Tag Archives: Mars

A Big Anniversary! The Jay Dee Show 23

Today marks a major anniversary in Japan and for me personally. I had a couple big videos this week, but I only uploaded a total of 3. There’s another I may be able to get up tonight, though.

On my main channel, I only uploaded one video (another coming soon). This video is a continuation of my world building series. This time, it’s about making calendars for sci-fi and fantasy worlds.

And then, moving on to the science channel, I have two new videos, including a science news video and my first video dedicated to a single science topic. The first video is a weekly science news video featuring stories about Hyperloop, Mars, and the white rhino that was killed by poachers.

The second video is a science video about the big earthquake and tsunami in Japan in 2011.

The next week will feature only one science video, though I’ll probably start preparing the April A to Z videos. I’ll also be doing some regular booktube videos.

Which video did you enjoy the most?

A Must See Planetary Alignment

Back in May 2002, I was treated to an amazing planetary alignment. Just after sunset, I could see all of the naked eye planets, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn all lined up in the sky. You can read about it on the American Association of Amateur Astronomers website, which shows how websites looked back in 2002.

That was the first time I’d ever been able to see Mercury.  But to see all of the naked eye planets was incredible.  It happened again in 2005, but I didn’t see that. However, for the next month, you can see it in the morning just before dawn. So, you have to get up early to see this! It’ll be visible in the east, so you’ll need a good spot to view it from and clear skies. For those of us in the northern hemisphere, it means braving the cold. It begins January 20th and ends on February 20th.

This video does a good job at illustrating what you’ll see.

Are you going to get up early to see this alignment?

Do We Live in a Science Fiction World?

I hear phrases like these in the news and on science websites:

  • Quantum computing (This is a reality now)
  • Potentially habitable exoplanets (One was recently discovered only 14 light years away)
  • Spooky action (this was observed this year)
  • Metamaterial wormhole teleports magnetic fields across space (This actually happened in a lab this year)
  • We understand how memories are stored and that it’s possible to alter them
  • Elon Musk’s Hyperloop to be tested
  • Mars observed to have liquid water
  • NASA accepting applications for new astronauts – ones to be selected to go to Mars

This is only a small sample of what’s happened this year. These are things that would only have been dreamed of a quarter century ago. They were science fiction. They are reality now.

How do you think science fiction has become reality recently?

Flowing Liquid Water Confirmed on Mars!

NASA has confirmed that flowing liquid water does exist on Mars. This is very big news, and this shows that liquid water is present on the planet, and the implications are huge.

Dark streaks that have been previously detected in Hale Crater confirmed to be hydrated salts.
Dark streaks that have been previously detected in Hale Crater confirmed to be hydrated salts. Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

In recent years, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has shown images of long dark streaks on the walls of a crater that were suspected to be from liquid water flows. However, people were skeptical, since it could have been a landslide instead. But now, there is direct evidence that these streaks are hydrated salts. The salts, or perchlorates, have been previously detected by landers, such as Viking and Phoenix. However, this is the first time that hydrated perchlorates have been detected. That means that it was wet. Liquid water. This briny water can exist in liquid form at temperatures below freezing. The streaks disappear as temperatures get colder, but appear during warmer weather.

These streaks were previously seen in Garni Crater, and at that time were guessed to be from liquid briny water.
These streaks were previously seen in Garni Crater, and at that time were guessed to be from liquid briny water. Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

This is really big. This means that there is flowing liquid water now on Mars. This kind of water is present on Earth in deserts, and it does support life. It’s very possible that life can exist on Mars today. It doesn’t mean that life does exist now, but we now know that it is likely to be able to support microbial life. Now we just have to examine these areas.

I don’t know about you, but I am very excited about this. This has been an amazing year for planetary science (just a recap: landing on and orbiting a comet, orbiting Ceres, Pluto flyby, Enceladus confirmed to have global liquid water ocean, Mars has liquid water). What can we expect next?

Who’s loving this news?

NASA’s Big Mars Announcement

Mars_23_aug_2003_hubbleSo, NASA has a big announcement coming about Mars tomorrow. There’s a lot of speculation about what it’s going to be. Water, ice, salt water, conditions for life, glaciers, flowing water, etc. Well, we already know about ice and glaciers. Can’t be that, can it?

