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27 April 2020
New Mexico badlands help researchers understand past Martian lava flows (video)
Planetary scientists are using a volcanic flow field in New Mexico to puzzle out how long past volcanic eruptions on Mars might have lasted, a finding that could help researchers determine if Mars was ever hospitable to life. People don’t usually think of New Mexico as a volcanically active place, but it has some of the youngest (geologically speaking) large lava flows in the continental United States.
15 January 2020
Nearly barren Icelandic landscapes guide search for extraterrestrial life
New research on microbial lifeforms living in nearly barren volcanic landscapes in Iceland may help scientists understand how best to search for life on other planets. Researchers with NASA’s FELDSPAR project are studying the distribution of life in these harsh Icelandic environments to inform the search for hidden life signs on planets like Mars. So far, they have found that microbes at their study sites are often isolated in “hot spots” and that microbial communities are distributed differently in areas subjected to different geological processes, such as wind or glaciation.
10 December 2019
NASA’s treasure map for water ice on Mars
NASA has big plans for returning astronauts to the Moon in 2024, a stepping stone on the path to sending humans to Mars. But where should the first people on the Red Planet land? A new paper published in the AGU journal Geophysical Research Letters will help by providing a map of water ice believed to be as little as one inch (2.5 centimeters) below the surface.
12 November 2019
With Mars methane mystery unsolved, Curiosity serves scientists a new one: Oxygen
For the first time in the history of space exploration, scientists have measured the seasonal changes in the gases that fill the air directly above the surface of Gale Crater on Mars. As a result, they noticed something baffling: oxygen, the gas many Earth creatures use to breathe, behaves in a way that so far scientists cannot explain through any known chemical processes.
1 March 2019
First evidence of planet-wide groundwater system on Mars
Mars Express has revealed the first geological evidence of a system of ancient interconnected lakes that once lay deep beneath the Red Planet’s surface, five of which may contain minerals crucial to life.
18 July 2018
Martian atmosphere behaves as one
New research using a decade of data from the European Space Agency’s Mars Express mission has found clear signs of the complex Martian atmosphere acting as a single, interconnected system, with processes occurring at low and mid levels significantly affecting those seen higher up.
10 July 2018
Scientists discover “ghost dunes” on Mars
Scientists have discovered hundreds of crescent-shaped pits on Mars where sand dunes stood billions of years ago. The curves of these ancient dune impressions record the direction of prevailing winds on the Red Planet, providing potential clues to Mars’s past climate, and may hold evidence of ancient life.
31 May 2018
Which Mars rocks are most likely to harbor signs of life?
Iron-rich rocks near ancient lake sites on Mars could hold vital clues that show life once existed there, research suggests. These rocks – which formed in lake beds – are the best place to seek fossil evidence of life from billions of years ago, according to the researchers.
22 November 2017
Scientists discover evidence of recent water flows on Mars
Planetary scientists have discovered a rare ‘esker’ on Mars – a ridge of sediment deposited by meltwater flowing beneath a glacier in the relatively recent past (about 110 million years ago), despite the widely-held view that the recent climate was too cold for ice to melt.
25 September 2017
New study may help identify areas with and without accessible water ice on Mars
New findings reveal deposits on Mars that could be interpreted to be ice-rich may contain little or no ice at all, based on an analysis of radar sounder data for Meridiani Planum—an area on the planet’s equator being explored by the Opportunity rover. This new insight into Meridiani Planum may help identify areas with and without accessible water ice, a resource critical to future human exploration and possible colonization of Mars.