MarsNews.com
July 20th, 2017

NASA’s Hubble Sees Martian Moon Orbiting the Red Planet

This time-lapse video captures a portion of the path that tiny Phobos takes around Mars. Credit: NASA, ESA, and Z. Levay (STScI)

This time-lapse video captures a portion of the path that tiny Phobos takes around Mars. Credit: NASA, ESA, and Z. Levay (STScI)

The sharp eye of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has captured the tiny moon Phobos during its orbital trek around Mars. Because the moon is so small, it appears star-like in the Hubble pictures.
Over the course of 22 minutes, Hubble took 13 separate exposures, allowing astronomers to create a time-lapse video showing the diminutive moon’s orbital path. The Hubble observations were intended to photograph Mars, and the moon’s cameo appearance was a bonus.

June 2nd, 2017

12 striking facts about Mars that will make you a fan of the red planet

Diana Yukari/Business Insider

Diana Yukari/Business Insider

Humanity has sent dozens of probes and satellites to Mars over the decades.

These plucky spacecraft have beamed back dazzling photos, inspired hit sci-fi movies like “The Martian”, and even gave Elon Musk the idea to colonize the red planet.

But how much do you really know about Earth’s next-door neighbor?

Even though humans have yet to arrive and there are still plenty of mysteries to solve, scientists have figured out a great deal about Mars.

From what it’s like on the surface to the most impressive landmarks to the presence of an ancient ocean (and tsunamis!), keep scrolling to learn 12 incredible facts about Mars you probably didn’t know.

April 4th, 2017

Mars’ Trojans Show Remains of Ancient Planetoid

The paths traced by the known Martian Trojans around L4 or L5 (crosses) relative to Mars (red disk) and the Sun (yellow disk). The dotted circle indicates the average Sun-Mars distance. Right: Enlargement of inset (dashed rectangle) showing the paths of the 8 L5 Trojans: 1998 VF31 (marked as

The paths traced by the known Martian Trojans around L4 or L5 (crosses) relative to Mars (red disk) and the Sun (yellow disk). The dotted circle indicates the average Sun-Mars distance. Right: Enlargement of inset (dashed rectangle) showing the paths of the 8 L5 Trojans: 1998 VF31 (marked as “VF31” – blue), Eureka (red) and the 6 objects identified as family members (amber). The filled disks indicate the relative sizes of the asteroids. Eureka, the largest member, is about 2 km across. Figure credit: Apostolos Christou (E-mail: aac@arm.ac.uk)

Trojan asteroids are a fascinating thing. Whereas the most widely known are those that orbit Jupiter (around its L4 and L5 Lagrange Points), Venus, Earth, Mars, Uranus and Neptune have populations of these asteroids as well. Naturally, these rocky objects are a focal point for a lot of scientific research, since they can tell us much about the formation and early history of the Solar System.

And now, thanks to an international team of astronomers, it has been determined that the Trojan asteroids that orbit Mars are likely the remains of a mini-planet that was destroyed by a collision billions of years ago. Their findings are detailed in a paper that will be published in The Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society later this month.

For the sake of their study, the team – which was led by Galin Borisov and Apostolos Christou of the Armagh Observatory and Planetarium in Northern Ireland, examined the composition of Marian Trojans. This consisted of using spectral data obtained by the XSHOOTER spectrograph on the Very Large Telescope (VLT) and photometric data from the National Astronomical Observatory‘s two-meter telescope, and the William Herschel Telescope.

March 16th, 2017

Budweiser Is Exploring How to Brew Beer on Mars

Credit: Budweiser

Credit: Budweiser

As scientists search for life on Mars and plot a way for people to live there in the future, Budweiser is hard at work figuring out how to make life in space a little more fun by developing a beer made just for the Red Planet.

Today at South by Southwest Interactive in Austin, Texas, Budweiser announced its plans to research and produce a microgravity brew, on a panel moderated by The Martian star, Kate Mara, with retired astronaut Clayton Anderson, who discussed the future of space colonization. Ricardo Marques, vp of Budweiser, and Val Toothman, Anheuser-Busch’s vp of marketing innovation, outlined the experiments and research that will go into the Martian beer.

The biggest challenge of brewing beer a space is the lack of gravity. “When you’re in a zero-gravity environment, a beverage with carbonation is going to be an issue,” Anderson explained. However, Budweiser is researching options to work with the micro-gravity environment that exists on Mars to develop a beer that can be consumed there.

March 10th, 2017

Indicators show potatoes can grow on Mars

Lima (Peru) The International Potato Center (CIP) launched a series of experiments to discover if potatoes can grow under Mars atmospheric conditions and thereby prove they are also able to grow in extreme climates on Earth. This Phase Two effort of CIP’s proof of concept experiment to grow potatoes in simulated Martian conditions began on February 14, 2016 when a tuber was planted in a specially constructed CubeSat contained environment built by engineers from University of Engineering and Technology (UTEC) in Lima based upon designs and advice provided by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in Ames Research Center (NASA ARC), California. Preliminary results are positive.

