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Space

3 May

Dark Energy. We Know. It's Complicated!

by Cody Barr

It should come as no surprise that the trope “seeing is believing” is not always the case. In the realm of space exploration, it’s quite the opposite. The most puzzling facet of the Universe lies in the darkness. Dark matter and dark energy continue to exist without direct evidence, but their presence is very much real. We know it's complicated, so to help explain the currently unexplainable, we turned to Dr. Ian O’Neill from DNews, who holds a Ph.D in Solar Physics and an M.Phys in Astrophysics.

What is the most common misconception people have when it comes to things we can’t see in space like dark matter and dark energy?

The biggest misconception is that they don’t exist because we only have indirect evidence. People read these articles and expect a quick fix. They think we need to tune up our instruments, that we’re looking in the wrong place, that we are missing something. It’s not a conspiracy. You always have people that say it’s just something that scientists say to get research funding. That’s not the case.

There are arguments that we need to look at our understanding of gravity or space time, perhaps. As the years go on and we’ve studied gravitational waves, Einstein was pretty much spot on when it comes to general relativity. We think it’s a problem with matter.

 

Above: Our friends from Test Tube ponder dark spaces as well!

How do you convince the general public that research into this sector of astrophysics and space exploration is necessary?

People are used to this “Golden Age” of scientific discovery where we have answers for everything. They want us to tie all our theories together into little bows and explain the Universe and move on with our lives. Of course, it doesn’t work like that.

I would argue that the endeavor itself is worthy because of all the other things we learn along the way of any scientific discovery. The spinoff technologies from the endeavors will enrich our lives. And it’s just nice to know about our place in the Universe. It’s like a bottomless ocean. Wouldn’t you like to know what’s below you on the ocean floor instead of floating around blindly taking it for granted? What’s beyond what we can see and understand is what makes humanity tick.

What is the main piece of evidence scientists have found to confirm the presence of dark matter?

We have a good idea that perhaps the majority of our matter is made up of invisible particles that exert a gravitational force collectedly, but are very small and don’t interact via electromagnetic force, which means we can’t see them directly. You can’t look into the sky and see the radiation it exerts because it doesn’t emit any. Its presence is known by gravitational force only.

We look at galaxies. We see that galaxies spin like a wheel, not like whirlpool. Whirlpools spin the fastest motion in the center and the slowest on the outside. Galaxies don’t act like that. That’s what they would do if all of the matter in the Universe was visible. But because most is invisible (85%), the visible material of the galaxy moves virtually as a whole because it’s embedded in a massive halo of dark matter that is around it. So we’re only seeing the middle of this halo, which is actually visible. It extends very far away. The oval motion of the dark matter is like whirlpool, but we only see the visible hub of visible matter.

Are there any other pieces of evidence?

You can look at galactic clusters, the motion of gasses and stars and motion of light going through galactic clusters. We know it’s out there. 

What sort of experiments and observations are being done to advance our understanding of dark matter?

Scientists are trying to produce dark matter ourselves by using The Large Hadron Collider and are simultaneously trying to observe it in the galaxies. The most exciting is the LHC (The Large Hadron Collider). It is constantly crashing particles at nearly the speed of light, something that hadn’t happened since the Big Bang. These scientists are creating minute quantities of primordial matter and are finding strange bumps in the energy of the particles that come out of such collisions. There’s the possibility of finding a new particle found that we have never seen before. It could very well be a dark matter particle because it has a gravitational force.

Meanwhile, the ISS is trying to detect energies from the center of galaxies. WIMPs in certain conditions, may collide and annihilate. When they collide, they erupt with a sudden burst of energy. The hope is to detect that energy, to detect the annihilation of dark matter particles. Everything is inconclusive right now, but there are papers seemingly every six months saying the finger prints of dark matter has been found.

Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 2.18.06 PM
Credit: NASA/Space Telescope Science Institute

People make associations between dark matter, dark energy and black holes because the color black is dark. Are they actually connected?

They certainly can be connected. Black holes are extremely dense locations and carry a lot of gravitational weight. Are there more than we know of? Possibly. We’re realizing that all galaxies have super massive black holes in their cores. We can see our black hole because of its interaction with local matter in our galaxies. We can’t actually see our black hole because it’s black but we can detect it from radio waves and the heat it emits.

