SCIENCE IN THE NEWS WEEKLY
On Mars, Ice and Salt
An electrical short in the Phoenix Lander's mechanical arm delayed its exploration of the Martian north pole last week, but new photos on Saturday revealed that the spacecraft's thrusters had uncovered a large patch of ice, which is exactly what scientists hope to sample and analyze.
But the planet may be too salty to support life as we know it. At least that is the conclusion of a study of minerals near the Martian surface in the Meridiani plain. The rover Opportunity discovered ancient deposits of magnesium sulphate there that appear to have been left behind by salty water.
Even beyond our system, there may be many Earth-like planets in the cosmos. A four-year study of 400 stars found that as many as 30 percent possess close-in, relatively small planets with some Earthly characteristics.
And an amateur stargazer has been credited with discovering the fastest rotating natural object in our solar system. The space rock, as big as a house, spins once every minute. It zoomed past earth in April.
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PODCASTS: From Balloons to Space Stations: Studying Cosmic Rays
Cosmic rays have mysterious qualities about them that scientists continue to research in order to better understand their origins and composition. Dr. Eun-Suk Seo, a professor of physics at the University of Maryland, and her colleagues, fly enormous balloons as large as a football stadium and a volume of 40-million-cubic feet for extended periods over Antarctica to study particles coming from cosmic rays before they break up in the atmosphere.
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