The Potatoes on Mars project was conceived by CIP to both understand how potatoes might grow in Mars conditions and also see how they survive in the extreme conditions similar to what parts of the world already suffering from climate change and weather shocks are already experiencing.
“Growing crops under Mars-like conditions is an important phase of this experiment,” says Julio Valdivia-Silva, a research associate with the SETI Institute who has worked at NASA’s Ames Research Center (NASA ARC) and now works at UTEC in Lima. “If the crops can tolerate the extreme conditions that we are exposing them to in our CubeSat, they have a good chance to grow on Mars. We will do several rounds of experiments to find out which potato varieties do best. “We want to know what the minimum conditions are that a potato needs to survive,” he said.

February 24th, 2017

Andy Weir’s Best Seller ‘The Martian’ Gets a Classroom-Friendly Makeover

There are more than 160 swear words in Andy Weir’s sci-fi thriller, “The Martian,” including two memorably deployed F-words in the novel’s first three sentences.

The profanity did not strike Mr. Weir as excessive when he wrote the book nearly a decade ago. After all, the story’s narrator, an astronaut named Mark Watney, is stranded alone on Mars with a dwindling supply of food and a rescue mission that is four years away — circumstances that warrant constant cursing.

But shortly after the book came out, Mr. Weir started hearing from a subset of readers who objected to the obscenities.

“I got a lot of emails from science teachers who said, ‘Man I’d love to use your book as a teaching aid, but there’s so much profanity in it that we can’t really do that,’” said Mr. Weir, 44, who is cheerful, hyper-analytical and casually profane, much like his protagonist. “It’s hard to get that by a school board.”

February 22nd, 2017

Did Mars Once Have Three Moons?

Rather than the two Moons we see today, a collision followed by a circumplanetary disk may have given rise to three moons of Mars, where only two survive today. Image credit: Labex UnivEarths / Université Paris Diderot.

Rather than the two Moons we see today, a collision followed by a circumplanetary disk may have given rise to three moons of Mars, where only two survive today. Image credit: Labex UnivEarths / Université Paris Diderot.

Mars’ two moons, Phobos and Deimos, are small, irregular, but orbit in the same equatorial plane as the red planet. Although they’ve long been thought to be captured asteroids, those orbits would be supremely unlikely. Another possibility would have been if a massive impact created a debris disk, similar to how Earth’s Moon was formed. That alternative creates equatorial orbits, but normally produces at least one very large moon. However, a new simulation was performed, showing how an impact could create three moons around Mars, where the largest, inner one decays, creating Martian system we see today.

January 6th, 2017

New image shows Earth and Moon from Mars orbiter

Photo by NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

Photo by NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

There’s a lot of talk in our modern space race about getting to Mars, so every once in a while it’s nice to see what we’d be leaving behind if we did eventually make it to the Red Planet.

Thankfully, images from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter can help us out with that. A new composite image released on Friday shows off Earth and its moon, taken when Mars was about 127 million miles away on Nov. 20.

The photograph is constructed from the best shot of Earth and the best shot of the moon from four sets of images, according to a post by Alfred McEwen, a planetary scientist at the University of Arizona who is the principal investigator for the HiRISE camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

December 13th, 2016

Trump could replace Obama’s asteroid catcher with a SpaceX-backed mission to Mars

Getty Images/Shutterstock/NASA; illustration by Dave Mosher/Business Insider

Getty Images/Shutterstock/NASA; illustration by Dave Mosher/Business Insider

When Donald Trump is sworn in on January 20, there’s a good chance he could scrap one of President Obama’s boldest visions for NASA: the asteroid redirect mission, or ARM.

ARM would ostensibly launch a robotic probe to an asteroid in 2023, capture the space rock, and tow it near the moon. Next, astronauts would ride NASA’s shiny new Space Launch System and Orion space capsule (which aren’t finished yet) to visit and dig into the asteroid sometime in 2025.

But ARM’s slipping deadlines, ballooning costs, redundancy with the recently launched asteroid-sampling OSIRIS-REx probe, and seeming incongruence with the space agency’s larger ambitions to send people to Mars will almost certainly doom the mission, Eric Berger reported for Ars Technica in February. (The Trump-friendly House Committee on Science, Space and Technology also recently sent an unfriendly letter about ARM to NASA, and it appears to be yet another presumed nail in ARM’s coffin.)

So what could a Trump-controlled NASA replace it with?

Physicist and former astronaut John Grunsfeld, who recently retired as the leader of NASA’s science mission directorate, is pitching a popular idea involving a retrieving a sample of Martian soil, as Berger reported on Monday.

October 31st, 2016

Look up: Halloween offers treats for stargazers

Dusk falls (end of civil twilight) tonight at 6:45. The new moon makes for a very dark sky, so equip your trick or treaters with a flashlight and make sure they are otherwise easy for motorists to see.

That dark sky is great for sidewalk astronomy. If you have a telescope gathering dust under a bed or in a closet somewhere, get it out and enjoy the night sky. You don’t have to be an expert to share either. I like to have a step stool handy for smaller trick-or-treaters and a card table to set plastic pumpkins or masks while looking through the telescope.