There’s a theory that there are many many black holes out there that don’t interact with any matter because they’re not near any matter. It could be a small black hole at our cosmic doorstep that doesn’t produce any radiation. They could be a very large component of dark matter. The connection is very real and logical. Hopefully we can detect more black hole collisions through gravitational waves.

What about dark energy? How do we know it exists?

The main evidence for dark energy comes really comes from Hubble’s original mission at the turn of the century. It saw that all the galaxies are essentially moving away from each other at an accelerated rate, which didn’t make sense at the time. Now, it’s almost like there’s this anti-gravity component to the Universe (dark matter) and matter energy is actually held up in this dark energy. It’s really hard to explain.

What sort of steps would a young enthusiast need to take to enter this field and be at the forefront of this research?

I went into astrophysics because of science fiction. I had to first understand all the disciplines of physics and then mathematics. You have to have a grasp on mathematics. For me, I loved the mystery of the Universe and wanted to understand it. It comes from excitement and enthusiasm. When you realize how big the Earth is and how tiny we are in relation to the rest of the Universe you feel a little bit scared, like a claustrophobia, but the desire to understand it is undeniable.

For those interested in exploring the concept of dark energy and learning Einstein's and the Hubble's role in proving its existence, you must watch tonight's episode of Space's Deepest Secrets: Dark Energy starting at 10P. Get started with the clip below!

 

16 Apr

A Wonderful Week of Science – and It’s Not Over Yet!

Live Q&A This Morning at 10 a.m. with Steve Spengler, "America's Science Teacher"

This week has been very special. Not only did the President preside over his sixth and final White House Science Fair on Wednesday, but the bi-annual U.S. Science and Engineering Festival closes out the week. Both events emphasize nurturing an interest in curiosity, learning and exploring the fields of science, technology, math and engineering. Obama has called it the “Mars Generation.”

This generation is being taught that innovation and research is fun and confidence building. It’s not just something you have to wait to “aspire” to one day, but science and its various tracks are things children and teenagers can embrace at any time. When looking at the programs of both events, perhaps what’s most inspiring to me and the folks here at Science Channel, are the projects on display from these teens have in large part been driven by a desire to help others.PotusSciFair

From the White House Science Fair, there was the group of middle-schoolers inspired to computer design and 3-D print more flexible prosthetic limbs allowing the wounded veterans at a neighboring Air Force base to manage uneven terrain on hikes and other everyday activities. Tackling cancer detection through identifying circulating cancer genes and studying the effects of low doses of radiation on health care workers were two other projects generated by a desire to keep people healthy.

Robots, 3-D printing and code? They’re part of our future and natural tools for the Mars Generation. We loved the team that engineered a robot to clean the New York City subway system to make commuting healthier and more efficient. The girls that created an app to connect, entertain and battle anxiety in cancer patients waiting for treatment were impressive.

The President was joined by science celebrities, astronauts, mentors and science educators to talk and listen to the young participants. As usual, the event was widely covered on social media with VIPs taking to their devices to gush over kids that knocked their socks off with bold presentations and in some, the casual attitude that science isn’t some dusty pursuit but fun and rewarding.

President Obama acknowledged the need to make STEM careers accessible and interesting pursuits among the range of choices for careers. As he put it in his remarks,

“As a society, we have to celebrate outstanding work by young people in science at least as much as we do Super Bowl winners.”

President Obama genuinely believes in science and the Mars Generation. Not only did he host the White House Science Fair this week, but he also hosted a week of our daily news program “Science Presents DNews at 9” covering the topics he’s passionate about – from climate change awareness and space exploration to STEM education. We are honored he took the time to stop by, and you can catch up on his segments here on Sciencechannel.com.

