Monday, March 13, 2006

Possible Life Conditions On Enceladus

Ice geysers have been discovered on a tiny ice moon orbiting Saturn. Enceladus southern pole is not only warmer than expected, but the geysers are revealing hints of organice material beneath its icy surface.

(MSNBC) The readings from Enceladus' geyser plumes indicate that all the prerequisites for life as we know it could exist beneath Enceladus' surface, Porco said.

"Living organisms require liquid water and organic materials, and we know we have both on Enceladus now," she said. "The plumes through which Cassini flew last July contain methane, contain CO2, propane — they contain several organic materials."

An explanation is still needed to explain why Enceladus's southern hemisphere is warmer than expected. Some scientists suspect a molten core off center could be a factor, as the moon is too small to be thawed by tidal friction or sunlight.

(MSNBC) Although the surface temperatures were far below freezing, the readings showed relatively warm spots in the south polar region, centering on the tiger stripes. Scientists traced the internal heating patterns that could create such warm spots, and concluded that temperatures could be above freezing mere yards beneath the surface.

"It can be warm enough 10 meters or so beneath the surface," Porco explained, "and there's enough pressure to keep liquid water stable at that depth."

Scientists are adding Enceladus as one of the possible worlds that harbor life within our solar system along with Europa. Both worlds are similiar in nature, and exploring the make-up of one of these worlds may help us understand the design of the other.

Google Mars In Various Colors

It seems as if the boys and gals at Google have decided to commemorate Percival Lowell's birthday with the launch of Google Mars--in various colors.

(Google Blog) In commemoration of Lowell's birthday, we're pleased to bring you Google Mars. Explore the red planet in three different ways: an elevation map shows color-coded peaks and valleys, a visible-imagery map shows what your eyes would actually see, and an infrared-imagery map shows the detail your eyes would miss.

The layout is similar to Google Moon, without the cheese of course! But for the space fans who desire something more globe like, Google is working on a similar version within Google Earth.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Bush, Space, And Useless Whining

Apparently some space scientists upset about the President's vision for launching humanity off this rock and onto it's lunar neighbor. With NASA focusing on putting humanity back on the moon permanently, scientists are complaining that their toes have already been stepped on--in other words, their projects cut.

(MSNBC) The Bush administration's focus on big, expensive space missions is starving budgets for some of NASA's most productive small-scale science programs, astronomers told the U.S. Congress on Thursday.

"The 2007 budget is tilted to an unhealthy extent to large missions," said Joseph Taylor, who helped craft a 10-year survey for astrophysics.

Taylor argues that by focusing on larger projects and cutting others, NASA is losing talent in an already shrinking pool of scientists employed by the agency.

Although a noble defense of the smaller projects, the truth is that unless we are able to establish colonies off world, observing the Universe from afar will not contribute much towards the advancement of our species.

Despite the increase of the budget that NASA received from the President (up to $16.8 billion) NASA is unable to perform all of the former duties before Bush gave them direction. One only has to look at the latest folly being suggested for the ISS to realize how aimless our agency has become when exploring the final frontier.

This new vision by Bush does not in any way diminish the importance of the other programs (such as the search for extra terrestrial life and Earth like worlds). But unless we are able to leave this earthen cradle behind, then those programs will be of no major benefit for the human race.

NASA's pockets are not as deep as the Pentagon's, and unless some sacrifices are made. Otherwise humanity will be forever gazing at the stars and visiting these planets via Star Trek instead of viewing them in person.