NASA confirms: Liquid Water exists on Mars!

Water on Mars

Liquid water exists on the surface of Mars during the planet’s warmer seasons, according to new research published in Nature Geosciences. This revelation comes from new spectral data gathered by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), a spacecraft that studies the planet from orbit. The orbiter analyzed the chemistry of weird dark streaks that have been known to appear and disappear seasonally on the Martian surface. The analysis confirms that these streaks are formed by briny — or salty — water flowing downhill on Mars.

NASA has advertised these findings as the solution to a major Mars mystery: does the Red Planet truly have liquid water on its surface? Researchers have known that water exists in ice form on Mars, but it’s never been confirmed if water can remain in a liquid state. The space agency is claiming that we now have that answer.

This isn’t the first study to suggest liquid water is present in some form on Mars. Scientists have theorized for years that Mars was once home to a large ocean more than 4 billion years ago. And recent findings from the Mars Curiosity rover suggest that liquid water exists just underneath the Martian surface. The discovery of water on Mars has almost become a joke among planetary scientists. Alfred McEwen, a planetary geologist at Planetary Image Research Laboratory who also worked on this research, wrote in Scientific American that the studies have become extremely commonplace: “Congratulations — you’ve discovered water on Mars for the 1,000th time!” he joked.

Today’s findings seem to offer more direct evidence of liquid water than most, though the study only confirms what NASA has long suspected — that flowing liquid water forms the strange, dark streaks that have been observed on Mars. These streaks — called recurring slope lineae — were first observed by the MRO spacecraft in 2010. The lines are blackish and narrow at less than 16 feet across. During the warmer seasons, the streaks grow thicker and longer; they then fade and shrink at times when Mars is colder.

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Breaking News: Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo Crashes During Flight Test!

Virgin Galactic said its SpaceShipTwo rocket plane suffered a “serious anomaly” during a powered test flight on Friday that resulted in the loss of the aircraft.

The anomaly occurred after the plane was released from its WhiteKnightTwo carrier airplane and fired up its rocket engine in flight for the first time in more than nine months. Sources said SpaceShipTwo exploded in midflight, and debris fell onto California’s Mojave Desert.

“The WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft landed safely,” Virgin Galactic said in a statement. “Our first concern is the status of the pilots, which is unknown at this time.”

Two pilots fly in SpaceShipTwo’s cockpit during a test. Those pilots are equipped with parachutes, and after the anomaly, chutes were reportedly sighted over the Mojave Air and Space Port in California, the base from which SpaceShipTwo and its WhiteKnightTwo carrier plane took off.

Photographer Ken Brown, who was covering the test flight, told NBC News that he saw an explosion in the air and later came upon SpaceShipTwo debris scattered across a small area of the desert. Mojave airport’s director, Stuart Witt, told NBC News that the craft crashed north of Mojave. He said a news conference was scheduled for 2 p.m. PT (5 p.m. ET).

During the nine months since the previous rocket-powered test in January, Virgin Galactic switched SpaceShipTwo’s fuel mixture from a rubber-based compound to a plastic-based mix — in hopes that the new formulation would boost the hybrid rocket engine’s performance.

Before Friday’s flight, the most recent aerial outing was on Oct. 7, when SpaceShipTwo took an unpowered, gliding flight back to the Mojave runway.

The latest test got off to a slow start. SpaceShipTwo spent more than three hours on the Mojave runway, slung beneath its WhiteKnightTwo mothership, while the ground team assessed whether the weather was right for flight. The go-ahead was finally given for takeoff at 9:19 a.m. PT (12:19 p.m. ET).

It took WhiteKnightTwo about 45 minutes to get to 50,000 feet, the altitude at which it released SpaceShipTwo for free flight.

The aim of such flights was to test SpaceShipTwo in preparation for suborbital trips to the edge of outer space. Virgin Galactic had said SpaceShipTwo’s first trip to an outer-space altitude — usually defined as 100 kilometers, or 62 miles — could have taken place before the end of the year, depending on how the tests went. And the company’s billionaire founder, Richard Branson, was hoping to ride on the first commercial flight next year.

More than 700 customers have paid as much as $250,000 for a ride on the rocket plane.

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The Earth Is About to Be Bombarded By Two Solar Storms!

This is not your usual weather forecast. Big storms are brewing. Your umbrella won’t help, but you might want to keep a flashlight handy.

