In a Mars first, the Curiosity rover drilled into a rock and prepared to dump an aspirin-sized pinch of powder into its onboard laboratories for closer inspection. Using the drill at the end of its 7-foot-long robotic arm, Curiosity on Friday chipped away at a flat, veined rock bearing numerous signs of past water flow. The exercise was so complex that engineers spent several days commanding Curiosity to tap the rock outcrop, drill test holes and perform a "mini-drill" in anticipation of the real show.
A new Rice University-led study finds the real estate mantra “location, location, location” may also explain one of Earth’s enduring climate mysteries. The study suggests that Earth’s repeated flip-flopping between greenhouse and icehouse states over the past 500 million years may have been driven by the episodic flare up of volcanoes at key locations where enormous amounts of carbon dioxide are poised for release into the atmosphere.
Researchers searching the galaxy for planets that could pass the litmus test of sustaining water-based life must find whether those planets fall in what’s known as a habitable zone. New work, led by a team of Penn State University researchers, will help scientists in that search.
Ridges in impact craters on Mars appear to be fossils of cracks in the Martian surface, formed by minerals deposited by flowing water. Water flowing beneath the surface suggests life may once have been possible on Mars.
New information coming from researchers analyzing spectrometer data from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), which looked down on the floor of McLaughlin Crater on the Red Planet’s surface, suggests the formation of the carbonates and clay in a groundwater-fed lake within the closed basin of the crater. The depth of the crater may have helped allow the lake to form.
Warmer temperatures due to climate change could cause soils to release additional carbon into the atmosphere, thereby enhancing climate change—but that effect diminishes over the long term. The new study sheds new light on how soil microorganisms respond to temperature and could improve predictions of how climate warming will affect the carbon dioxide flux from soils.
It looked like a fireball in the sky. It created a sonic boom. It vaporized upon entering the atmosphere. It's all of the above: The Sutter's Mill Meteorite had the force of 4 kilotons of TNT upon descent and spilled samples of itself over the towns of Columa and Lotus in northern California when it hit Earth last spring. And now a consortium of scientists has determined that the Sutter's Mill Meteorite is the most pristine sample yet collected of the rare Carbonaceous-Mighei chondrite class of meteorites.
In December 2011, Caltech mineral-physics expert Jennifer Jackson reported that she and a team of researchers had used diamond-anvil cells to compress tiny samples of iron—the main element of the Earth's core. By squeezing the samples to reproduce the extreme pressures felt at the core, the team was able to get a closer estimate of the melting point of iron. At the time, the measurements that the researchers made were unprecedented in detail. Now, they have taken that research one step further by adding infrared laser beams to the mix.
Scientists at the Universities of York and Leeds have made a significant discovery about the cause of the destruction of ozone over oceans. They have established that the majority of ozone-depleting iodine oxide observed over the remote ocean comes from a previously unknown marine source.
An international collaboration has discovered that the Earth's core formed under more oxidizing condition's than previously proposed. Through a series of laser-heated diamond anvil cell experiments at high pressure (350,000 to 700,000 atmospheres of pressure) and temperatures (5,120 to 7,460 F), the team demonstrated that the depletion of siderophile elements can be produced by core formation under more oxidizing conditions than earlier predictions.
Magma forms far deeper than geologists previously thought, according to new research at Rice University. The research group put very small samples of peridotite under very large pressures in a Rice laboratory to determine that rock can and does liquify, at least in small amounts, as deep as 250 kilometers in the mantle beneath the ocean floor. This explains several puzzles that have bothered scientists.
Images taken by the framing camera onboard NASA's space probe Dawn show two enormous craters in the southern hemisphere of the asteroid Vesta, a remarkable protoplanet that is a time capsule of early planet formation in the solar system. Scientists have recently found that the asteroids that created these impact features also delivered dark, carbonaceous material to the protoplanet.
A series of rapid environmental changes in East Africa roughly 2 million years ago may be responsible for driving human evolution, according to researchers at Penn State University and Rutgers University.
A research team led by biogeochemists at the University of California, Riverside has tested a popular hypothesis in paleo-ocean chemistry, and proved it false. The team has ruled out zinc as a factor in the delayed diversification of single-celled and multicellular organisms.
A new study indicates that clay minerals, rocks that usually form when water is present for long periods of time, cover a larger portion of Mars than previously thought. In fact, the research team say clays were in some of the rocks studied by Opportunity when it landed at Eagle crater in 2004. But Opportunity doesn’t have the capability any longer to detect these clays, which were found using spectroscopic analysis from the Mars Reconnaissance Observer.
Meteorites that had fallen from an asteroid impact that lit up the skies over California and Nevada in April were quickly recovered by scientists and recent studies report that this space rock is an unusual example from a rare group known as carbonaceous chondrites, which contain some of the oldest material in the solar system. It is also complex, containing molecules such as water and amino acids.
High-speed video of projectiles slamming into a bed of disks has given scientists a new microscopic picture of the way a meteorite or missile transfers the energy of its impact to sand and dirt grains. To their surprise, the transition is jerky, not smooth. The finding may change the way scientists model meteorite and missile impacts and their effects.
Tunnels are often used to smuggle people and illicit goods between the border of the U.S. and Mexico. Researchers have attempted to use seismic waves to find these shallow tunnels, but current methods often miss them because of what is called the “halo effect”, in which fracturing and other geological anomalies create diffuse boundaries that hide open areas. A two-year study has shed light on this phenomenon and may lead to better results.
Forty years after the last Apollo spacecraft launched, the science from those missions continues to shape our view of the moon. In one of the latest developments, readings from the Apollo 14 and 15 dust detectors have been restored by scientists. Digital data from these two experiments were not archived before, and it's thought that roughly the last year-and-a-half of the data have never been studied.
Results presented Wednesday at the meeting of the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco show that the moon took a beating in its early days, far more than previously believed. Detailed gravity mapping by NASA’s Ebb and Flow spacecraft show the extent to which the moon was broken up and shattered from bombardment by asteroids and comets.
A new study provides the first direct chronological test of sequence stratigraphy, a tool for exploring Earth's natural resources. The model allows geologists to better understand how sedimentary rocks are related to one another in time and space and predict what types of rocks are located in different areas. The information may help scientists more reliably interpret various aspects of Earth's history.
Researchers have made a genetic analysis of the microbes living deep inside a deposit of Marcellus Shale at a hydraulic fracturing. They expected to find many tough microbes, such as single-celled archaea, suited to extreme environments. Instead, they found very few genetic biomarkers for archaea, and many more for species that derive from bacteria.They also found that the populations of microbes changed dramatically over a short period of time.
Results are in from the first test of Martian soil by the rover Curiosity: So far, there is no definitive evidence that the red planet has the chemical ingredients to support life. Scientists said Monday a scoop of sandy soil analyzed by the rover's chemistry lab contained water and a mix of chemicals, but not the complex carbon-based compounds considered necessary for microbial life.
Geological and environmental challenges facing developers of renewable energy and shale gas resources will be a dominant at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union this week in San Francisco. Experts on shale gas and hydraulic fracturing will be speaking about enhanced geothermal technology, which takes advantage of fracking techniques to access deep well thermal energy, delivered as steam.
Using computer simulations, researchers from the University of California, Davis and the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing have helped to solve a mystery that scientists have puzzled over since the early 1950s: What accounts for Earth's core density?