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19 March 2011
More on the cryosphere of Mars, along with some speculation about martian carbonates and skepticism about the presence of methane in the martian atmosphere.
7 January 2011
I realized relatively recently that I like planets and I like speculative fiction for basically the same reason: strange new worlds just fire up my imagination. That’s the topic of my latest post over at Science in my Fiction, where I take a look at some spectacular and bizarre real (or at least realistic) planetary locations that I think would be great settings for some sci-fi. I got a little …
15 December 2010
Planetary highlights from Day 1 of the Fall 2010 AGU conference: astrobiology, explosive volcanism, planetary atmospheres and lots of methane!
8 December 2010
Hi folks. Sorry for the lack of activity here lately. The AGU is throwing a little get-together next week, which means I have been working on overdrive to finish a paper before putting together my poster. In the meantime, the plot has thickened for the “arsenic life” story from last week. It is looking more and more like the results of the study were not as revolutionary as they claimed, …
2 December 2010
NASA astrobiologists have found bacteria living in Mono Lake, CA that use arsenic rather than phosphorus as the backbone of it’s DNA and other biomolecules like ATP.
This is a pretty big deal! Until now, everyone thought that life required the elements C,H,N,O,P,S to survive, but the Mono Lake bacteria laugh in the face of that idea and use something typically though of as a deadly poison as a fundamental building block. Felisa Wolfe-Simon, the lead author of the study summed things up nicely when she said that “It has solved the challenge of being alive in a very different way.”
24 October 2010
Last week was my birthday, and I unexpectedly got a gift in the mail from my cousin. We don’t normally exchange birthday gifts, but she came across a t-shirt called “Tubes of Mars” and just had to buy it for me. Apparently, this line of shirts is capitalizing on various wacky conspiracy theories and they decided to use one of my favorites, the “glass tubes on Mars” idea.
2 October 2010
We wrapped up the landing site workshop on wednesday afternoon by revisiting each of the four sites and discussing them in turn. Unfortunately, the way that we did this was very disappointing, and made for a frustrating afternoon. The discussion was centered around a word document that was projected up on the screen in the room. Over lunch, the meeting leaders had conferred and listed what they thought were the …
29 September 2010
The final site of the four that we discussed yesterday was Eberswalde, which of course is interesting because of the big delta that is preserved in the western part of the crater.The first presentation on Eberswalde was an impassioned and really interesting talk by terrestrial geomorphologist Bill Dietrich. Bill talked about how Eberswalde is an excellent site for going beyond just making qualitative statements about water on Mars and actually …
The second site that we discussed yesterday was Holden Crater. Ross Irwin gave the first, overview presentation. Holden is a 155 kilometer crater that formed right in the middle of a huge drainage system that spans from the Argyre basin to the northern plains, and at Holden you would land on a bunch of coalescing alluvial fans on the western crater floor and then drive southeast to access some nice …
Holy cow. Today was jam-packed with interesting stuff about Mawrth Vallis, Holden Crater and Eberswalde Crater! I took tons of notes, and I will try to use those to assemble a coherent picture of what was presented and discussed today. But if you’re too impatient to wait for me to work through those and post the more coherent summary, here are the notes in their raw and unedited form. Read …