These storms are coming from the sun. It’s raining down a huge amount of radiation. We’re safe, but it could affect power grids, radios and satellites.

Experts say the combined energy from two recent solar events will arrive at Earth on Saturday, prompting the Space Weather Prediction Center to issue a strong geomagnetic storm watch.

Wait. What kind of watch? Basically, the sun is a giant ball of gas: 92.1% hydrogen and 7.8% helium. Every now and then, it spits out a giant burst of radiation called a coronal mass ejection.

These ejections are sometimes associated with solar flares, the most explosive events in the solar system. The sun has released two ejections in the past two days, and both are linked to solar flares. NASA says the second flare is an X1.6 class, putting it in the most intense category.

The energy from those two ejections is heading toward Earth.

Space weather experts aren’t sure what this solar storm will do.

“This is a pretty strong solar storm, and we just won’t know until it gets here” what it will do, said CNN meteorologist Chad Myers.

Earth’s atmosphere usually protects us humans, but you might want to keep a flashlight handy. Solar storms can knock out power, interfere with GPS and radio communications — including those on commercial airliners — and damage satellites.

“People on the ground really don’t have to worry,” said Lika Guhathakurta, a program scientist with NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. She said solar storms don’t affect humans on the ground, although astronauts could be at risk.

And our technology.

But don’t worry too much. NASA can take steps to protect the crew members on the International Space Station, and satellite operators can turn off sensitive sensors on satellites to mitigate the risk to your smartphones and wi-fi connection. There may be temporary glitches, though, Guhathakurta says.

And if there is a major issue, scientists are taking precautions to make sure all the important parties are prepared.

“FEMA has been notified of these events just in case,” Thomas Berger, director of NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center, said at a Thursday news conference.

On March 13, 1989, a solar storm knocked out power for the entire province of Quebec for 12 hours. Power grids in the United States were affected but didn’t have blackouts. NASA says some satellites tumbled out of control for hours during what’s known as the Quebec Blackout. The space shuttle Discovery was in orbit at the time and had a mysterious sensor problem that went away after the storm, NASA says.

On the upside, solar storms also create beautiful aurora. Aurora watchers in the northern United States who are outside major metropolitan areas should be watching the skies on Thursday and Friday nights.

People in the southern part of the nation are less likely to get the kind of splendid aurora sights that people in the Northeast and Alaska will see, but it might not hurt for them to take a glance at the sky anyway, just in case.

Although it won’t be as intense a view as the one northerners will get, “if you want to take a look on Friday night, why not?” Berger said.

Felix Baumgartner has landed safely on earth – and in the record books – after a supersonic leap from the edge of space.

Roswell, New Mexico: Extreme athlete Felix Baumgartner has landed on Earth after a jump from the stratosphere in what could be the world’s first supersonic skydive.

Baumgartner landed in eastern New Mexico desert minutes after jumping from 28,000 feet, or 24 miles.

He lifted his arms in victory shortly after landing.

He took off in a pressurized capsule carried by a 55-story ultra-thin helium balloon. He jumped from more than three times the height of the average cruising altitude for jetliners.

Baumgartner was expected to hit a speed of 690 mph before activating his parachute about 5,000 above the ground in southeastern New Mexico.

Congrats Felix! And Thank You For Watching Live The Event On Elie Chahine’s Blog.

Watch Live Now: Felix Baumgartner Freefall from the Edge Of Space !

Update: Mission abort due to heavy winds. 

He is going to jump out of a balloon at more than 120,000ft (36.5km) above Roswell, New Mexico.

In the near vacuum at that altitude, he should accelerate beyond about 690mph (1,110km/h) within 40 seconds.

If all goes well, he will open a parachute near the ground to land softly in the desert, 10 minutes later.

Felix Baumgartner

The Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner will attempt to become the first human to break the sound barrier unaided by a vehicle.

The 43-year-old adventurer – famous for jumping off skyscrapers – is under no illusions about the dangers he faces.

Where he is going, the air pressure is less than 2% of what it is at sea level, and it is impossible to breathe without an oxygen supply.

Others who have tried to break the existing records for the highest, fastest and longest freefalls have lost their lives in the process.

“If something goes wrong, the only thing that might help you is God,” says Baumgartner.

“Because if you run out of luck, if you run out of skills, there is nothing left and you have to really hope he is not going to let you down.”

Weather permitting, lift-off from Roswell airport should occur about 0700 local time (1300 GMT; 1400BST).