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What "Earth-Shaking" Discovery Has Curiosity Made on Mars? 544

Randym writes "NASA scientists have some exciting new results from one of the rover's instruments. On the one hand, they'd like to tell everybody what they found, but on the other, they have to wait because they want to make sure their results are not just some fluke or error in their instrument. The exciting results are coming from an instrument in the rover called SAM. 'We're getting data from SAM as we sit here and speak, and the data looks really interesting,' says John Grotzinger. He's the principal investigator for the rover mission. SAM (Sample Analysis at Mars) is a suite of instruments onboard NASA's Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity. Grotzinger says they recently put a soil sample in SAM, and the analysis shows something Earth-shaking. 'This data is gonna be one for the history books. It's looking really good,' he says."

New Study Suggests Mars Viking Robots Found Life 172

techfun89 writes "New analysis of data, now 36 years old, from the Viking robots, suggests that NASA had found life on Mars. This conclusion was published by an international team of mathematicians and scientists this week. The Labeled Release experiment looked for signs of microbial metabolism in soil samples in 1976. The general thinking was that the experiment had found geological not biological activity. However, the new study approached things differently. Researchers broke the data into sets of numbers and analyzed the results for complexity. What they found were close correlations between the Viking results' complexity and those of terrestrial biological data sets. Based on this they concluded that the Viking results were more biological in nature than just geological processes."

Amateur Astronomer Spots Strange Cloud Formations On Mars 62

techfun89 writes "Mars has returned to our evening skies as it does every two years. This time it is getting even more attention and buzz than it normally would. Amateur astronomer Wayne Jaeschke of West Chester Pennsylvania noticed an unusual protrusion in the planet's southern hemisphere, preceding the sunrise terminator. Several things may have contributed to this strange 'cloud formation.' One possibility is a meteoric impact event, where dust was spewed up into the atmosphere. Another could be a major dust storm, which are typical on Mars. Of course, it could be something more mundane; that these observations were caused by a mere optical illusion via a type of glint that occurred due to having just the right combination of lighting and atmospheric conditions. Some suggest volcanic activity, though this is unlikely given it has been 20 to 200 million years since lava has flowed on Mars."

Herschel Space Observatory Finds Precursors of Life In Orion 142

ogre7299 recommends an announcement out of Caltech on a milestone for HIFI, the Herschel Space Observatory's Heterodyne Instrument for the Far Infrared. "The Herschel Space Observatory has revealed the chemical fingerprints of potential life-enabling organic molecules in the Orion Nebula, a nearby stellar nursery in our Milky Way galaxy. ... This detailed-spectrum, obtained with the Heterodyne Instrument for the Far Infrared (HIFI) — one of Herschel's three innovative instruments — demonstrates the gold mine of information that Herschel-HIFI will provide on how organic molecules form in space. The spectrum, one of the first to be obtained with HIFI since it returned to full health in January 2010 following technical difficulties, clearly demonstrates that the instrument is working well. ... [The HIFI instrument had previously been offline since] August 2009 when HIFI experienced an unexpected voltage spike in the electronic system, probably caused by a high-energy cosmic particle, resulting in the instrument shutting down. On 14 January 2010, HIFI was successfully switched back on using its spare electronics, with science observations commencing on 28 February."

Making It Hard For Extraterrestrials To Hear Us 374

quaith writes "US astronomer Frank Drake has told scientists at a special SETI meeting in London that earthlings are making it less likely that we will be heard in space. In the past, we used huge ground stations to broadcast radio and television signals which could be picked up relatively easily — according to astronomers' calculations anyway. Now we use satellites that transmit at 75 watts and point toward Earth instead of into space. In addition, we've switched to digital which makes the transmissions even fainter. Drake has concluded that very soon, in space no one will hear us at all. I guess we'd better keep listening."

SETI Founder Outlines Ambitious Future Plans 281

Lanxon writes "'In the universe there is intelligent life, I'm confident about that,' SETI founder Dr Frank Drake (of the Drake Equation) affirmed earlier today during a talk at the Royal Society in London, 50 years after SETI was founded. One of his visions to prove this, and to show that the last five decades were not a waste of time, is to station a radio observatory not in near-Earth orbit, but on the far side of the moon. He also suggests that another craft could later be stationed 500 times further away from the Sun than the Earth, using the Sun itself as a giant magnifying lens to resolve alien worlds."

Noctilucent Clouds Spread and Mystify 227

Wired has a feature on noctilucent clouds, once seen only at high latitudes but increasingly visible now lower down the globe. The clouds result from ice crystals at altitudes of 50 miles, higher than five 9s of the atmosphere. What water ice is doing up there, in a region 100 million times drier than the Sahara desert, is only one of the mysteries associated with the clouds. They are a recent phenomenon: the first scientific description of noctilucent clouds was penned in 1885. For a time it was believed that the clouds were an effect resulting from the eruption of the Krakatoa volcano two years before. Since 2002, the clouds have been sighted — and photographed — as far south as Oregon, Colorado, and Utah. Some scientists believe that human-caused climate change is playing a role, but others doubt this. Two satellites are in orbit to study the clouds; NASA's AIM generated this day-by-day movie of clouds in the vicinity of the North Pole during 2008.

White House Briefed On "Potential For Life" On Mars 610

Veeoh writes "FTA: It would appear that the US President has been briefed by Phoenix scientists about the discovery of something more 'provocative' than the discovery of water existing on the Martian surface. This news comes just as the Thermal and Evolved Gas Analyzer (TEGA) confirmed experimental evidence for the existence of water in the Mars regolith on Thursday."

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