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NASA's Opportunity Rover Still Silent on Mars

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Two months into a planet-wide dust storm, the hardy rover remains in hibernation—or worse

It’s now been more than two months since NASA’s long-lived Opportunity Mars rover last phoned home.

Opportunity hasn’t made a peep since June 10, when dust in the Red Planet’s air got so thick that the solar-powered rover couldn’t recharge its batteries. Opportunity’s handlers think the six-wheeled robot has put itself into a sort of hibernation, and they still hope to get a ping once the dust storm has petered out.

And there are good reasons for this optimism, NASA officials said. [Mars Dust Storm 2018: How It Grew & What It Means for the Opportunity Rover]

“Because the batteries were in relatively good health before the storm, there’s not likely to be too much degradation,” NASA officials wrote in an Opportunity update Thursday (Aug. 16). “And because dust storms tend to warm the environment—and the 2018 storm happened as Opportunity’s location on Mars entered summer—the rover should have stayed warm enough to survive.”

The dust storm began on a regional scale in late May and had grown into a planet-encircling monster by June 20. The storm began dying down late last month, but there’s still a lot of dust in the air—probably too much for Opportunity to start recharging its batteries.

Scientists track the amount of dust in the Martian atmosphere using a measurement of opacity called “tau.” The lower the tau, the clearer the air. The air in Opportunity’s neck of the woods—the rim of the 14-mile-wide (22 kilometers) Endeavour Crater—typically has a tau of about 0.5, NASA officials said. The rover’s last recorded measurement, on June 10, tagged it at a whopping 10.8.

The tau probably needs to be less than 2.0 for enough sunlight to get through to start charging the rover’s batteries, mission team members said. Over the past week or so, the estimated tau in the Endeavour Crater region has ranged from around 2.1 to 2.5, they added.

Engineers are trying to communicate with Opportunity several times a week using NASA’s Deep Space Network, a system of big radio dishes around the globe. They hail the robot during scheduled “wake-up times” and then listen for a response. And team members are casting a wider net, too: Every day, they sift through all radio signals received from Mars, listening for any chirp from Opportunity, NASA officials said.

Even if Opportunity does eventually wake up and re-establish contact, its long ordeal may end up taking a toll on the rover.

“The rover’s batteries could have discharged so much power—and stayed inactive so long—that their capacity is reduced,” NASA officials wrote in the update. “If those batteries can’t hold as much charge, it could affect the rover’s continued operations. It could also mean that energy-draining behavior, like running its heaters during winter, could cause the batteries to brown out.”

The golf-cart-size Opportunity landed on Mars in January 2004, three weeks after its twin, Spirit. Both robots embarked on three-month missions to search for signs of past water activity on the Red Planet. The duo found plenty of such evidence, and then kept exploring Mars for years after their warranties expired. 

Spirit finally got bogged down in a Martian sand trap in March 2010. The rover couldn’t reorient itself to catch the sun, and it froze in the ensuing winter. NASA declared Spirit dead in 2011.

NASA’s other active Mars rover, the car-size Curiosity, is nuclear-powered and is therefore far less affected by the dust storm.

If you’d like to send your well-wishes to Opportunity and the mission team, you can do so using the “postcards” at this mission site.

Copyright 2018 SPACE.com, a Purch company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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‘Zombie bacteria’ found miles beneath Earth's surface hint life might have begun in the depths – Yahoo News

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What is lurking beneath the surface? (Getty)
<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Deep beneath the surface of our planet lurks an immense amount of life, with tiny life forms such as ‘zombie’ bacteria amounting to a mass 245 to 385 times greater than the carbon mass of all humans on the surface.” data-reactid=”31″>Deep beneath the surface of our planet lurks an immense amount of life, with tiny life forms such as ‘zombie’ bacteria amounting to a mass 245 to 385 times greater than the carbon mass of all humans on the surface.

A 10-year international effort to reveal our planet’s secrets found that the ‘deep biosphere’ amounts to 15 to 23 billion tonnes of life – far more than previously believed.

Scientists with the Deep Carbon Observatory drilled 1.5 miles into the seabed, and sampled microbes from mines and boreholes up to three miles deep.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="The scientists say that the hitherto unknown microbes deep inside our planet are like a new Galapagos, the islands which helped to inspire Darwin’s theory of evolution.” data-reactid=”34″>The scientists say that the hitherto unknown microbes deep inside our planet are like a new Galapagos, the islands which helped to inspire Darwin’s theory of evolution.

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:Life persists even miles below the surface (Getty)

Two types of microbes – bacteria and archaea – dominate Deep Earth.

This so-called microbial “dark matter” dramatically expands our perspective on the tree of life. Sientists now believe that about 70% of Earth’s bacteria and archaea live in the subsurface

Deep microbes are often very different from their surface cousins, with life cycles on near-geologic timescales, dining in some cases on nothing more than energy from rocks.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="MORE: Woman feeling ‘Claus-trophobic’ after falling through ceiling getting Christmas decorations
MORE: Shocking images show horrific injuries suffered by woman, 50, robbed in her own home” data-reactid=”58″>MORE: Woman feeling ‘Claus-trophobic’ after falling through ceiling getting Christmas decorations
MORE: Shocking images show horrific injuries suffered by woman, 50, robbed in her own home

The findings have led some experts to question whether life actually began deep beneath the surface, either within the crust, near hydrothermal vents, or in subduction zones, then migrated upwards towards the sun.

