Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Dispatches from Mars: Interpreting the News from the Red Planet

02.07.2008
New test results and stunning photographs arrive from the Phoenix exploratory craft several times a week. Washington State University astrobiologist Dirk Schulze-Makuch, who has written extensively about the prospects for life on other planets, can help you and your readers understand what the findings might mean.

Frozen water, safe soil, images of treadmarks in red, granular soil: almost every day brings new test results or stunning photographs from the Phoenix exploratory craft that landed on Mars a few weeks ago.

Washington State University astrobiologist Dirk Schulze-Makuch is following the news along with the rest of us. Although he is not directly involved with the Phoenix mission, he has written extensively about the prospects for life on other planets. His 2004 book, “Life in the Universe: Expectations and Constraints,” addressed some of the major assumptions about the conditions necessary for life.

Schulze-Makuch said the Phoenix results so far largely confirm what was already known from other lines of evidence. The finding that the Martian soil is slightly alkaline is “a little bit surprising,” he said, but the presence of water ice and the lack of toxic materials in the soil are not.

“We knew there was water ice there, but it’s nice to get the confirmation,” he said. “The more exciting thing is that the instruments work and they got soil samples.”

Schulze-Makuch cautioned against expecting the mission to send back images of Martian microbes. He said Phoenix might find chemical traces of life, but is not likely to find living things themselves. Even if a sample contained organisms, the likelihood that any of them would appear within the field of view of Phoenix’s microscope is very small, he said.

“Even on Earth, if you take a microscope and look at soil samples, you have to search and search to find something.”

Nevertheless, the successful deployment of the lander’s sampling arms and cameras, and the completion of the initial chemical tests, bode well for the rest of the mission.

“The encouraging thing is that it all works,” he said. He added that he is looking forward to learning the results of further tests over the next several weeks.

Schulze-Makuch is available to talk about the Phoenix results and the search for life on other planets. He can be reached at 509/335-1180 or dirksm@wsu.edu.

For more about his book, see http://researchnews.wsu.edu/physical/80.html. The second edition of the book is scheduled for release in September.

Schulze-Makuch | newswise
Further information:
http://www.wsu.edu
http://researchnews.wsu.edu/physical/80.html

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Measured for the first time: Direction of light waves changed by quantum effect
24.05.2017 | Vienna University of Technology

nachricht Physicists discover mechanism behind granular capillary effect
24.05.2017 | University of Cologne

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A quantum walk of photons

Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.

The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

Im Focus: World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world

Nano-hologram paves way for integration of 3-D holography into everyday electronics

An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...

Im Focus: Using graphene to create quantum bits

In the race to produce a quantum computer, a number of projects are seeking a way to create quantum bits -- or qubits -- that are stable, meaning they are not much affected by changes in their environment. This normally needs highly nonlinear non-dissipative elements capable of functioning at very low temperatures.

In pursuit of this goal, researchers at EPFL's Laboratory of Photonics and Quantum Measurements LPQM (STI/SB), have investigated a nonlinear graphene-based...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Physicists discover mechanism behind granular capillary effect

24.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Measured for the first time: Direction of light waves changed by quantum effect

24.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Marine Conservation: IASS Contributes to UN Ocean Conference in New York on 5-9 June

24.05.2017 | Event News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>