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ExoMars Discovers Hidden Water in Mars’ Grand Canyon – The Largest Canyon in the Solar System – SciTechDaily

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Valles Marineris, seen at an angle of 45 degrees to the surface in near-true color and with four times vertical exaggeration. The image covers an area of 630,000 sq km. The digital terrain model was created from 20 individual HRSC orbits, and the color data were generated from 12 orbit swaths. The largest portion of the canyon, which spans right across the image, is known as Melas Chasma. Candor Chasma is the connecting trough immediately to the north, with the small trough Ophir Chasma beyond. Hebes Chasma can be seen in the far top left of the image. Credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum)

The ESA-Roscosmos ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter has spotted significant amounts of water at the heart of <span aria-describedby="tt" class="glossaryLink" data-cmtooltip="

Mars
Mars is the second smallest planet in our solar system and the fourth planet from the sun. Iron oxide is prevalent in Mars’ surface resulting in its reddish color and its nickname "The Red Planet." Mars’ name comes from the Roman god of war.

“>Mars’ dramatic canyon system, Valles Marineris.

The water, which is hidden beneath Mars’ surface, was found by the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO)’s FREND instrument, which is mapping the hydrogen – a measure of water content – in the uppermost meter of Mars’ soil.

While water is known to exist on Mars, most is found in the planet’s cold polar regions as ice. Water ice is not found exposed at the surface near the equator, as temperatures here are not cold enough for exposed water ice to be stable.

Missions including ESA’s Mars Express have hunted for near-surface water – as ice covering dust grains in the soil, or locked up in minerals – at lower latitudes of Mars, and found small amounts. However, such studies have only explored the very surface of the planet; deeper water stores could exist, covered by dust. 

ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter at Mars

Artist’s impression of the ExoMars 2016 Trace Gas Orbiter at Mars. Credit: ESA/ATG medialab

“With TGO we can look down to one metre below this dusty layer and see what’s really going on below Mars’ surface – and, crucially, locate water-rich ‘oases’ that couldn’t be detected with previous instruments,” says Igor Mitrofanov of the Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow, Russia; lead author of the new study; and principal investigator of the FREND (Fine Resolution Epithermal Neutron Detector) neutron telescope.

“FREND revealed an area with an unusually large amount of hydrogen in the colossal Valles Marineris canyon system: assuming the hydrogen we see is bound into water molecules, as much as 40% of the near-surface material in this region appears to be water.”

The water-rich area is about the size of the Netherlands and overlaps with the deep valleys of Candor Chaos, part of the canyon system considered promising in our hunt for water on Mars.

Tracking neutrons

Igor and colleagues analyzed FREND observations ranging from May 2018 to February 2021, which mapped the hydrogen content of Mars’ soil by detecting neutrons rather than light.

“Neutrons are produced when highly energetic particles known as ‘galactic cosmic rays’ strike Mars; drier soils emit more neutrons than wetter ones, and so we can deduce how much water is in a soil by looking at the neutrons it emits,” adds co-author Alexey Malakhov, also of the Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences. “FREND’s unique observing technique brings far higher spatial resolution than previous measurements of this type, enabling us to now see water features that weren’t spotted before.

ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter Maps Water-Rich Region of Valles Marineris

ESA’s ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) has discovered large amounts of water locked up within Mars’ extensive canyon system, Valles Marineris. Credit: From I. Mitrofanov et al. (2021)

“We found a central part of Valles Marineris to be packed full of water – far more water than we expected. This is very much like Earth’s permafrost regions, where water ice permanently persists under dry soil because of the constant low temperatures.” 

This water could be in the form of ice, or water that is chemically bound to other minerals in the soil. However, other observations tell us that minerals seen in this part of Mars typically contain only a few percent water, much less than is evidenced by these new observations. “Overall, we think this water more likely exists in the form of ice,” says Alexey.

Water ice usually evaporates in this region of Mars due to the temperature and pressure conditions near the equator. The same applies to chemically bound water: the right combination of temperature, pressure and hydration must be there to keep minerals from losing water. This suggests that some special, as-yet-unclear mix of conditions must be present in Valles Marineris to preserve the water – or that it is somehow being replenished.

Mars Express Spacecraft

Artist’s impression of Mars Express. The background is based on an actual image of Mars taken by the spacecraft’s high resolution stereo camera. Credit: Spacecraft image: ESA/ATG medialab; Mars: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin

“This finding is an amazing first step, but we need more observations to know for sure what form of water we’re dealing with,” adds study co-author Håkan Svedhem of ESA’s ESTEC in the Netherlands, and former ESA project scientist for the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter.