 

Science Channel decided to not only keep an eye on the amazing give and take at the White House, we’ve also been busy communicating that science is something that can be hands on and fun! On Wednesday, my colleague Amber and I played an impromptu game of Sink or Float” via Facebook Live. Our biggest surprise was that a pineapple floated, despite being pretty darn heavy! In our first foray into demonstrating live science experiments, we had a lot of laughs, got very messy and learned a great respect for science teachers. We were FAR from perfect in our ability to communicate the variables of density, but that just made us want to sharpen our skills for the next time.

Until that happens we’ll continue to bring you real experts, like those visiting the U.S. Science and Engineering Festival here in Washington, DC. Our fans loved the Facebook Live Q&A with Astronaut Jessica Meir with over 3,000 thousand comments/questions. Everyone at the Science Channel was overwhelmed by how smart and curious our fans are, and the wonderful questions people asked.

The Festival continues today, Saturday the 16th and tomorrow, Sunday the 17th and is open to the public free of charge starting at 10am every day. All you need is your curiosity. There will be over 3,000 hands-on activities and demonstrations covering everything from aerospace and conservation paleontology and robots, with science celebrities and communicators taking the stage all weekend long. Follow what’s going on via Twitter with #SciFest and on here on Facebook.

Screen Shot 2016-04-15 at 9.09.10 PMWe’re even getting into the act by hosting “America’s Science Teacher,” Steve Spengler in another Facebook Live Q&A starting at 10 a.m. before he goes on stage at the event. Get your questions ready for a guy who has devoted his life to reminding us there is a lot of “wow” in science. There’s no need to be shy here at Science Channel. We’ll also be walking the floor of the Festival taking careful notes about the trends we see bubbling up in the science world so we can make sure to bring them to you.

While technically this special week of science kicked off by our President comes to an end on Sunday, we’re still your science buddy 24/7 on-air on Science Channel, online at Sciencechannel.com and all over the social space via @ScienceChannel. Reach out and say hello!

14 Mar

Watch the Replay of ExoMars 2016 Lift Off

Courtesy of the European Space Agency, we have this amazing video of the joint European and Russian ExoMarS 2016 mission lift off for you to enjoy. We here at Science Channel LOVE to start the day watching some good space video, and it is even more sweet because this is PI Day AND Albert Einstein's birthday. It's fitting because quite likely humankind wouldn't be as technologically advanced as we are today, launching rockets and preparing for Mars missions, without both the understanding of the mathematical constant and the man who predicted gravitational waves as far back as 1916 as part of his theory of general relativity.

Turning back to the spectacular ExoMars 2016 liftoff on a Proton-M rocket from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, is on schedule to arrive at Mars in October. The ExoMars module contains two key parts, first, an entry, descent and landing module named Schiapareli and a Trace Gas Orbiter. The mission objective is to look for methane and other trace atmospheric gases that could point to potential microbial or geological activity on the surface. The Mission's findings will be a critical addition to the preparation of subsequent missions to Mars.

To learn more about the ExoMars mission explore the ESA website, and we'll keep you posted on the mission!

 

20 Jan

The Four-Foot Rocket Flight and SpaceX’s Falcon 9

Science Channel fans, we know some of you remember seeing the footage of the explosions of the rockets on both sides of the U.S. vs. Soviet Space Race in the ‘50s and ‘60s. There were explosions, the shudder and pop of the parachute, and the rocket that lifted four feet then collapsed on itself. Then of course there is the generation of us who witnessed the horrific Challenger and Columbia Shuttle disasters. The point is, we can all recognize there have been failures along the way in pursuing the road to space exploration.

Despite the inability to land its reusable rocket on the floating platform over the weekend, the latest SpaceX Falcon 9 program is no different. There will be failures to learn from and lead to success.

We live in a much different world than that of Werner Von Braun when he was developing the precursors to the Saturn V rocket design that would go on to launch successfully 13 times and carried all the Apollo lunar missions. At that time, coverage of the many failures along the road were likely minimal and controlled. Footage of the tests were likely not even shown until years later. Of course now can have a look –even set to music.

 

Perhaps the biggest difference in spacecraft and rocketry development – aside from technological advancement of the rocketry itself is people around the world are watching SpaceX’s every move via web cam and social media. Then there are the inevitable public discussions about what went wrong, and whether they should keep trying. We can now all be back-seat rocket scientists.

