/16/alpha-centauri-has-a-planet/
This article was particularly relevant to the exoplanet detection methods we have been studying. It’s nice to know that if we ever send a probe to Alpha Centauri it will have a planet to orbit. This is indeed a very well-known system, and if we ever do travel to another star this will likely be our destination. 

It was interesting when the article explained the Doppler Shift and how it was used to detect the planet. I suspected that this would be the method they used, as it seems to be quite effective. Here is a graph of Alpha Centauri’s Doppler shift itself.

Curiosity Discovery Highlights Methods for Exploration

http://www.csmonitor.com/Science/2012/1011/NASA-rover-Curiosity-finds-a-rock-not-seen-before-on-Mars-video?cmpid=addthis_reddit#.UHepd4caxPg.reddit

I enjoyed this article because it gave me insight on just how the Curosity rover works, and the general procedures of NASA that allow them to come to accurate conclusions about their observations. I don’t understand all the technical details of the Curiosity rover, but it seems like a very intricate machine that those who worked on it should be proud of. It’s amazing that finding something as simple as a rock can provide information about the entire formation process of Mars. With science in general, I’ve always been amazed at how many inferences can be drawn from one simple observation. This article made me much more excited for more Curiosity discoveries, as I had pessimistic hopes before.

Asteroids and Impact

http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2012/10/12/asteroid-2012-tc4-zips-past-us-at-59000-miles-from-earth-inside-moons-orbit-139551

This article interested me because it shows just how helpless we are against potential threats. Dealing with a large asteroid on a collision-course with Earth would likely not involve more than contingency plans after impact. The fact that this asteroid missed Earth is pure luck, which we rely on perpetually in regard to asteroid strikes. It is fascinating how easy it is for humans to lose themselves in the illusion that we have control. Even with all the modern advances in science, we would still be helpless against the simple phenomenon of two rocks hitting each other. I’m glad this one avoided an impact, it’s fortunate for us that the odds of one actually hitting are quite low.


T
his is a compiled photo of a star-forming nebula in the Milky Way. The red light has been made blue, hence the tinting on the bottom right. I created it by combining three images from three different wavelengths; blue, green and red. Again, I changed the red into blue and the blue into yellow, so you can see that the blue regions of this photo are the hottest, the yellow regions the coolest. I liked this contrast as it goes against the “typical” color coding for making Hubble’s images beautiful.