“Regardless of the outcome, the finding demonstrates the unrivaled abilities of TGO’s instruments in enabling us to ‘see’ below Mars’ surface – and reveals a large, not-too-deep, easily exploitable reservoir of water in this region of Mars.”

Future exploration

As most future missions to Mars plan to land at lower latitudes, locating such a reservoir of water here is an exciting prospect for future exploration.

While Mars Express has found hints of water deeper underground in Mars’ mid-latitudes, alongside deep pools of liquid water under Mars’ south pole, these potential stores lie up to a few kilometres below ground, making them less exploitable and accessible to exploration than any found just below the surface. 

Candor Chasma, Mars

Perspective view of Candor Chasma. Mars Express took snapshots of Candor Chasma, a valley in the northern part of Valles Marineris, as it was in orbit above the region on July 6, 2006. Credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum)

The finding also makes Valles Marineris an even more promising target for future human exploration missions to the planet. The largest canyon in the Solar System, Valles Marineris is arguably Mars’ most dramatic landscape, and a feature that is often compared to Earth’s Grand Canyon – despite being some ten times longer and five times deeper.

“This result really demonstrates the success of the joint ESA-Roscosmos ExoMars programme,” says Colin Wilson, ESA’s ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter project scientist.

“Knowing more about how and where water exists on present-day Mars is essential to understand what happened to Mars’ once-abundant water, and helps our search for habitable environments, possible signs of past life, and organic materials from Mars’ earliest days.”

TGO launched in 2016 as the first of two launches under the ExoMars program. The orbiter will be joined in 2022 by a European rover, Rosalind Franklin, and a Russian surface platform, Kazachok, and all will work together to understand whether life has ever existed on Mars.

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Astronauts at Risk of 'Space Anemia' | Health | thesuburban.com – The Suburban Newspaper

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MONDAY, Jan. 17, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Astronauts can develop a condition called space anemia because their bodies destroy more red blood cells than normal when in space, a groundbreaking study shows.

Assessments of 14 astronauts over six months between space missions found that 54% more blood cells were destroyed while they were in space than when they were on Earth, according to findings published Jan. 14 in Nature Medicine.

“Space anemia has consistently been reported when astronauts returned to Earth since the first space missions, but we didn’t know why,” said lead author Dr. Guy Trudel of the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute in Canada. “Our study shows that upon arriving in space, more red blood cells are destroyed, and this continues for the entire duration of the astronauts’ mission.”

Before this study, it was believed that space anemia was due to fluid shifting into an astronaut’s upper body upon arrival in space.

Astronauts lose 10% of the liquid in their blood vessels this way. It was thought that their bodies rapidly destroyed 10% of their red blood cells to restore the balance, and that red blood cell control returned to normal after 10 days in space.

But this study found that red blood cell destruction is a primary effect of being in space, not just the result of fluid shifts.

On Earth, our bodies create and destroy 2 million red blood cells every second. But the astronauts in this study — both male and female — destroyed 3 million every second while in space.

Five of 13 astronauts in the study were clinically anemic when they returned to Earth. One of the 14 did not have blood drawn on landing.

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The researchers also found that space anemia is reversible, with red blood cells levels progressively returning to normal three to four months after astronauts returned from space.

“Thankfully, having fewer red blood cells in space isn’t a problem when your body is weightless,” Trudel said in a hospital news release. “But when landing on Earth and potentially on other planets or moons, anemia affecting your energy, endurance and strength can threaten mission objectives. The effects of anemia are only felt once you land, and must deal with gravity again.”

The findings could be prove useful for patients who develop anemia after long illnesses that require bed rest. Bed rest has been shown to cause anemia, but how it does so is unknown.

The mechanism may be like what occurs in space anemia, according to Trudel, who plans to investigate this theory in future research.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more on anemia.

SOURCE: The Ottawa Hospital, news release, Jan. 14, 2022

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Western scientists study meteorite made famous after crashing into B.C. woman's bedroom – CBC.ca

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A meteorite that ripped through a roof and landed inches from a B.C. woman’s head is believed to be around 470 million years old, Western researchers say. 

