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Researchers discover glass deposits on Mars, possibility of past life on the planet increases

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Washington: In a pioneering feat, researchers have discovered glass deposits on the Red Planet, providing a delicate window into the possibility of past life on the planet.

Using data from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), the team from Brown University detected deposits of glass within impact craters on Mars formed in the searing heat of a violent impact.

Previous research has shown that ancient biosignatures can be preserved in impact glass.

“Knowing this, we wanted to go look for them on Mars and that is what we did here. Before this paper, no one had been able to definitively detect them on the Martian surface,” said Kevin Cannon, PhD student at Brown University.

Cannon and co-author professor Jack Mustard showed that large glass deposits are present in several ancient yet well-preserved craters scattered across the Martian surface.

These glass deposits are relatively common impact features on Mars and could be targets for future exploration.

To identify minerals and rock types remotely, scientists measure the spectra of light reflected off the planet’s surface.

But impact glass does not have a particularly strong spectral signal.

“Glasses tend to be spectrally bland or weakly expressive, so signatures from the glass tend to be overwhelmed by the chunks of rock mixed in with it. But Kevin found a way to tease that signal out,” Mustard said.

In the lab, Kevin mixed together powders with a similar composition of Martian rocks and fired them in an oven to form glass and measured the spectral signal from that glass.

Once he had the signal from the lab glass, he used an algorithm designed to pick out similar signals in data from NASA’s MRO.

The technique was able to pinpoint deposits around several crater central peaks.

The fact that the deposits were found on central peaks is a good indicator that they have an impact origin.

Knowing that impact glass can preserve ancient signs of life opens a potential new strategy in the search for ancient Martian life.

“We think these could be interesting targets for future exploration. In fact, we have a particular spot in mind,” the authors said.

The research was published online in the journal Geology. (IANS)

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Emmy Awards 2018: NASA Nominated for Stunning Footage of Cassini voyage to Saturn

The Emmy Awards nominations have turned out to be more diverse than last year

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The Primetime Emmys will be awarded by the ATAS in Los Angeles on September 17.
The Primetime Emmys will be awarded by the ATAS in Los Angeles on September 17. Flickr

The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (ATAS) has nominated NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) for Outstanding Original Interactive Program for its coverage of the Cassini mission’s Grand Finale at Saturn.

The Primetime Emmys will be awarded by the ATAS in Los Angeles on September 17.

The Creative Arts Emmys, which include interactive awards, will be presented during a separate ceremony on September 15 at the Microsoft Theatre in Los Angeles, NASA said in a statement on Friday.

In 2017, after nearly 20 years in space and 13 years revealing the wonders of Saturn, NASA’s Cassini orbiter was running out of fuel. As a final act, Cassini began a whole new mission — its Grand Finale, where it journeyed into the unknown and ended with a spectacular plunge into the planet.

Cassini’s first, daring dive into the unexplored space between the giant planet and its rings kicked off the campaign on April 26 in 2017.

NASA's stunning footage of Cassini lands Emmy nomination
NASA’s stunning footage of Cassini lands Emmy nomination. Pixabay

It culminated on September 15, 2017, with live coverage of Cassini’s plunge into Saturn’s atmosphere, with the spacecraft sending back science to the very last second.

JPL created a multi-month digital campaign to celebrate the mission’s science and engineering accomplishments and communicate why the spacecraft must meet its end in the skies of Saturn.

The multi-faceted campaign included regular updates on Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and the Cassini mission website, multiple live social, web and TV broadcasts during which reporter and public questions were answered.

Also Read: NASA Juno Data Indicate Another Possible Volcano on Jupiter Moon Io

A dramatic short film to communicate the mission’s story and preview its endgame; multiple 360-degree videos, including NASA’s first 360-degree livestream of a mission event from inside JPL mission control.

The Emmy Awards nominations have turned out to be more diverse than last year. Fantasy drama “Game of Thrones” has earned 22 nominations for the coveted Awards, while HBO’s 17-year streak as the most nominated network has been broken by Netflix. (IANS)