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Martian Soil Oxidizing Properties Not Too Extreme for Life

August 18, 2011 Leave a comment

Ever since the NASA Viking mission, which reached Mars in 1976, there has been considerable interest in the composition of Martian soils. Some Viking measurements indirectly suggested that the soils contained highly oxidizing compounds, which could present extremely harsh conditions for life. Recent observations from the Phoenix Mars Mission pointed to evidence of perchlorate, a potentially highly oxidizing compound, in the Martian soils. However, some studies have noted that because perchlorate is highly stable, its presence in Martian soils cannot explain the Viking measurements. Quinn et al. (2011) present a new analysis of Mars soil samples using the Wet Chemistry Laboratory, a component of the Microscopy, Electrochemistry, and Conductivity Analyzer on the NASA Mars Phoenix Lander. They found that although low levels of oxidizing compounds may be present, the oxidation-reduction potential of the soil is moderate and well within the range expected for habitable soils.

 

More info: http://www.agu.org/cgi-bin/highlights/highlights.cgi?action=show&doi=10.1029/2011GL047671&jc=gl

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NASA Data And New Techniques Yield Detailed Views Of Solar Storms

August 18, 2011 Leave a comment

NASA spacecraft observations and new data processing techniques are giving scientists better insight into the evolution and development of solar storms that can damage satellites, disrupt communications and cause power grid failures on Earth.

 

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2011/aug/HQ_11-270_STEREO_Data.html

Interstellar Crashes Could Throw Out Habitable Planets

August 18, 2011 Leave a comment

One of the protoplanetary disks in the Orion Nebula.

One of the protoplanetary disks in the Orion Nebula. Credit: NASA / ESA and L. Ricci (ESO)

Our solar system, where planets have a range of sizes and move in near-circular paths, may be rather unusual, according to a German-British team led by Professor Pavel Kroupa of the University of Bonn. The astronomers, who publish their model in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, find that forming planetary systems may be knocked around by crashes with nearby clumps of material, leading to systems where planets have highly inclined orbits and where the smaller (and potentially habitable) worlds are thrown out completely.

Full Story: http://www.ras.org.uk/news-and-press/217-news2011/2002-interstellar-crashes-could-throw-out-habitable-planets