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 Life on Mars Gets Cold Shoulder
In the July 22 issue of the journal Science, Caltech graduate student David Shuster and MIT assistant professor Benjamin Weiss (formerly a Caltech student) report that their studies of Martian meteorites demonstrate that at least several rocks originally located near the surface of Mars have been freezing cold for four billion years. Their work is a novel approach to extracting information on the past climate of Mars through the study of Martian meteorites. In fact, the evidence shows that during the last four billion years, Mars has likely never been sufficiently warm for liquid water to have flowed on the surface for extended periods of time. This implies that Mars has probably never had a hospitable environment for life to have evolved, unless life could have gotten started during the first half-billion years of its existence, when the planet was probably warmer. 01/12/09



 
 Cassini Spies Enceladus' Rolling
NASA's Cassini spacecraft has obtained new detailed images of the south polar region of Saturn's moon Enceladus. The data reveal distinctive geological features and the most youthful terrain seen on the moon. These findings point to a very complex evolutionary history for Saturn's brightest, whitest satellite. 01/12/09



 
 Proving the Case
On Earth, methane is mostly produced by life. The recent detection of methane on Mars therefore has led to much speculation about the possibility for life on the Red Planet. The strategies that may resolve this issue are revealed in the final part of this series on martian methane. 01/12/09



 
 Tenth Planet Discovered
A planet larger than Pluto has been discovered in the outlying regions of the solar system. The planet is a typical member of the Kuiper belt, but its sheer size in relation to the nine planets already known means that it can only be classified as a planet. 01/12/09



 
 Mystery Methane Maker
The detections of methane in the martian atmosphere have challenged scientists to find a source for the gas, which is usually associated with life on Earth. One source that can be ruled out is ancient history: Methane can survive only 600 years in the martian atmosphere before sunlight will destroy it. 01/12/09



 
 Earth Bends Messenger
This week's Earth flyby is the first of a number of critical mission milestones during MESSENGER's circuitous journey toward Mercury orbit insertion. MESSENGER will conduct the first orbital study of Mercury, the least explored of the terrestrial planets that include Venus, Earth and Mars. 01/12/09



 
 Methane on Earth
In recent years, new information -- all of it relevant to the Mars debate -- has emerged about both biological and non-biological sources of Earth's methane. 01/12/09



 
 Snowball Earth
For several years geologists have been gathering evidence indicating that Earth has gone into a deep freeze on several occasions, with ice covering even the equator and with potentially devastating consequences for life. The theory, known as "Snowball Earth," has been lacking a good explanation for what triggered the global glaciations. 01/12/09



 
 Interplanetary Whodunit
Within the last few years, however, two simple chemicals intimately associated with life on Earth have been discovered on Mars. Large amounts of frozen water were discovered at the surface, and traces of methane appeared in the atmosphere. 01/12/09



 
 Five Easy Pieces
We've had a lot of orbiters since the Mariner missions, and not only do we see water features in the land, but we also see evidence of tectonics, or possibly volcanic activity. 01/12/09


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