In Exogeology ROCKS! Episode 10, we talk with Dr. Rosaly Lopes, a planetary scientist at JPL. She tells us all about volcanoes on Io, cryovolcanism on icy moons like Enceladus, and her travels to Earth volcanoes. I liked hearing about how you should do what you love, and how as a scientist, you always have to keep learning. Her story about catching a gigantic volcanic eruption on Io during the Galileo mission is really interesting. Watch it all here:
Archive for the ‘Exogeology’ Category
In Exogeology ROCKS! Episode 7, host Zoe Bentley meets astrobiologist Dr. Britney Schmidt, who talks to us about her travels in Antarctica, why ice is fascinating, and how all of that relates to Europa. Can life survive under an ice sheet? What funny things happened in Antarctica? Find out all of this in the latest episode of Exogeology ROCKS!
Last year you met SETI planetary geologist Dr. Cynthia Phillips in Exogeology ROCKS! Episode 6. Now, we’ve got a little bonus to go along with the episode: we get to hear from her why Europa rocks, what it’s made of, and why we should go explore it. Dr. Cynthia Phillips really gets into this little world, and you’ll see why.
Tonight, Curiosity reached its destination: Gale Crater, Mars.
Curiosity, also known as the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), traveled for about 352 million miles (567 million km) from a cleanroom at JPL on Earth to a place called Mount Sharp in Gale Crater on Mars. It’s hard to imagine traveling so far.
Tonight, August 5, Curiosity’s team worked through the “Seven Minutes of Terror” while everyone else, including myself, just hoped and wished for the best.
Can you even imagine how hard it would be to land a rover? Can you imagine just how nervous you’d be that all the work put into Curiosity would either have the chance to succeed amazingly or just fail terribly? I can’t, but that’s what Curiosity’s team must have felt.
Finally, can you imagine the relief and excitement as Curiosity landed safely on solid ground? I can, but not even half as much as Curiosity’s team, I’m sure.
I’m so, so glad Curiosity made the landing safely. Congratulations, Curiosity! You ROCK!
The newest Mars rover, Curiosity (also known as the Mars Science Laboratory) has a landing site picked out: Gale crater, measuring about 150 kilometers across (93 miles) and at least 3.5 billion years old. The crater was chosen out of a hundred locations on Mars, which were gradually narrowed down, and the final choice was announced on July 22. Imagine how hard it would be to choose just one place out of one hundred to explore!
So, what is Gale crater like? There is a mountain made of layers of debris in the middle of the crater, probably made of sediment from the bottom of a lakebed or dust and volcanic ash blown by the wind. Erosion in the crater gives the rover access to the different layers. When Curiosity gets there, we’ll find out a whole lot more.
Are you curious to know when Curiosity will get to Mars? It’s currently scheduled to launch this November or December and land on the red planet in August of next year.
MESSENGER was inserted into orbit around Mercury yesterday, March 17th. Launched on August 13th, 2004, MESSENGER has been in interplanetary flight for over six and a half years! I bet that after this long waiting, the MESSENGER team is thrilled to finally be in orbit. As for me, I think visiting Mercury ROCKS!
MESSENGER is a NASA Mercury orbiter. It’s name is an acronym for MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging. One of its goals is to learn about the topography of Mercury’s surface, and another is to find out the composition of its atmosphere.
On its way to Mercury, MESSENGER has had one Earth flyby, two Venus flybys, and three Mercury flybys. In one of these Mercury flybys, volcanism on the surface and water in the exosphere were discovered. Also on the way to Mercury, MESSENGER took this ROCKIN’ “family portrait” of our Solar System:
There’s a lot about Mercury we’ve found because of MESSENGER. For example, could you imagine seeing a whole side of a planet which you’ve never seen before? MESSENGER gave us just that in this picture:
The instruments on board will be turned on and checked on the 23rd of March, and on the 4th of April the mission’s primary science phase begins. I look forward to seeing what new discoveries are made about our amazing innermost planet!
What if someone found a creature that wasn’t like any other, a creature which wasn’t made of the same chemicals as anything else on Earth? Wouldn’t it ROCK to find something so different? That’s exactly what geomicrobiologist Felisa Wolfe-Simon discovered in California’s Mono Lake.
Extremophiles are organisms which can survive in extreme environments, such as intense heat or lack of light. An extremophile bacteria was found recently in California’s salty, alkaline Mono Lake. This extremophile, known as GFAJ-1, can survive high amounts of normally poisonous arsenic.
By weight, the human body contains 65% oxygen, 18.5% carbon, 9.5% hydrogen, 3.3% nitrogen, 1% phosphorus, 0.3% sulfur, and small amounts of several other elements. Even though there is so much oxygen in the human body, most of that is in the form of water, so we say that humans are carbon based. Most life on Earth has a similar composition. While GFAJ-1 is tolerant of arsenic, it’s not exactly an arsenic based life form. However, it does replace one of the basic ingredients for life. This unusual microbe is not only tolerant of arsenic, but is able to incorporate it into its cells.
Science fiction and real science have often considered replacing important elements with chemically similar ones, but until now, there haven’t been any real life examples. When given no phosphorus and a lot of arsenic, GFAJ-1 replaces the phosphorus in its body with arsenic and continues to grow. None of the bacteria have yet entirely gotten rid of the phosphorus originally in them, but I personally think that replacing most of it is exciting enough.
This discovery changes what we know about life. There are so many possible places a life form can survive on Earth alone. Maybe life on other worlds is more common than previously thought. I sure hope so.
Happy Halloween! Guess what’s finally finished? Exogeology ROCKS! Episode 4. It’s been a long time in the works, but I’ve completed the fourth episode of my Exogeology ROCKS! series. Exogeology ROCKS! Episode 4 features an interview with Captain Mark Kelly, mission commander of STS-134, the last scheduled space shuttle mission. For the first time ever, I’ve uploaded the full episode of Exogeology ROCKS! in one piece.
Watch Exogeology ROCKS! Episode 4 here.
Check out the other episodes here, they ROCK!
Have a ROCKIN’ Halloween!
Here on Exogeology.info you will find information on what exogeology is, how to become an exogeologist, interviews of various scientists in the field, games and puzzles, a fictional exogeologist’s blog, a photo gallery, and much more!
I started this website as part of the NASA No Boundaries Contest, but plan to let it grow as I learn more about the topics.