October 17, 2012
Methane Could Hint At Life On Mars In The Past – The Daily Orbit
What do a girl named Malynda, methane, and Mars have in common?
Are Sumatran Orangutans on their way out?
And your next drink might cost more than you think…
All that and more on the Daily Orbit!
Hello and welcome to the Daily Orbit. I’m Emerald Robinson.
Again we ask that age-old question? What is the meaning of life? Oh wait, no not that one. This one…is there life on Mars? Well grad student Malynda Chizek says that her studies regarding the presence of methane on Mars may mean there was once life on the Red Planet. Malynda says that it would take as many as 5 million cows to equal the amount of methane some astronomers have observed on Mars. In a statement emailed to redOrbit, Malynda said that “an instrument aboard Curiosity is capable on measuring methane but scientists operating the instrument haven’t made any public announcements of their results yet.”
And in more space news, NASA is celebrating the 15-year anniversary of the launch of its Cassini spacecraft. Currently orbiting Saturn, the spacecraft has traveled over 3.8 billion miles, passing Venus twice and Jupiter once. The $3.3 billion mission launched on October 15, 1997 and has transmitted a wealth of interplanetary data back to Earth—444 gigabytes of scientific data and over 300,000 images. Although the spacecraft is entering “middle age”, scientists say Cassini is still performing extremely well. The spacecraft will continue to observe Saturn providing data about the planet’s change in seasons for the first time ever. It will then pass through Saturn’s rings to make close observations of the atmosphere.
And it’s bad news bears for Sumatran Orangutans! Scientists say that this population is in serious decline. The Sumatran orangutan is designated as “critically endangered” by the IUCN Red List, primarily due to deforestation. In taking DNA samples of a group of 400 orangutans on the coast of Sumatra, scientists found high genetic diversity-indicating a historically larger population. But, researchers are finding hope in the recent evidence of roaming male orangutans traveling outside of their populations to reproduce with unrelated females, enhancing genetic diversity. Researchers explain that deforestation inhibits the migration of the orangutans, who spend their time in the forest canopy.
So you get really drunk, fall flat on your face in front of that hot guy/girl, and then think oh well, it’s just my pride that’s hurt? Not so! Researchers say you can tack on an additional $1.90 to each drink to account for healthcare expenses, crime, and lost productivity. The study also suggests that knocking back a few drinks every few days may quickly reduce your ability to control alcohol intake. They believe this is of particular importance for adolescents and young adults, whose prefrontal cortex isn’t finished developing. Researchers say they suspect that this very early adaptation of the brain to intermittent alcohol use helps drive the transition from ordinary social drinking to binge drinking and dependence.
Another Earth possibly? Astronomers have made another exciting find in a stellar system, called Alpha Centauri–only 4.3 light years away. An exoplanet with about the same mass of Earth was detected orbiting a star, similar to our sun. This planet is much closer to its star than the Earth is to the sun, making it probably too hot to sustain life as we know it. However, astronomers say that it might be one planet in a system of several, and that this “result represents a major step towards the detection of a twin Earth in the immediate vicinity of the Sun.” They added that we are (quote) “living in exciting times!” Agreed! Maybe there’s a man for me out there on a twin Earth somewhere!
That’s it for the Daily Orbit– See you tomorrow!