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 Quantum optics allows us to abandon expensive lasers in spectroscopy
22.11.2017 | Lomonosov Moscow State University

nachricht Nano-watch has steady hands
22.11.2017 | University of Vienna

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: Nanoparticles help with malaria diagnosis – new rapid test in development

The WHO reports an estimated 429,000 malaria deaths each year. The disease mostly affects tropical and subtropical regions and in particular the African continent. The Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC teamed up with the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME and the Institute of Tropical Medicine at the University of Tübingen for a new test method to detect malaria parasites in blood. The idea of the research project “NanoFRET” is to develop a highly sensitive and reliable rapid diagnostic test so that patient treatment can begin as early as possible.

Malaria is caused by parasites transmitted by mosquito bite. The most dangerous form of malaria is malaria tropica. Left untreated, it is fatal in most cases....

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

Im Focus: Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs

Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.

During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....

Im Focus: Researchers Develop Data Bus for Quantum Computer

The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.

Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Corporate coworking as a driver of innovation

22.11.2017 | Business and Finance

PPPL scientists deliver new high-resolution diagnostic to national laser facility

22.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Quantum optics allows us to abandon expensive lasers in spectroscopy

22.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>