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New data challenge old views about evolution of early life

December 26, 2012 2:37 pm | News | Comments

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.

Clays on Mars: More plentiful than expected

December 21, 2012 9:30 am | News | Comments

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.

Asteroid surfaces more complex than previously thought

December 21, 2012 8:39 am | News | Comments

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.

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Grains gang up to bear brunt of major impacts

December 12, 2012 10:38 am | News | Comments

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.

Detecting tunnels using seismic waves not as simple as it sounds

December 10, 2012 1:09 pm | News | Comments

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.

Apollo's lunar dust data being restored

December 7, 2012 11:43 am | by Elizabeth Zubritsky, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center | News | Comments

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.

Below surface, moon reveals a "shattered" history

December 6, 2012 12:07 pm | by Alicia Chang, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

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.

New test adds to scientists' understanding of Earth's history

December 5, 2012 12:37 pm | News | Comments

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.

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DNA analysis of microbes in a fracking site yields surprises

December 3, 2012 3:15 pm | by Pam Frost Gorder, Ohio State University | News | Comments

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.

Mars rover Curiosity: No surprise in first soil test

December 3, 2012 2:55 pm | by Alicia Chang, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

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.

Geoscientists cite need for basic research to unleash new energy sources

December 3, 2012 12:26 pm | News | Comments

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.

Scientists simulate Earth's creation to solve core problem

November 19, 2012 8:33 am | News | Comments

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?

Meteorites reveal warm water existed on Mars

November 15, 2012 11:11 am | News | Comments

New research by the University of Leicester and The Open University into evidence of water on Mars, sufficiently warm enough to support life, has been recently published. The study determined that water temperatures on the Red Planet ranged from 50 C to 150 C. Microbes on Earth can live in similar waters.

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Survey technique uncovers details of mining history

November 14, 2012 2:59 pm | News | Comments

Land subsidence due to historical mining can, along with natural fault-related movements, change landscapes over surprisingly short periods of time. A new surveying technique developed in the U.K. is giving geologists their first detailed picture of how ground movement associated with historical mining is changing the face of that country’s landscape.

Surveying Earth's interior with atomic clocks

November 12, 2012 10:42 am | News | Comments

Ultraprecise portable atomic clocks are on the verge of a breakthrough. An international team, lead by scientists from the University of Zurich, shows that it may be possible to use the latest generation of atomic clocks to resolve structures within the Earth.

Official backs studying quake risks at nuke plants

November 9, 2012 4:51 pm | by Ray Henry, Associated Press | News | Comments

In March, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission instructed power companies to re-evaluate the seismic and flooding hazards that their power plants face. Recent earthquakes in the eastern U.S., coupled with evidence of the results of the 2011 earthquake in Japan, have highlighted the importance of this effort in order to implement new design measures.

Geologists finally go digital

November 5, 2012 10:58 am | News | Comments

Not very long ago a professional geologist's field kit consisted of a Brunton compass, rock hammer, magnifying glass, and field notebook. No longer. In the field and in the labs and classrooms, studying Earth has undergone an explosive change in recent years, fueled by technological leaps in handheld digital devices, especially tablet computers and GigaPan cameras.

Satellites track rapid changes in the Earth’s core

October 23, 2012 10:05 am | News | Comments

Changes in the earth's magnetic field in a region that stretches from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean have a close relationship with variations of gravity in this area. Because geophysicists can follow these changes using highly accurate measurements from certain satellites, they can make conclusions about what is happening in the Earth’s outer core.

Ice sheet retreat controlled by the landscape

October 17, 2012 12:56 pm | News | Comments

A U.K. research team has recently determined that the geometry of channels beneath the ice can be a strong control on ice behaviour, temporarily hiding the signals of retreat. The findings, which provide the first simulation of past ice-sheet retreat and collapse over a ten thousand year period in Antarctica, shed new light on what makes ice stable or unstable and will help refine predictions of future ice extent and global sea-level rise, the researchers say.

Earth’s brief polarity reversal linked to other extreme events

October 16, 2012 12:45 pm | News | Comments

For the first time, three separately found extreme Earth events have been compared by researchers who now believe they may be linked. About 41,000 years ago, a complete and rapid reversal of the geomagnetic field occurred, lasting for just a few hundred years. Around the same time, a super volcano erupted and major climate changes occurred.

Solar wind particles likely source of water locked inside lunar soils

October 15, 2012 11:12 am | News | Comments

The most likely source of the water locked inside soils on the moon's surface is the constant stream of charged particles from the sun known as the solar wind, a University of Michigan researcher and his colleagues have concluded. Over the last five years, spacecraft observations and new laboratory measurements of Apollo lunar samples have overturned the long-held belief that the moon is bone-dry.

Surprises found in Mars rock touched by Curiosity

October 12, 2012 10:18 am | News | Comments

Two instruments on the Mars rover Curiosity were used to study the chemical makeup of a football-size rock called "Jake Matijevic". In addition to the ChemCam, which had examined a number of rocks, NASA for the first time used an X-ray spectrometer on the new rock, finding that its composition resembles some unusual rocks found in Earth’s interior.

Mars rover Curiosity finds signs of ancient stream

September 30, 2012 6:01 pm | by Alicia Chang, AP Science Writer | News | Comments

The NASA rover Curiosity has beamed back pictures of bedrock that suggest a fast-moving stream, possibly waist-deep, once flowed on Mars. There have been previous signs that water existed on the red planet long ago, but the images released Thursday showing pebbles rounded off, likely by water, offered the most convincing evidence so far of an ancient streambed.

Study: Buddhist idol, found by Nazis, is made of meteorite

September 26, 2012 5:51 pm | News | Comments

It sounds like an artifact from an Indiana Jones film; a 1,000 year-old ancient Buddhist statue which was first recovered by a Nazi expedition in 1938 has been analysed by scientists and has been found to be carved from a meteorite. The findings reveal the priceless statue, which is the first known carving of a human in a meteorite, to be a rare class of meteorite that fell 15,000 years ago.

Japanese research vessel sets a new world drilling-depth record

September 7, 2012 9:52 am | News | Comments

Scientific deep sea drilling vessel “Chikyu” has set a world new record by drilling down and obtaining rock samples from deeper than 2,111 m (6,926 feet) below the seafloor off Shimokita Peninsula of Japan in the northwest Pacific Ocean. “Chikyu” is designed to reach the deeper part of the Earth such as the mantle, the plate boundary seisomogenic zones and the deep biosphere.

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