This latest attempt when the Falcon 9 booster missed the landing on the floating barge, was by what appears to be just over four feet. They also believe they know the cause – a collet (a collar that would clamp down on a shaft) on leg No. 3 failed to latch. To have that level of telemetry and understanding on just their 21st mission, and the third attempt at re-landing the booster is pretty darn good.

The other part of this mission we should remember is that it actually WAS a was a success. The rocket was able to deliver NASA’s Jason 3 oceanography satellite, which will be help document our changing oceans.

 

So as we watch Elon Musk and the SpaceX ready for the next mission, remember that memorable four-foot rocket flight in Werner Von Braun’s career. It didn’t stop Von Braun from doggedly pursuing his goal, and eventually being key to taking Americans to the moon. Nor should this event stop Elon Musk’s team from stopping to advance humans further into space, and perhaps one day, colonizing Mars.

In fact, we think wherever he is in the stars, Von Braun might be watching the new advancements being made in rocketry with great enthusiasm and sympathy. He perfected his Saturn V with the world watching – but in a much more controlled fashion. Musk and SpaceX has us all looking over his shoulder (even here at Science Channel) and debating every move. In fact, Von Braun and Musk would probably have been great friends. It turns out Von Braun was obsessed with colonizing Mars as much as Musk.

Perhaps in future missions – whether it’s SpaceX, Blue Origin or NASA – we will stop using the word "failure." Every rocket, every launch, every test a step further to understanding how to get it right!

After all, we had to get past the infamous four-foot flight, and spectacular explosions to get to the moon, so we perhaps we can refer to each current step as progress to get to Mars...and beyond.

What do you all think? What is a better word than failure.

20 Jan

Scientists Report Evidence for "Planet X," the New Ninth Planet Far Beyond Pluto

In a paper just published in The Astronomical Journal today, two CalTech scientists report compelling circumstantial evidence for the existence of “Planet X.” The mysterious ninth planet. Dr. Michael E. Brown and Dr. Konstantin Batygin base their evidence on extensive computer modeling focusing on the far reaches of the solar system, beyond Pluto.

The tip off comes in the form of six objects observed to be in some kind of orbital cluster. While they have wildly varying elliptical orbits, they all loop and tilt in the same direction. This kind of orbital tracking has been the tip of for the existence of other planets before. In fact, the orbit of Netpune predicted the existence of Uranus. Scientists put the odds of this type of orbital cluster happening naturally at a 1 in 14,000 to 15,000.

It is believed this ninth planet would be somewhere near the size of Neptune and somewhere around 10 times the mass of our Earth. That would dwarf poor Pluto.

The mindblowing aspect of Planet X is its distance. It would be somewhere around 20 billion miles from the sun at its closest, and in its farthest point it would be 100 billion miles. To give you context, Pluto is closest to the sun at 4.6 billion miles. With these kind of numbers it is estimated it would take an astounding 10,000 to 20,000 years to complete just ONE orbit around the sun.

Keep in mind this evidence is circumstantial, but strong. The scientists haven’t actually SEEN the ninth planet yet, but Brown and Batygin believe it could be spotted by telescope in the next five years.

No matter what happens in the next five years, we’ll still always hold a place in our hearts for Pluto. Explore these videos which explain the orbital cluster and show an animation of "Planet X."

 

 

 

27 Oct

The Controversial Proposal of an Alien Megastructure

The space and science community was buzzing last week about of odd behavior of a star called KIC 8462852. More accurately, the news was about the odd behavior from something near or in transit around the star causing it to dim in irregular patterns and brightness. The buzz was about the theory whether this could be a megastructure or mass of structures created by aliens.

Science Channel will air a special news update about the theories being aired about this strange star: Alien Megastructures tonight at 9/8c. Before you tune-in or set your DVR, here's a little bit about why this odd star has scientists stumped and alien hunters guessing. Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 1.16.33 PM

The story about the The Most Mysterious Star in Our Galaxy broke in The Atlantic on October 13, but as the story noted, the star’s behavior isn’t exactly breaking news. 