Fumio Inagaki, Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology says, ‘Even in dark and energetically challenging conditions, intraterrestrial ecosystems have uniquely evolved and persisted over millions of years.

‘Expanding our knowledge of deep life will inspire new insights into planetary habitability, leading us to understand why life emerged on our planet and whether life persists in the Martian subsurface and other celestial bodies.’

—Watch the latest videos from Yahoo UK—

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The Morning After: 'The mother of all demos' – Engadget

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Hey, good morning! You look fabulous.

Besides our usual suggestions of new TV shows, movies and games to watch this week, we’ve got a 50-year-old video that you really should see. Also, the second human-made object has entered interstellar space, plus, there’s a confusing deal between Samsung China and “Supreme.”


Do it live.50 years ago, ‘the mother of all demos’ foretold our tech future

Innovation usually happens in slow, measured steps over many years, but a demo in 1968 transformed the world of personal computers in just 90 minutes. In a presentation dubbed “the mother of all demos,” Douglas Engelbart showed off technology that would lead directly to Apple’s Macintosh, the internet, Windows, Google Docs, the computer mouse and much, much more. The most remarkable part was that it happened 50 years ago, in 1968, when microchips were just a gleam in scientists’ eyes.


So long, space cowboy.NASA’s Voyager 2 probe has entered interstellar space

NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft has exited the heliosphere — the plasma bubble created by the sun that encompasses most of our solar system — and entered interstellar space, making it the second human-made object to do so. Voyager 1 was the first to do it, but this spacecraft still has a working Plasma Science Experiment, used to measure solar-wind particle flow until the amount dropped to nothing at all. Both spacecraft are still technically within the solar system, however. And they will be until they exit the Oort Cloud, a large collection of distant objects that are still affected by the sun’s gravity.

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Just enter your email and we’ll take care of the rest:


Cool cool cool.Elon Musk says the SEC can’t stop him from tweeting what he wants

In an interview with CBS program 60 Minutes, Musk declared that he’s only abiding by the SEC because he “respects the justice system.” He also said he handpicked Robyn Denholm as Tesla’s new board chair, and that aside from not wanting to be chairman again, he would prefer “to have no titles at all.”


That sounds interesting.Netflix’s Fyre Festival documentary debuts January 18th

Fyre Festival was billed as “the cultural experience of the decade,” but as we all know, it actually turned out to be a massive disaster and far from the luxurious, celebrity-filled event it was advertised to be. A new documentary, Fyre, gives viewers a look into the festival as described the organizers themselves.

But wait, there’s more…


The Morning After is a new daily newsletter from Engadget designed to help you fight off FOMO. Who knows what you’ll miss if you don’t Subscribe.

Craving even more? Like us on Facebook or Follow us on Twitter.

Have a suggestion on how we can improve The Morning After? Send us a note.

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The brightest comet of 2018 will be lighting up night skies this week (PHOTOS) – Daily Hive

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Keep your eyes glued to the sky because 2018’s brightest comet is about to make an appearance.

According to EarthSky, Comet 46P/Wirtanen is expected to pass closest to the sun on December 12 and closest to Earth on December 16, when it will be 12-million km away.

Kat Kelly, astronomer at Vancouver’s HR McMillan Space Centre, explains that 46/P will appear as a greenish-blue glowing ball in the sky.

While comets are known to have a tail of light that follows them, 46P will not.

“We are unlikely to see a tail,” Kelly told Daily Hive. “Just the main snowball part.”

She says that comets are essentially “dirty snowballs” in the sky. “They are kind of like ice and gravel packed together with small pieces of dust and rock.”

Space enthusiasts around the world have already spotted the comet using high-powered telescopes.

46p/Wirtanen / (Edgar CastroBathen/ Facebook)

comet

46p/Wirtanen / (Edgar CastroBathen/ Facebook)

Images show a turquoise glowing ball in the night sky with a faint tail, trailing behind.

Brett Gladman, professor at the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of British Columbia, says that 46P is an older comet — first spotted in the 1940s — that reaches Jupiter on its 5-year orbit cycle.

“It has gone close to the sun and burned off a lot of its tail,” Gladman told Daily Hive.

Those wanting to see 46P should head out to a very dark outdoor area on the evening of December 15 or 16, which is when the comet will be closest to earth.

Kelly says the best time for viewing will be between 12 and 2 am and the comet will be south facing.

“If people know the Orion Constellation, [46P] is kind of at the top right,” she said.

But Gladman warns not to get “all excited” about the phenomenon because the comet will be difficult to see. “It will be faint and diffuse,” he said.

If you’re a city dweller, it’s best to head out to the darkest spot you can find, and look up for turquoise glow. And if you don’t see 46P this time around, it will be back in another 5 years.

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Simran Singh

Simran is a Staff Writer at Daily Hive. She enjoys writing about culture, society, and politics. Email her: [email protected]

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