Ruth Hamilton of Golden, B.C. was woken abruptly on the night of Oct. 3, when the small charcoal grey rock the size of a melon broke through her ceiling and landed between her floral pillowcases. 

After coming to terms with the surreal experience, she lent the rock to Western University’s physics and astronomy department in London, Ont., where researchers are working to map its orbital journey around the sun before it arrived in Hamilton’s bedroom. 

“It was very exciting getting it because any time you see a new meteorite, it’s kind of like Christmas Day,” said adjunct professor Phil McCausland, who leads the investigation.  

A hole in the ceiling is seen above a meteorite resting on a bed inside a residential building in Golden, B.C., in an undated handout photo. Ruth Hamilton says she was sound asleep when she was awakened by her dog barking, the sound of a crash through her ceiling and the feeling of debris on her face. (Submitted by Ruth Hamilton)

Upon inspection, McCausland found that the meteorite is an L chondrite, one of the most commonly found types of meteorites to fall on Earth.

What’s not so common about Hamilton’s meteorite is where it originates in the sky.

“This rock has a very interesting and unusual orbit,” said McCausland. 

The meteorite is embedded with shards of plywood and metal from the roof. (Submitted by Phil McCausland)

“Chondrite meteors are thought with good evidence to have come from the early solar system, but they went through a major asteroid breakup event. So there is a big body in the asteroid belt that broke up about 470 million years ago,” he said. 

“From then, a bunch of material has been delivered around the inner solar system, some of it arriving on Earth. And this, prospectively, is one of those pieces.”  

McCausland said so far, the orbits of only a handful of L chondrite meteors are known. 

“What happens out in space is that the cosmic rays interact with the rock and end up irradiating it, so that it has somewhat activated isotopes that decay over time,” he said. “We can detect what the decay products are that are coming out of this, the gamma rays and so on. And that gives us a handle on the orbital history of the rock.” 

Afternoon Drive9:04Meteorite analysis at Western University

Phil McCausland, an adjunct professor at Western University, and lead investigator, speaks with CBC Afternoon Drive host Chris dela Torre about a meteorite discovered in Golden, B.C. 9:04

He added that researchers are looking to dash cam and surveillance footage, as well as local photographers who captured the fireball event, to reconstruct the rock’s flight path. 

Under Canadian law, the meteor is owned by its finder – in this case, Ruth Hamilton. It’s hers to sell, donate, or keep. 

Meanwhile, McCausland will ensure a sample is registered with the Meteoritical Society, where it will be available for future scientific research.
 

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How to Take Care of Air Plants – Lifehacker

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Photo: Al Cole (Shutterstock)

Despite the classic excuse of not having a “green thumb,” keeping a houseplant alive has more to do with the ability to make and remember to stick to a schedule than being born without a pretend gene that makes you good at gardening. (And if you have a literal green thumb, you may want to have a medical profession look at it.)

But some houseplants are definitely easier to care for than others, and people who travel a lot, or find it difficult to remember to water their plants may want to opt for varieties that are more self-sufficient. And when it comes to being low maintenance, it’s hard to beat air plants. Still, they’re not completely hands-off and do require some occasional care. Here’s what to know.

What is an air plant?

Officially called Tillandsias, there are more than 600 types of air plants. And while they’re native to the southern parts to the United States and through Central and South America, it’s possible to grow air plants indoors in any climate. And yes, they got their name because they don’t need soil to grow.

Air plants are epiphytes, “which means they use their roots to cling onto supports such as tree branches and rocks, similar to the way orchids grow,” according to the Farmer’s Almanac. “Instead of soaking up water and nutrients through their roots, they use trichomes, special scale-like structures on their leaves, to do the job.”

How to take care of an air plant

First of all, never plant an air plant in soil, or put one in a terrarium. Instead, pop them into a cup or bowl or vase, and place them somewhere that gets between four and six hours of filtered natural light each day. Also, make sure the temperature is between the 50s and 90s (which shouldn’t be difficult indoors).

Air plants need to be soaked—not watered in the traditional sense—once every two weeks. To do this, take the plant out of its usual home and submerge it in a bowl of either rainwater or bottled drinking water (softened and/or tap water contains minerals that can harm the air plants) for about an hour.

After its bath, shake the plant out to remove as much of the water as possible (so it doesn’t rot when it goes back into its usual pot or vase). If an air plant’s leaves start turning brown, it means that it needs to be watered more frequently. And if any of the leaves die completely, cut them off with a pair of sharp scissors.

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