While going about its mission to find exoplanets Kepler Space Telescope found this star in 2009. Kepler does its job by observing far flung stars and tracking any dimming in their brightness, which could signify the presence of an exoplanet. When the dimness happens over a recognizable period and speed, it often signals there is an exoplanet and can even help astronomers estimate the size. In the case of KIC 8462852, the star had dips that followed no precise pattern and vary in intensity.

Kepler could very well be picking up some natural phenomenon such as dust rings or a debris field. After all, Kepler can pick up things other than exoplanets, like flares, said dust or debris, or perhaps even something created specifically to move around the star. Yes, created.

Watch DNews: We're Not Saying The Kepler Discovery Is Aliens, But...

Of course we expect some backlash at this point, and at least one of the meme with the wacky looking dude who has his hair standing up with the text “Aliens” on it. The comments claiming this is pseudo-science have come along with most posts and articles we've seen circulated on the topic. Some people do not believe there is alien life, and do not like mainstream science and cultural media outlets reporting on it.

Here’s why some of us are talking about it.

The source of this story and the follow up pieces are not the result of astronomers just grabbing at straws. The data on this star goes back to 2009 and has been carefully documented; a paper reporting on the data and all plausible theories was just submitted by a Yale post-doctorate researcher to the September 2015 edition of Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

The paper also includes the names and interpretation of several citizen scientists from The Planet Hunters, an expert group who regularly studies certain parts of the galaxy to help scientists wade through the massive amount of data the telescopes send back. The combined efforts of the lead at Yale, Tabetha Boyajian, and the Planet Hunters confirmed at least two basic things: the irregular data is NOT coming from flawed data or instrumental error and the behavior was notable, with dips “in flux down to below the 20 percent level.”

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 1.18.11 PM

Boyajian and the Planet Hunters offer up several theories, most of which raise additional questions given that none of them are an exact fit with the behavior being observed.

Read More: DNews Has Kepler Discovered an Alien Megastructure?

As Dr. Ian O’Neill notes in his DNews report on the story, Boyajian’s paper focuses only on “…natural and known possible causes of the mystery transit events around KIC 8462852. A second paper is currently being drafted to investigate a completely different transit scenario that focuses around the possibility of a mega-engineering project created by an advanced alien civilization.”

This does NOT mean anyone is immediately suggesting it IS an alien megastructure. What this second paper and some scientists believe is that every possible theory must be explored. Even if it the most remote chance it is something created by an advanced civilization, in the spirit of scientific exploration it must be explored and proven or dis-proven. So we’ll wait for the paper and see.

So what happens next? Well, the scientists at the SETI (Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) Institute are joining in the search for an explanation in a significant way. They’ve turned their Allen Telescope Array – a field of 42 smaller and highly targeted satellite dishes – off its normal schedule and have focused it on KIC 8462852. They will work day and night looking for transmissions that fall into a specific range of wavelengths.

According to Universe Today, the team is gathering results they hope to publish soon in a scientific journal.

The American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) has also joined in, issuing an alert to its members on October 20th to focus on KIC 8462852, with specific parameters to help target their observations. This continues to be a working investigation to find the cause of the erratic dips.

At Science Channel we believe in “questioning everything,” and we’re excited by the depth of research going into confirming a theory, regardless the side of the debate. We’ll be presenting the latest news about the story tonight in a special news report: Alien Megastructures at 9/8c. We hope you’ll join us in exploring the story of this strange signal and the science going into solving this mystery.

WATCH: ALIEN MEGASTRUCTURES, tonight 9/8c

Interested in these kinds of space mysteries? You might enjoy these related videos:

 

 

14 Oct

Hubble’s Images of Jupiter Bring Surprises

Using Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3, planetary scientists at NASA’s have captured Jupiter in an annual photo, and this year the very high-res images are showing some interesting new things.

Screen Shot 2015-10-14 at 9.39.04 AMPlanetary scientists at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory created two global maps on the planet to essentially show back-to-back rotations. This helps them calculate the speed of the movement they see occurring on the surface.

Focusing first on the famous Red Spot, actually a giant storm, the team confirmed the spot is still shrinking and becoming more circular. It’s also more orange than red. These changes have been occurring in previous photos, but what they did uncover that was different is a “filament” or streamer stretching for most of the width of the Spot, which rotates and is blown about by the high winds.