They said it’s going to solve a mystery. Maybe it’s about flowing water? There have been many outflows seen, which could either be caused by landslides or flowing water. Maybe they’ve solved that mystery.

There’s a lot of hype leading up to this announcement, so it must be big. What do you think it is?

Mars Will Be Larger than the Full Moon!

Have you heard? It’s that time of year again. Mars will appear larger than the full moon in the night sky! That’s right! Mark your calendar for August 27th! And this is my reaction:

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha. Excuse me as I wipe the tears from my eyes. Hahahahahahahahaha.

Seriously, how do people fall for this every single year? There are a lot of gullible people in the world. Even though this event has never happened, they still think it will because of something they read on the internet.

First of all, Mars will never be close enough to the Earth to appear larger than the Moon in the sky. Never. Got it? Never. Not going to happen. Ever. Okay?

This all started in August 2003 when Mars made its closest approach to Earth in more than 50,000 years. However, it was a whopping 55,758,000 km away. So people started suggesting it’ll appear large in the sky, so large that it’ll be larger than the full moon. It was actually a misinterpretation of the news, saying that Mars will appear as large as the full moon when viewed through a telescope, not with the naked eye.

But every year people believe this will happen. Let’s look. Here’s Universe Today explaining it. And Phil Plait at Bad Astronomy explaining it. How about Snopes? Or how about NASA themselves? They’re all from different years, but they’re all valid today.

So, people, Mars will never appear as large as the Moon in the sky. Okay? I hope that’s clear.

The Martian

The first trailer for the movie The Martian is now out.  Here it is.

It’s based on a novel by the same name, a novel I really want to read. I absolutely loved Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Mars. And now this movie comes along. I want to see it so very much. The novel by Andy Weir is highly rated on Goodreads, and is a Goodreads Choice 2014 winner. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

So, Matt Damon is the main character in this movie. Batman vs. Superman is also coming, starring Ben Affleck. These childhood friends have a couple potential blockbuster movies. Who’s going to win? In my mind, The Martian is what I want to see the most.

Possibility of Life in the Solar System

Earlier today, I posted a poll about where life could exist in the solar system.  It seems Mars is quite popular. You can still vote in the poll with your answer.  But now, I’ll examine each of the worlds and you can see what I think.  Keep in mind that I am an expert.  Okay, not an expert, but I do have a degree in astronomy.  So it is my area of expertise.

Mars

Mars_23_aug_2003_hubbleMars is the best-known planet in the solar system other than Earth.  We’ve had many probes go there, rovers explore the surface, and it’s one of the easiest to observe from Earth.  It’s a cold, dry world with most of its water locked up in the polar ice caps or underground.  There has been evidence of sudden outflows of liquid water, though it couldn’t last long on the surface, but maybe there are aquifers.  There are underground glaciers.  There’s a chance there is life in the aquifers.  Maybe there isn’t life now, but there may have been early in Mars’ history, as it’s recently been estimated that an ocean covered 20% of the surface.  We know it had a wet history.  Chances of life now? Quite low.  But much better in the past.

Ceres

PIA18920-Ceres-DwarfPlanet-20150219We’ve only been studying Ceres up close for a very short time.  We don’t know much about it, but there’s a guess about the internal structure.  There’s likely a rocky core with a thick ice mantle.  That’s covered by a thin dusty crust.  Liquid water could exist if it’s warm enough inside.  Water vapour was seen in January 2014, so it’s possible there is some sort of icy volcanism or geysers.  What we’ve seen of the surface so far shows that it’s rather dark, but a couple bright spots could be ice.  Chances of life now? Probably quite low.

Europa

PIA19048_realistic_color_Europa_mosaicThis icy moon of Jupiter has been of particular interest for a very long time.  It’s almost completely smooth, covered with water ice, and it shows evidence of an active surface, similar to the Arctic polar ice cap of Earth.  Thanks to tidal forces exerted on it by Jupiter and other moons of Jupiter, it’s kept warm.  That means there’s most likely a vast liquid water ocean under its icy crust.  It’s also very likely that there’s underwater volcanism, similar to what we find on the floor of the Earth’s oceans.  Those hydrothermal vents are teeming with life, and may give Europa a wonderful chance of supporting simple life, or even some more complex marine life.  Because of the thick icy crust, it’s difficult to see what’s beneath.  NASA’s recently had a proposal to explore Europa approved, so we could have this chance soon.  Chances of life now? Not unlikely, but there’s a decent chance.

