This week in Science Friday we have more news on just how much water there is in our solar system. And we meet the water bear — extreme solar system survivors. Plus we hear from Star Trek’s own Dr. Carolyn Porco speaking about the Cassini mission and learn the secrets to crazy alien technologies behind flying saucers. All this plus our gadget of the week: Seabreacher Submarine, and video of the week: visible magnetic fields.
Lunar Discovery: Evidence for Water on the Moon
Has NASA discovered Lake Armstrong? One of the biggest lunar discoveries of the decade — proof that the moon may have had water since its formation — was announced Wednesday in the latest edition of Nature. A team of geologists and geochemists disproved a longstanding belief that Earth’s nearest neighbor is bone-dry. The source of the discovery was two 1-gram samples of moon rocks brought back to Earth more than 35 years ago by the Apollo 15 and Apollo 17 lunar missions. Volatile elements (like water) provide insight into models of planet formation, and play a fundamental role in planetary evolution
Ok, Not quite like this, but locked away in magma in the moon’s interior
Mercury’s got water too
Enceladus, Mars, The Moon and now water on Mercury? After analyzing data from the Messenger spacecraft’s January flyby of the planet closest to the sun, scientists were "astonished" to find evidence of water. On it’s flyby, Messenger scooped up ions from Mercury’s "exosphere" and along with the expected sodium, potassium, and calcium there was also a "large amounts" of water ions. It isn’t yet clear where the water is coming from but scientists have three possibilities: ice in small permanently shadowed areas on the poles, comets, or ‘the process of chemical sputtering.’ More on this at The Planetary Society.
A shot of Mercury from Messenger, is there ice in those shadows?
Meet the Water Bear: The Solar System’s Most Extreme Survivors
Meet the water bear. These cute, unassuming little invertebrates, also called tardigrades, only grow to be about 1.5 millimeters long, but over 1,000 species of them exist, and they have a power unmatched by any other species on Earth. No one knows why, but tardigrades can withstand temperatures as cold as liquid nitrogen, radiation doses that would kill a human 100 times over, thrive in an outer-space-like vacuum, and survive without water for years. These little guys are so cool, they have their own website at tardigrades.com
Tardigrades, or water bears, can brave space without a suit
Dr. Carolyn Porco – “Fly Me to the Moons of Saturn”
Science advisor to Abrams’s Star Trek, planetary scientist, and leader of the imaging science team on the Cassini-Huygens mission presently in orbit around Saturn, will be speaking at the Mars Society Convention this August. As director of CICLOPS, Dr. Porco has overseen the greatest visual survey of any planetary system, which will guide future explorers to Saturn and its icy moons. You can register for the convention online, and view a three part lecture by Porco available on YouTube (below).
Secrets of Flying Saucers Discovered!
An engineer from the University of Florida has figured out the secret behind the crazy alien tech that lets flying saucers zip around: ionized air. He plans to make a prototype showing off his discovery. How’s it work? The surface of the saucer-shaped craft will be covered with electrodes that will ionize the surrounding air to create plasma. The polarized plasma will repel the non-polarized air, creating lift and thrust, with the pilot controlling it by diverting the electrical charge to different parts of the surface.
Own your own flying saucer!
Gadget of the Week: Seabreacher Submarine
This new nature-inspired dolphin-shaped submarine — although it reminds me of careening through water and air in a sleek plastic coffin — looks like one heck of a ride. A follow-up to the original one-seat design (called the Dolphin), the Seabreacher uses the same canopy as an F-22 fighter jet, keeping the roomy interior nice and dry inside a watertight seal. The best part is how it jumps: Made to move like a dolphin, the vessel uses the downward lift of its wings to jump out of the water, and it can even do barrel rolls. See it at Innespace.
Video of the Week: Magnetic Fields Made Visible
A film group, called Semiconductor, created “Magnetic Movie,” where they’ve turned audio recordings of magnetic fields into arty animations. This innovative work won them honors as Best Film at Cutting Edge at the British Animation Awards 2008.
Here’s a warp-speed look at science tid-bits that didn’t quite make the cut, but nonetheless merit mention.
- Astronauts handle explosives on daring space walk
- Phoenix Lander continues testing Martian soil
- A telescope made of moon dust
- Journey to the REAL center of the Earth