Welcome to Science Saturday! Tantalize your neurons this week with life on Mars discovered in 1976, how dino destruction sent Earth-life into space, auroras on Uranus (no, this is not a euphemism), and early subspace communication technology. All this and more, plus our gadget of the week: augmented reality contact lenses!
Mars Viking Mission May Have Found Life in 1976
The Mars Viking mission, designed to determine whether or not bacterial life exists on the Red Planet back in 1976, sent back data that scientists say shows no evidence for the existence of life — until now. Researchers have taken a second look at the data and say that there is in fact evidence for microbes crawling around on Mars. According to the study, published in the International Journal of Aeronautical and Space Sciences, in which Viking results were analyzed purely mathematically, the processes that occurred during the experiment are too complex to represent simple geological ones and therefor must be biological in origin.
“On the basis of what we’ve done so far, I’d say I’m 99 percent sure there’s life there,” biologist Joseph Miller told Discovery News. Other scientists are quick to point out that the methods employed by this controversial study are not well calibrated for differentiating between biological and non-biological processes here on Earth, and more needs to be done to determine whether these new claims are well founded.
An image taken by the Viking lander in 1976
That Dinosaur-Killing Asteroid May Have Sent Life Out into The Solar System (and Beyond)
Some 65 million years ago, a 10-km diameter asteroid smashed into Earth, creating tsunamis, major changes in climate, and, oh yeah, the extinction of much of the land-based life on Earth (including the mighty dinosaur). Now, scientists say that this impact may have also ejected life-bearing rocks into space — seeding the solar system and even nearby exoplanets with the ingredients for life. Many of these bio-rocks would have smashed into the moons of Jupiter, the scientists say, since Jupiter itself would pull in so many of the asteroids due to its massive gravitational pull. So, if we do find life on Europa or a nearby exoplanet, will we find life that originated right here on Earth?
Giant asteroid ended some life on Earth, may have seeded Earth-life in space
Hubble Gets First Ever Glimpse of Auroras on Uranus
In a stroke of photographic luck, scientists pointing the Hubble Space Telescope towards our distance planetary neighbor Uranus managed to take snapshots of aurorae lighting up the atmosphere of the icy gas giant. Auroras on Uranus have been measured before by passing spacecraft, but they’ve never been imaged. From the new images, scientists know that the flashes of light only last minutes, unlike the hours-long light shows that occur here on Earth).
Read the scientific journal article.
Aurorae on Uranus imaged by Hubble
Send a Subspace Message to Starfleet: Developing Tech for Communicating, Networking, Sending e-mail in Space
Optimistically, human exploration of space will be growing and booming in the coming decades, and those spacefaring people will need a way to send and receive information between spacecraft, ground stations, and of course Earth. Researchers at ESA are investigating ways to create an interplanetary internet of sorts using networks of satellites and satellite relay stations, for when that subspace message absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.
Read more at Science Daily.
NASA & ESA already use satellite networks to send data to and from Mars
Gadget of the Week: Geordi LaForge-Approved Contact Lenses
Darpa has teamed up with Innovega to design prototype contact lenses made to work with compact heads up display (HUD) units, according to BBC. The tech could allow soldiers to get an unprecedented view of a battlefield by allowing the lens-wearer to focus on two things at once: the world around them as well as the HUD device displaying all kinds of information. Innovega says the lenses could easily be used with sunglasses-style HUDs with built in projectors.
HUD-compatible contact lenses — would Geordi approve?
Not enough science for you? Here’s a warp-speed look at some more science tid-bits that are worth a peek.
- The world’s most isolated cave is home to 4 million years old superbug
- Emperor penguin numbers double previous estimates thanks to new satellite images of Antarctica