Water on Vesta? Gullies suggest wet debris flows in the past, study finds

Image of curved gullies and fan-shaped deposits in Cornelia crater on Vesta. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA
Image of curved gullies and fan-shaped deposits in Cornelia crater on Vesta. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

The Dawn spacecraft is now very close to the dwarf planet Ceres, but there are some interesting new findings from its previous visit to the asteroid Vesta. Curved gullies on its surface suggest that small amounts of water may have once been present in the form of wet debris flows—a rather surprising discovery.

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Paul Scott Anderson is a freelance space writer with a life-long passion for space exploration and astronomy. He started his blog The Meridiani Journal in 2005, which is a chronicle of planetary exploration. He also publishes The Exoplanet Report e-paper. In 2011, he started writing about space on a freelance basis, and now also currently write for AmericaSpace and Examiner.com. He has also written for Universe Today and SpaceFlight Insider, has been published in The Mars Quarterly and has done supplementary writing for the well-known iOS app Exoplanet for iPhone and iPad.

Cool new technology will allow scientists to work virtually on Mars in 3-D

A screen view from OnSight, showing how scientists can meet together in a virtual 3-D simulation on the Martian surface. Such technology will allow scientists to better study features of interest and plan rover or lander activities. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
A screen view from OnSight, showing how scientists can meet together in a virtual 3-D simulation on the Martian surface. Such technology will allow scientists to better study features of interest and plan rover or lander activities. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The rover and lander missions on Mars have been cool enough with their high-tech cameras, lasers, and on-board laboratories, but now they are about to get even better, thanks to a new partnership between NASA and Microsoft. New technology being developed, called OnSight, will allow scientists to work virtually on Mars within 3-D simulations, changing how they interact with the machines and conduct science operations.

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Paul Scott Anderson is a freelance space writer with a life-long passion for space exploration and astronomy. He started his blog The Meridiani Journal in 2005, which is a chronicle of planetary exploration. He also publishes The Exoplanet Report e-paper. In 2011, he started writing about space on a freelance basis, and now also currently write for AmericaSpace and Examiner.com. He has also written for Universe Today and SpaceFlight Insider, has been published in The Mars Quarterly and has done supplementary writing for the well-known iOS app Exoplanet for iPhone and iPad.

Kepler discovers three super-Earth exoplanets orbiting nearby star

Cartoon illustration depicting how the three newly-found planets’ shadows (right side) can be seen as eclipses from Earth (left side) as they transit in front of their star. Image Credit: K. Teramura, UH IfA.
Cartoon illustration depicting how the three newly-found planets’ shadows (right side) can be seen as eclipses from Earth (left side) as they transit in front of their star. Image Credit: K. Teramura, UH IfA.

Last week was a good one for exoplanet enthusiasts, with yet more news relating to how other worlds are now being found by the thousands, and that there may be many habitable planets out there. Now there’s already another discovery being announced of three more planets almost the same size as Earth, all orbiting a nearby star.

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Paul Scott Anderson is a freelance space writer with a life-long passion for space exploration and astronomy. He started his blog The Meridiani Journal in 2005, which is a chronicle of planetary exploration. He also publishes The Exoplanet Report e-paper. In 2011, he started writing about space on a freelance basis, and now also currently write for AmericaSpace and Examiner.com. He has also written for Universe Today and SpaceFlight Insider, has been published in The Mars Quarterly and has done supplementary writing for the well-known iOS app Exoplanet for iPhone and iPad.

Blog update: artwork from Kees Veenenbos

I’ve been working on updating the blog a bit more again, including a better layout for phones and tablets. Special thanks to Kees Veenenbos for the use of his amazing (and well-known) space artwork; one of his Mars images is currently the new header image.

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Paul Scott Anderson is a freelance space writer with a life-long passion for space exploration and astronomy. He started his blog The Meridiani Journal in 2005, which is a chronicle of planetary exploration. He also publishes The Exoplanet Report e-paper. In 2011, he started writing about space on a freelance basis, and now also currently write for AmericaSpace and Examiner.com. He has also written for Universe Today and SpaceFlight Insider, has been published in The Mars Quarterly and has done supplementary writing for the well-known iOS app Exoplanet for iPhone and iPad.

