NASA's newest Martian explorer, Maven, is on its launch pad in Florida, ready to soar. Bearing eight science instruments, the spacecraft will take 10 months to reach Mars, entering into orbit around the red planet in September 2014. Scientists hope Maven will help them learn why Mars went from being warm and wet during its first billion years, to the cold and dry place it is today.
Earth’s oldest sedimentary rocks are not only rare, but also almost always altered by hydrothermal and tectonic activity. The Pilbara district in Australia is a rare exception. A new study has revealed the well-preserved remnants of a complex ecosystem in a nearly 3.5 billion-year-old sedimentary rock sequence.
A new discovery by researchers from the Univ. of Notre Dame could change prevailing assumptions about the chemical makeup of the Earth’s mantle. The Univ. of Notre Dame team worked in cooperation with Vadim Kamenetsky of the Univ. of Tasmania, Hobart (Australia) to learn the art of conducting chemical and mineralogical analyses of melt inclusions within crystals of the mineral magnetite (Fe3O4).
A planned mission to return a sample from the Martian moon Phobos will likely be a twofer, according to a study by Brown Univ. geologists. The Russian mission launching in 2020, would return samples from Phobos that contain bits and pieces of Mars itself. The study calculates how much Martian material is on the surface of Phobos and how deep it is likely to go.
How far into the past can ice-core records go? Scientists have now identified regions in Antarctica they say could store information about Earth’s climate and greenhouse gases extending as far back as 1.5 million years, almost twice as old as the oldest ice core drilled to date.
A team of researchers has discovered a bacterium in hot springs which needs rare earth materials such as lanthanum, cerium or neodymium to grow. The bacteria need the valuable metals to produce energy as co-factor for the enzyme methanol dehydrogenase, with which the microbes produce their energy. The use of rare earths is possibly more widespread among bacteria than previously thought.
A Rice Univ.-based team of geoscientists is going to great lengths—from Earth’s core to its atmosphere—to get to the bottom of a long-standing mystery about the planet’s climate. The team will focus on how carbon moves between Earth’s external and internal systems.
Digs over the years at the La Brea Tar Pits in the heart of Los Angeles have unearthed bones of mammoths, mastodons, saber-toothed cats and dire wolves that became trapped in ponds of sticky asphalt. But it's the smaller discoveries, like plants, insects and rodents, that in recent years are shaping scientists' views of life in the region 11,000 to 50,000 years ago.
Gas and oil deposits in shale have no place to hide from an Oak Ridge National Laboratory technique that provides an inside look at pores and reveals structural information potentially vital to the nation’s energy needs. The research could clear the path to the more efficient extraction of gas and oil from shale.
Earth’s most eminent emissary to Mars has just proven that those rare Martian visitors that sometimes drop in on Earth really are from the Red Planet. A key new measurement of Mars’ atmosphere by NASA’s Curiosity rover provides the most definitive evidence yet of the origins of Mars meteorites while at the same time providing a way to rule out Martian origins of other meteorites.
The same process that allows water to trickle through coffee grinds to create your morning espresso may have played a key role in the formation of the early Earth and influenced its internal organization, according to a new study by scientists at Stanford Univ.'s School of Earth Sciences.
Kerogen is a mixture of organic chemical compounds in sedimentary rocks that is a key intermediate of oil and natural gas. After five years of research, researchers in China have developed a terahertz time-domain spectroscopy method that effectively detects the generation of oil and gas from kerogen without contact or destruction of the sample material.
An important discovery has been made concerning the possible inventory of molecules available to early Earth. Scientists at Arizona State Univ. have found that the Sutter’s Mill meteorite, which exploded in a blazing fireball over California last year, contains organic molecules not previously found in any meteorites. These findings suggest a far greater availability of extraterrestrial organic molecules than previously thought possible.
A Univ. of Houston professor led a team of scientists to uncover the largest single volcano yet documented on Earth. Covering an area roughly equivalent to the British Isles or the state of New Mexico, this volcano, dubbed the Tamu Massif, is nearly as big as the giant volcanoes of Mars, placing it among the largest in the Solar System.
In May 2009, the Mars rover Spirit cracked through a crusty layer of Martian topsoil, sinking into softer underlying sand. The unexpected sand trap permanently mired the vehicle. The mission mishap may have been prevented by a better understanding of terramechanics, which describes the interaction between vehicles and deformable terrain.
Using detailed topographic information obtained from the U.S. Space Shuttle, a joint Australian-German research team has created the highest-resolution maps of Earth’s gravity field to date. The maps feature more than 3 billion points and show gravitational variations up to 40% larger than previously assumed.
Steven Benner of Westheimer Institute for Science and Technology will tell geochemists gathering Thursday at the annual Goldschmidt conference that an oxidized mineral form of the element molybdenum, which may have been crucial to the origin of life, could only have been available on the surface of Mars and not on Earth.
In the midst of an intensifying global water crisis, scientists are reporting development of a more economical way to use one form of the “ice that burns” to turn very salty wastewater from fracking and other oil and gas production methods into water for drinking and irrigation. The method removes more than 90% of the salt.
An analysis of gravity and topography data from Saturn's largest moon, Titan, has revealed unexpected features of the moon's outer ice shell. The best explanation for the findings, say scientists, is that Titan's ice shell is rigid and that relatively small topographic features on the surface are associated with large roots extending into the underlying ocean.
During the Cold War, U.S. and international monitoring agencies could spot nuclear tests and focused on measuring their sizes. Today, they’re looking around the globe to pinpoint much smaller explosives tests. Sandia National Laboratories and Los Alamos National Laboratory have partnered to develop a 3-D model of the Earth’s mantle and crust called SALSA3D, with the purpose to assist in locating explosions.
Using indicator molecules, a team of researchers working in Eurasia has for the first time assessed contributions of old carbon from permafrost soils to riverine carbon headed. They were also able to demonstrate that permafrost soils where the frozen areas are interspersed with gaps release more old carbon than those where the permafrost is uninterrupted.
Reservoirs of silica-rich magma can persist in Earth’s upper crust for hundreds of thousands of years without triggering an eruption, according to new modeling research. That means an area known to have experienced a massive volcanic eruption in the past, such as Yellowstone National Park, could have a large pool of magma festering beneath it and still not be close to going off as it did 600,000 years ago.
With a series of quick blasts and a cloud of dust a 13-story building on the Cal State-East Bay campus crashed to the ground Saturday morning as scientists monitored the impact on the nearby Hayward Fault. U.S. Geological Survey scientists had placed more than 600 seismographs in concentric circles within a mile of the building to pick up the vibrations and verify whether their predictions were correct.
Analysis of ice samples taken by the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) Divide drilling project reveals that warming in Antarctica began about 22,000 years ago, a few thousand years earlier than suggested by previous records. This timing shows that West Antarctica did not "wait for a cue" from the Northern Hemisphere to start warming, as scientists had previously supposed.
Researchers at the Carnegie Institution and the Univ. of Illinois have for the first time been able to experimentally simulate the pressure conditions in the Earth’s mantle to measure thermal conductivity. A new technique using the mantle material magnesium oxide allowed the team to discover that heat transfer is actually lower than what has been claimed by other predictions and amounts to about 60% used by civilization today.