A recent discovery by scientists may have implications for possible extraterrestrial life: Bacteria have been found thriving in a lake of oil in Trinidad, again showing how life can exist in even the most inhospitable conditions on Earth. The discovery brings to mind the similar environment on Saturn’s moon Titan, where lakes and seas of liquid hydrocarbons (methane/ethane) exist at the moon’s poles.
After a ten year journey, the Rosetta spacecraft finally arrived earlier today at comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. The close-up images sent back so far are amazing. Rosetta is now in orbit around the comet, the first spacecraft to ever do so. There will be many more images to come, and in November, the lander module, Philae, will attempt to land on the surface. Stay tuned!
Some new images are coming in of comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko from the Rosetta spacecraft. Unexpectedly, it seems to be a contact binary, two objects in close contact instead of just one larger cometary nucleus (there’s no tail right now). It’s a weird shape, called a “boot” or “rubber duckie” by some. Rosetta is getting closer to the comet now, and scheduled to arrive on August 6, 2014. A probe will then attempt to land on the comet in November. Should be interesting!
I’ve added a new feature to the blog, so that if you are using the Safari browser (Mavericks version), you can get new blog posts automatically pushed to your Mac desktop as notifications. Another alternative to email or rss. If you use that browser, go to the blog (refresh if necessary) and you should get a pop-up asking if you would like to get notifications. You will then get notifications of new posts automatically pushed from Safari to your Mac desktop.
Some of the most interesting features on the surface of Mars are its gullies, often found on crater walls or other slopes, first seen from orbit back in 2000. They resemble gullies on Earth created by water, but the origin of located on Mars have become the subject of much debate. These gullies appear to be actively forming today, and are not just some relic of past activity that took place millions of years ago. But on Mars, water can’t exist for long on the surface even if it is briny, so how are these gullies being created? New observations from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) spacecraft suggest that dry ice (frozen carbon dioxide) may actually be responsible. The new findings have been published in the journal Icarus.
A “new” (previously unreleased) colour view of Europa’s surface from the old Galileo spacecraft; the image is a product of clear-filter grayscale data from one orbit, combined with lower-resolution colour data taken on a different orbit. The surface here is primarily almost pure water ice, with reddish bands of water ice containing hydrated salts. The image area measures approximately 163 km by 167 km (101 by 103 miles). What might be found in the subsurface ocean below? More information here.
Saturn’s moon Titan is known for its methane seas, lakes, and rivers; surprisingly Earth-like in appearance yet distinctly alien at the same time. But there is also evidence for another ocean, this one of water, below the surface. Little is known about this hidden watery world, but now new results suggest it is likely very salty – as much as the Dead Sea on Earth.