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Six NASA scientists to emerge from Mars-like habitat

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New York, Sep 17 (IANS) Six Nasa scientists, who were living in isolation on a Mars-like habitat in Hawaii since January to determine astronauts’ psychology and requirements during manned space missions, will return to civilization on Sunday.

In January, the crew of four men and two women were quarantined on a vast plain below the summit of the giant volcano Mauna Loa — one of Hawaii’s five volcanoes and the world’s largest.

They remained there for an eight-month simulation activity to gain a better understanding and to get a bit of a feel for how astronauts would respond mentally, physically, and most important, psychologically to a long-term on a manned space mission as well as in an inhospitable environment.

NASA Scientists Map Water on Moon Using India’s Chandrayaan-1 Spacecraft.

“Long term space travel is absolutely possible,” Laura Lark, specialist at the Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation (HI-SEAS) project, led by the University of Hawaii at Manoa, was quoted as saying to the inquisitr.com on Saturday.

“There are certainly technical challenges to be overcome. There are certainly human factors to be figured out, that’s part of what HI-SEAS is for. But I think that overcoming those challenges is just a matter of effort. We are absolutely capable of it,” Lark added.

Their experiment included everything from being forced to live in the cramped habitat of the dome to having to rely solely on packaged food – and virtually no contact with another living soul.

The atmosphere was as similar as possible to what life on Mars would be. All of the communications the crew could have with the outside world was subjected to a 20-minute delay — the time it takes for signals to get from Mars to the Earth.

The data gathered during this mission can better help in choosing crews that have certain traits and a better chance of doing well during a potential two-to-three year Mars expedition, which would then pave the way for humans settlement in the red planet by around 2030.(IANS)

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Habitability Of Surrounding Planets Affected By Super Flares Of Red Dwarfs: NASA

Red dwarfs -- especially young red dwarfs -- are active stars, producing flares blast out energy

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NASA, space, red dwarf
Superflares from red dwarfs may affect habitability of planets Pixabay

Using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers have found that violent outbursts, or superflares, from red dwarf stars could affect the habitability of any planets orbiting it.

Young low-mass stars flare much more frequently and more energetically than old stars and middle-age stars like our Sun, the findings of the study published in the Astrophysical Journal showed.

The findings are based on observations of the flare frequency of 12 red dwarfs.

Hubble is observing such stars through a large programme called HAZMAT — Habitable Zones and M dwarf Activity across Time.

“M dwarf” is the astronomical term for a red dwarf star — the smallest, most abundant and longest-living type of star in our galaxy.

Hubble Telescope. red dwarf
Hubble Telescope. Flickr

The HAZMAT programme is an ultraviolet survey of red dwarfs at three different ages — young, intermediate, and old.

“The goal of the HAZMAT programme is to help understand the habitability of planets around low-mass stars,” explained the programme’s principal investigator, Evgenya Shkolnik from Arizona State University.

“These low-mass stars are critically important in understanding planetary atmospheres,” Shkolnik added.

Stellar flares from red dwarfs are particularly bright in ultraviolet wavelengths, compared with Sun-like stars.

Red dwarf  planet
Artist’s view of planets transiting red dwarf star in TRAPPIST-1 system. Flickr

Hubble’s ultraviolet sensitivity makes the telescope very valuable for observing these flares.

The flares are believed to be powered by intense magnetic fields that get tangled by the roiling motions of the stellar atmosphere.

When the tangling gets too intense, the fields break and reconnect, unleashing tremendous amounts of energy.

The team found that the flares from the youngest red dwarfs they surveyed — just about 40 million years old — are 100 to 1,000 times more energetic than when the stars are older.

This younger age is when terrestrial planets are forming around their stars.

Red dwarf
This illustration shows a red dwarf star orbited by a hypothetical exoplanet. NASA

About three-quarters of the stars in our Milky Way galaxy are red dwarfs. Most of the galaxy’s “habitable-zone” planets — planets orbiting their stars at a distance where temperatures are moderate enough for liquid water to exist on their surface — orbit red dwarfs.

In fact, the nearest star to our Sun, a red dwarf named Proxima Centauri, has an Earth-size planet in its habitable zone.

Also Read: NASA Plans For Science Payloads For Delivery To Moon

However, red dwarfs — especially young red dwarfs — are active stars, producing flares that could blast out so much energy that it disrupts and possibly strips off the atmospheres of these fledgling planets. (IANS)