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By Paul Hoskins DUBLIN (Reuters) - Future visitors to Mars in need of water may find large quantities stored away in sand dunes held together with ice, a leading geologist said on Monday.
Global warming could drastically alter Africa's southern sand dune systems, spreading desert-like conditions and destroying the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people before the end of the century, new research warns.
How old is Titan's surface? For years, Saturn's moon Titan was thought to have mastered the cosmetic surgery of the cosmos, with barely a mark or wrinkle to betray its true age. Close-up views provided by Cassini instruments show that Titan is nearly as flawless as it seems from a distance.
During its closest flyby of Titan on April 16, NASA's Cassini spacecraft detected some surprisingly complex organic molecules floating in its upper atmosphere. Specifically, the spacecraft's mass spectrometer picked up the presence of a variety of hydrocarbons, including ethane and even octane.
Saturn's largest and hazy moon, Titan, has a surface shaped largely by Earth-like processes of tectonics, erosion, winds, and perhaps volcanism. Titan, long held to be a frozen analog of early Earth, has liquid methane on its cold surface, unlike the water found on our home planet.
Jonathan Lunine, a professor of planetary science and physics at the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory in Tucson, Arizona, is also an interdisciplinary scientist on the Cassini/Huygens mission. Lunine presented a lecture entitled "Titan: A Personal View after Cassini's first six months in Saturn orbit" at a NASA Astrobiology Director's Seminar on January 24, 2005. This edited transcript of the Director's Seminar is Part 1 of a 4-part series.
Cassini-Huygens supplied new evidence about why Titan has an atmosphere, making it unique among all solar system moons. Scientists can infer from Cassini-Huygens results that Titan has ammonia, said Jonathan I. Lunine, an interdisciplinary scientist for the European Space Agency\'s Huygens probe that landed on Titan last month.
As part of the Cassini Imaging team studying the atmosphere on Saturn, NASA's Anthony Del Genio explained in this part of his interview, how to make sense of a moon potentially making methane rain.
On January 14, ESA's Huygens probe made an historic first ever descent to the surface of Titan, 1.2 billion kilometers from Earth and the largest of Saturn's moons. Huygens traveled to Titan as part of the joint ESA/NASA/ASI Cassini-Huygens mission. The first scientific assessments of Huygens' data were presented today.
Billions of dollars are pumped into extraterrestrial exploration each year in the search for the ultimate prize - the discovery of life on other planets. But are we looking in all the right places? Prof Steven A Benner, who is working with NASA on the design of the next generation of Mars probes, believes that life could flourish without any need for water.