Titan

converted PNM fileThe second largest moon in the solar system also happens to be the only moon in the solar system to support a significant atmosphere.  In fact, it’s more dense than the Earth’s.  The surface of Titan is water ice with liquid hydrocarbon lakes and rivers.  It rains and snows ethane and methane.  While Earth has a water cycle, Titan has a hydrocarbon cycle.  Titan even has cryovolcanoes that may be active.  The composition of the atmosphere is said to be similar to early Earth’s, which makes a lot of people excited.  However, Titan is extremely cold.  There’s also likely a subsurface liquid water ocean, so it could be similar to Europa in that aspect.  But on the surface, it’s unlikely we’ll find any life similar to what’s on Earth.  Chances of life now?  Probably low, but if there is any, it’s probably unrecognisable.

Enceladus

Enceladusstripes_cassiniThis small moon of Saturn has made planetary scientists very excited.  It may be small, but it’s active.  It has liquid water under the surface.  We know this almost for certain, because it has hundreds of cryovolcanoes in the south polar region spraying out water vapour and other substances such as salt (NaCl).  It could have a large salty underground ocean.  Organic compounds have also been detected, which makes it an even better candidate for life.  Chances of life now? There’s a decent chance, quite similar to Europa.

So, which places have the best chances of life now?  I think Europa is number one, though Enceladus may have a good chance, as well as Titan.  All three likely have subsurface liquid water oceans.  In the past, Mars could very well have had life.  We just need to find the fossils if it did.  However, in all cases, it’s quite possible that life is single cellular, though Europa’s got a remote chance of multicellular life.

So, with this said, what do you think now?  Where do you think life could be hiding?  Or do you disagree with me?  Let me know in the comments.

Where Could Life Exist in the Solar System?

It’s an exciting year in space exploration as Ceres is now being investigated and Pluto will be seen for the first time in July. These may also be the last large objects to be explored in the solar system for a very long time.  But not to worry, the only other large objects are quite far away, though I’d love to see Eris and Haumea especially.

However, part of what makes Ceres exciting is the prospect of life, or the small possibility of it being habitable by very marginalised life.  There are several candidates in the solar system that have the potential to support life:

  • Mars is quite promising, but mainly in the past.
  • Ceres needs to be examined more first.
  • Europa has liquid water oceans.
  • Titan is a very different world, but has conditions similar to early Earth.
  • Enceladus also likely has liquid water under the surface.

These five are of particular interest at the moment.  Which world do you think is most likely to support life?  Vote in the poll below and leave a comment explaining your choice.  I’ll make a post later on examining each of these worlds and making my own conclusion.

The Skies of Mars Are Getting Busy

Mars Express, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and Mars Odyssey are being joined by a pair of probes this week.  There will be five active orbiters around Mars.  That’s certainly a new record.

MAVEN concept art, NASA.
MAVEN concept art, NASA.

Already arrived is NASA’s MAVEN, short for Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution. It arrived at Mars on September 22nd, and has assumed orbit.  It will study the atmosphere and try to determine where the water had gone.  What’s interesting is that it’ll study how quickly the atmosphere is being stripped away by solar winds, so they may be able to extrapolate the thickness of the atmosphere billions of years ago, as well as see how much water there was.

Mars Orbiter Mission artist concept, by Nesnad for Wikipedia.
Mars Orbiter Mission artist concept, by Nesnad for Wikipedia.

The second probe arriving at Mars is the Indian Space Research Organisation’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), or Mangalyaan. It arrives at Mars today! This mission is exciting not because of what it will do, as much of it is pretty simple compared to what NASA and ESA orbiters have done, but it is the first time India has sent a probe to another planet.  Seeing other countries with successful interplanetary missions is very encouraging.  Apart from testing the technology, which is the primary mission, it also has scientific secondary objectives, including studying the mineralogy, morphology, and atmosphere.  This should be interesting.

Pretty busy at Mars now, isn’t it?  Which mission are you interested in?