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Thread: Current Events in Astronomy

  1. #131
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    On September 15, 2017 Cassini will orbit lower and lower until crashing into Saturn. Out of fuel, the end will ensure no Earth microbes containment any of Saturn's moons, that might harbor life.

    Cassini: The Grand Finale Toolkit

    After two decades in space, NASA's Cassini spacecraft is nearing the end of its remarkable journey of exploration. Having expended almost every bit of the rocket propellant it carried to Saturn, operators are deliberately plunging Cassini into the planet to ensure Saturn's moons will remain pristine for future exploration—in particular, the ice-covered, ocean-bearing moon Enceladus, but also Titan, with its intriguing pre-biotic chemistry.

    Beginning in 2010, Cassini began a seven-year mission extension in which it completed many moon flybys while observing seasonal changes on Saturn and Titan. The plan for this phase of the mission was to expend all of the spacecraft's propellant while exploring Saturn, ending with a plunge into the planet's atmosphere. In April 2017, Cassini was placed on an impact course that unfolded over five months of daring dives—a series of 22 orbits that each pass between the planet and its rings. Called the Grand Finale, this final phase of the mission has brought unparalleled observations of the planet and its rings from closer than ever before.

    On Sept. 15, 2017, the spacecraft will make its final approach to the giant planet Saturn. But this encounter will be like no other. This time, Cassini will dive into the planet's atmosphere, sending science data for as long as its small thrusters can keep the spacecraft's antenna pointed at Earth. Soon after, Cassini will burn up and disintegrate like a meteor. Story Continues

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  2. #132
    Life existed on Mars, shocking discovery suggests

    Scientists have found key evidence which suggests life may once have existed on Mars.
    Nasa's Curiosity rover has detected boron, a key ingredient for life, on the dusty surface of the Red Planet.

    The discovery is a huge boost in the hunt for extraterrestrials and could back up a theory suggesting life on Mars may have been forced underground when disaster turned the planet into a "frigid desert".

    Patrick Gasda, a postdoctoral researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory said: "Because borates may play an important role in making RNA - one of the building blocks of life - finding boron on Mars further opens the possibility that life could have once arisen on the planet.

    "Borates are one possible bridge from simple organic molecules to RNA. Without RNA, you have no life.
    "The presence of boron tells us that, if organics were present on Mars, these chemical reactions could have occurred."
    RNA is ribonucleic acid, a nucleic acid present in all modern life which is involved in the decoding and expression of genes from DNA.
    It is known to be unstable, so unless boron is present it decomposes quickly.

    Gasda's work is detailed in a study published this week in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

    It describes how Nasa's buggy found the element in calcium sulphate mineral "veins" in the rocky surface.
    That means boron was present in Mars groundwater and indicates that the Gale crater, where Nasa's robo buggy is right now, may have been home to life.

    It bolsters the bizarre theory that life originated on Mars and was carried to Earth on an asteroid.

    Astronomer Caleb Sharf has previously claimed: "We can find pieces of Mars here on Earth and we suspect that there are pieces of Earth on Mars.
    "If that material can carry living organisms on it, it's possible that we are Martian."

    These hypotheses have forced bonkers scenarios in which officials have asked Nasa experts whether life existed there in recent times.

    Dana Rohrabacher, an American senator, publically asked a project scientist overseeing Nasa's Mars 2020 rover mission if aliens ever lived on the Martian surface.

    He quizzed: "You have indicated that Mars was totally different thousands of years ago.

    "Is it possible that there was a civilisation on Mars thousands of years ago?"
    Nasa's Ken Farley responded: "So, the evidence is that Mars was different billions of years ago, not thousands of years ago, and there is no evidence I'm aware of..."

    However, there soon may be life on Mars if tech entrepreneur Elon Musk has his way.

    The Space X founder has announced plans to put humans on the surface of the Red Planet by 2030.
    Additional info from

    The discovery of boron in the Gale Crater on Mars has given scientists a clue to the potential of life having once existed on the Red Planet.
    "Because borates may play an important role in making RNA—one of the building blocks of life—finding boron on Mars further opens the possibility that life could have once arisen on the planet," said Patrick Gasda, a postdoctoral researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los Alamos, New Mexico and lead author of a paper published today in Geophysical Research Letters.

    The discovery, made in December 2016, marks the second confirmation of boron on the Martian surface. The first came in 2013, when scientists discovered boron in Martian meteorite. The find in Gale Crater, which NASA calls a "fascinating place to explore because of the mountain of layered materials in the middle," marked the first time the substance has been actually detected on Mars.
    RNA, ribonucleic acid, is present in every living thing we know of. Several scientists, including co-discoverer of DNA Francis Crick, have advocated a theory known as an "RNA world," in which RNA was the initial starting point of life. The theory goes that the original proto-life was made of individual RNA strands that held genetic information and could self-replicate. When boron is dissolved in water, which was also believed to have existed at one point on Mars, it can stabilize with a sugar called ribose long enough to create RNA.
    Of course, there are a whole lot of ifs here. There still isn't any evidence of life on Mars. But boron was only discovered four years ago and confirmed just last year. The search is only getting started, and plans to continue in 2020 and beyond, if we can get a sample of Martian soil back to Earth.
    Last edited by A99; 09-08-2017 at 02:02 AM.
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  3. #133
    Another story on Planet 9

    New Clues Emerge for the Existence of Planet 9

    Hopefully they'll be able to find it soon.
    My inner Mulder wants to believe, but my inner Scully remains skeptical.

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