Additionally, when looking at the North Equatorial Belt, the team found a wave that had only previously been spotted long ago by Voyager 2. This image confirms the rare wave’s existence. It is found in a region noted for cyclones and anti-cyclones, and appears to be similar to baroclinic waves which are found in the Earth’s atmosphere prior to cyclones forming.

The reasons for its elusive behavior may be due to the wave beginning in the layers beneath the visible clouds and only becoming visible when surfacing to the cloud layer.

The annual photos contain a wealth of other information the scientists are still exploring. The yearly photos are invaluable and will continue as they provide a way to show how the planet changes over time and provide clues as to what they might mean about the weather, geology, chemistry and more of this giant planet.

Be sure to visit NASA’s Press Release about images to get more in-depth information and incredible video and photography.

For more story on The Red Spot, check out this in-depth look from HOW THE UNIVERSE WORKS:

 

9 Oct

Giant Lakes On Mars?

Imagine standing on the shore of Lake Michigan. You see nothing but a vast expanse of water, deep and alive with currents. Now imagine that isn’t Lake Michigan, but the shore of the Gale Crater on Mars. Screen Shot 2015-10-09 at 3.01.15 PM

New pictures, taken by NASA's Curiosity Rover show thick slabs of dried sediment that look familiar to anyone who has seen a long dried up patch of water like a creek bed or a lake. Only this patch is on a massive scale. This is exciting to scientists who are looking forward to studying the sediment to find out just what happened to the water.

“You don’t need magic new science to understand the geology of Mars,” notes Janok Bhattacharya, a sedimentary geologist at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, as quoted in Science Magazine. Basically, geologists here on Earth can study the pictures and sample analysis sent back and make strong assumptions about the Martian climate based on how it matches up with what they’ve modeled here on Earth.

So far they do believe the water was in large bodies, with currents powerful enough to move the larger, more rounded rock sediment they've seen. They can also see how the sediment piled up over what could be millions of years, and possibly decipher what the layers meant about the changing climate on Mars’ surface and if there were different climates like here on Earth.

It goes without saying that scientists, geologists, and astronomy buffs are beyond excited about what the Curiosity Rover has been able to show us. This is big news and a big step in understanding other worlds. The geology discovery that lies ahead is going to be rich in data thanks to the Rover, and we can't wait to see what comes next!

As we ponder a now mostly dry planet and what it will tell us about life on Mars, or perhaps if we are seeing the future of our own planet, we should also stop and appreciate the tremendous feat of technology and engineering the is the Curiosity Mars Rover.

If you want to understand what an achievement it is to have these pictures and data coming back from Mars you won’t want to miss Red Planet Rover Tuesday night at 9P on Science Channel. You’ll get to follow the build and the journey to Mars from the eyes of the mission control team. This is their baby and they’ve invested their time, theories, and hope in this amazing spacecraft.

It’s all part of a night of intense space exploration. There is truly something for everyone who is wondering about the universe.

What’s On Tuesday:

8P - How the Universe Works: Forces of Mass Construction

9P – Red Planet Rover: See the Mars Curiosity Rover as You Never Have Before

10P – Space’s Darkest Secret: Can Scientists Crack the Mystery of Dark Matter?

Want to learn more about the geology of Mars? Turn to Science Magazine's in-depth feature.

 

29 Sep

Mars Mystery Solved: A Special Report

Tonight at 9p EST, Science Channel will be airing a special segment, including post-analysis from the confirmation there is liquid water on Mars. Mars: A Special Report discussing how they made the discovery and what it means for future Mars exploration.

I can’t wait to hear what the #NASA experts have to say. After viewing the NASA press conference and Q&A yesterday, it seems like at a basic level the mission is to keep moving forward and exploring just what liquid water on Mars means. In short, the discovery opens up more questions than there are answers.

The 900 lb. gorilla of a question in the room, on our website, and on our social media pages is: if there is water, is there life?

