By Gregory MonePosted 12.14.2007 at 11:12 am 13 Comments
Jupiter's moon Europa was a hot topic at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco. Europa has received renewed attention in recent years, as scientists have used new data to clarify their assumptions about the intriguing moon.
There's a clear consensus now that Europa hides an ocean beneath an icy shell, and now scientists are planning new experiments designed to discover more about the alien world. For example, a radar survey conducted by an orbiter could tell them whether the ice above that ocean is thick or thin. This, in turn, might help them plan future missions down into the watery depths.
This sort of robotic adventure still appears to be a long way off, but that hasn't stopped some researchers from planning ahead. For the ultimate Europa payoff, though, take a look at the end of James Cameron's documentary Aliens of the Deep.—Gregory Mone
By Dawn StoverPosted 09.24.2007 at 1:00 pm 3 Comments
NASA says its Mars Odyssey spacecraft has spotted seven possible cave entrances on Mars. These dark features, several hundred feet across, have a more constant temperature from day to night than the ground surrounding them (as shown in the infrared images at center and right). If the "Seven Sisters" holes turn out to be caves, it's possible they could provide a protected niche for past or present life on Mars—or serve as underground shelters for future human colonization.—Dawn Stover
By Gregory MonePosted 09.21.2007 at 10:17 am 0 Comments
At an average temperature of -392 degrees Fahrenheit, Neptune is a pretty chilly planet, but astronomers reported this week that it's south pole is a good 18 degrees warmer than the rest. Orbiting 30 times farther away from the Sun than Earth, Neptune only gets about a thousandth of the sunlight our planet receives, but this does makes a difference. At the south pole, the warmer air creates a channel for methane gas to escape, and leak out of the atmosphere. Still, it doesn't sound like that great of a place to live if we ever wear out this planet. Surely we're going to need something a little warmer than a few hundred degrees below zero.—Gregory Mone
Astronomers and astrophysicists have their knickers in a twist over a cosmic double helix hanging out near the galactic center of the Milky Way. The Double Helix Nebula, which was detected by NASAs Spitzer Space Telescope, is 80 light-years long and sits about 300 light-years from a supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy. Scientists think that twisting magnetic-field lines from the galactic center have caused the nebula to fold on itself into its distinctive shape. —Martha Harbison
Link via Space.com