Has Curiosity found evidence for ancient microbial life on Mars? Maybe, says noted geobiologist

Curiosity image from Yellowknife Bay, where the potential microbial mat features were first seen in sandstone rocks. Gillespie Lake Member is the series of flat rocks in the central-left area of the image. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
Curiosity image from Yellowknife Bay, where the potential microbial mat features were first seen in sandstone rocks. Gillespie Lake Member is the series of flat rocks in the central-left area of the image. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

This is an update to a previous post.

There is a report about Mars which has been getting a lot of attention the past few weeks (in addition to the methane and organics found): that the Curiosity rover may have found evidence for ancient microbial life itself. Specifically, microbial mats, which are common on Earth; the report comes from noted geobiologist Nora Noffke, who has been studying images sent back by the rover since it landed in 2012.

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Paul Scott Anderson is a freelance space writer with a life-long passion for space exploration and astronomy. He started his blog The Meridiani Journal in 2005, which is a chronicle of planetary exploration. He also publishes The Exoplanet Report e-paper. In 2011, he started writing about space on a freelance basis, and now also currently write for AmericaSpace and Examiner.com. He has also written for Universe Today and SpaceFlight Insider, has been published in The Mars Quarterly and has done supplementary writing for the well-known iOS app Exoplanet for iPhone and iPad.

Kepler confirms over 1,000 exoplanets, finds more potentially habitable worlds

Illustration of the eight newly verified exoplanets which are less than twice the size of Earth and orbit within their stars’ habitable zones. Image Credit: NASA/JPL
Illustration of the eight newly verified exoplanets which are less than twice the size of Earth and orbit within their stars’ habitable zones. Image Credit: NASA/JPL

Even after problems threatened to end the Kepler space telescope’s mission for good last year, the planet-hunting observatory has continued to help astronomers discover thousands of exoplanets orbiting other stars, including ones that are potentially habitable. As reported yesterday at the American Astronomical Society (AAS) meeting, Kepler has now confirmed just over 1,000 exoplanets, with thousands more awaiting confirmation. A growing number are also potentially habitable, at least by Earthly standards.

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Paul Scott Anderson is a freelance space writer with a life-long passion for space exploration and astronomy. He started his blog The Meridiani Journal in 2005, which is a chronicle of planetary exploration. He also publishes The Exoplanet Report e-paper. In 2011, he started writing about space on a freelance basis, and now also currently write for AmericaSpace and Examiner.com. He has also written for Universe Today and SpaceFlight Insider, has been published in The Mars Quarterly and has done supplementary writing for the well-known iOS app Exoplanet for iPhone and iPad.

Two new exoplanet findings bring us closer to discovering other Earth-like worlds

Artist’s conception of a super-Earth ocean world, with another gas giant planet rising over the horizon. Image Credit: David A. Aguilar/CfA
Artist’s conception of a super-Earth ocean world, with another gas giant planet rising over the horizon. Image Credit: David A. Aguilar/CfA

When it comes to exoplanets, the most exciting for many people are, of course, the ones which may be the most Earth-like, since these are regarded as the most likely to possibly support some form of life. Now, two new findings announced today will help astronomers to find these worlds and narrow down the best places to search for evidence of life in other solar systems.

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Paul Scott Anderson is a freelance space writer with a life-long passion for space exploration and astronomy. He started his blog The Meridiani Journal in 2005, which is a chronicle of planetary exploration. He also publishes The Exoplanet Report e-paper. In 2011, he started writing about space on a freelance basis, and now also currently write for AmericaSpace and Examiner.com. He has also written for Universe Today and SpaceFlight Insider, has been published in The Mars Quarterly and has done supplementary writing for the well-known iOS app Exoplanet for iPhone and iPad.