BlueMarsAliens. It seems to always comes back to that concept for many of us. My parents read comics about canals on Mars being made by a powerful civilization. I’m of the generation that has seen Hubble open up the vastness of the universe where the sheer odds point to the fact there must be some kind of life out there. Now scientists have done studies that show microbial life doesn’t always have to have oxygen and water to live. Still, if you’ve got water you are likely one step closer to finding something that could be defined as life.

That’s what had the scientists so excited about the future. Now they have been able to secure enough information to confirm the liquid water, they can focus on its composition, its activity, and how we might use it on future missions. There are just so many things to find out about our own life and planet as we start understanding Mars more. There are also new hopes of colonizing the planet in a different way than we might have before. Of course, even many scientists whoooped over the possibility of finding new life - even microbes to start!

I’m going to pump the brakes on speculating about the future for a minute and go back to the mystery and beauty of what we have just found out simply about the topography and nature of Mars.

They finally understand these dark streaks – called recurring slope lineae (RSL) – as being indicators of liquid water that drip down the sides of craters and slopes. This is something scientists had begun to observe and discuss for a few years with data from the Phoenix Lander and pictures from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) showing the RSL over various sites.

NASA_Mars_3.jpg

Add the Curiosity Rover into the mix and you have the perfect scientific storm for confirmation of liquid water. As the pictures got clearer, and the Curiosity Rover could take soil samples the story started to take shape. The NASA team mineral mapped the site from the MRO’s Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM). This data revealed hydrated salts and that brings us to the press conference yesterday and the beautiful photos we have been seeing.

So for all of you who in our forums who have said we’ve known about water on Mars for years, you are right in some ways. We HAVE known about ancient frozen water – not liquid. It is also true NASA has also been studying this current phenomenon since 2010. The announcement was not held for any other reason than it is only now when the perfect mix of technology and research allowed the scientists to put the pieces together. They like being right. They're funny like that.

As I saw how the pieces came together for them I took a moment to look out my window into the sky. I am so incredibly proud of NASA and the science community. The collective work of hundreds of people (likely a lot more) went into to this discovery and a few of the others I picked up yesterday. This is the information that will one day allow the next generation to explore Mars and beyond.

  • There is a water cycle on Mars; it doesn’t rain but it does snow
  • Mars has seasons, just like Earth. The RSL change dependent on the seasons, which was another clue.
  • The water probably pretty shallow more like trickles and drips rather than rolling streams – but we don’t know that didn’t happen in the past or what is happening under the surface.

That's what wowed little old me; what wowed you?

As you'd expect, we were all smiles here at Science Channel yesterday during the live broadcast because we loved seeing the scientists be able to share this breakthrough, and we loved being a part of sharing it. We can't resist sharing the faces of of those who produce such exciting live events and those who stand watch in our broadcast center to make sure everything is beautiful on our air!   Image1

We also love being able to bring you the update at 9P, will explain more about how they found the water, why is is so important to the future, what are they going to do next?

It’s also exciting we could share this experience with our colleagues around the globe. We have video from our colleagues at Discovery News. We’ve seen people in our worldwide divisions talk about it on social media. Here are a few posts for you to enjoy, and we hope to see you for a night of Mars programming, with our special update at 9P.

Discovery News Video

Discovery Networks International:

Discovery Science France:

Announcement

Reveal

Discovery Channel Turkey:

Photos

Discovery Channel South Africa: Photos

Discovery Channel Arabia: Photos

 

28 Sep

TestTube: Definitive Signs of Liquid Water Found on Mars

Screen Shot 2015-09-28 at 11.41.19 AMOur colleagues from TestTube hit the nail on the head in their blog when they commented it might be the best marketing promotion ever dreamed up if this announcement from NASA was to promote The Martian. We were saying the same thing as the #NASA panel slowly built up to the big reveal: there is evidence of flowing water on Mars. It wasn't a movie; it's what #NASA has been searching for for years, finally confirmed after careful study of the surface geology and samples from the #CuriosityRover.

Get the full TestTube blog, and stick with us as we will be checking in with them throughout the day for more of their thoughts and perhaps some video.

Follow:

TestTube on Facebook

TestTube on Twitter

TestTube on YouTube

 

 

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