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Search for life on Mars accelerates as new bodies of water found below planet's surface – Vermilion Standard

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Liquid water is a key ingredient to life as we know it

This December 09, 2013, NASA photo is a mosaic of images from NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover and shows a series of sedimentary deposits in the Glenelg area of Gale Crater.

FP PHOTO / HO / NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

A major new study of Mars published in the science journal Nature Astronomy has revealed several bodies of water under the surface at the planet’s south pole. 

Researchers believe the new findings bolster previous research, which suggested the possibility of a large saltwater lake beneath the surface of Mars. The research is exciting scientists because liquid water is a key ingredient to life as we know it, and new findings could pave the way to further knowledge of alien life, they speculate. It’s known, for example, that similar lakes beneath glaciers on Earth are home to microbial life. Could the same be true for Mars?

The discovery was made thanks to a tool called MARSIS, the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding, which is a low-frequency, pulse-limited radar sounder and altimeter instrument developed by a Rome university. It’s currently on board the European Space Agency’s Mars Express spacecraft orbiting Mars, where it sends radio waves into the planet’s surface and ice caps. These waves then bounce back towards the spacecraft, which measures and collects data about the returning pulse, allowing researchers to understand more about the planet’s matter.

According to the Independent, the MARSIS helped researchers make a previous breakthrough when a large underground lake was found during a study in 2018. However, at that time there was some skepticism regarding the findings and data collected. In order to clearly determine whether the body of water was liquid, researchers felt they needed to investigate further.

To do so, a team led by planetary scientist Elena Pettinelli from Roma Tre University looked to existing methods to study the lakes beneath Earth’s Antarctic glaciers, using satellites in orbit to bounce pulses back and forth. In doing so, they were able to compare data obtained from MARSIS of the area surrounding the body of water found on Mars, which allowed them to confirm that it was in fact liquid. The method also allowed researchers to locate a number of other wet patches around the larger body of water under Mars’s surface, suggesting a number of salty lakes. 

“Not only did we confirm the position, extent and strength of the reflector from our 2018 study but we found three new bright areas,” said Professor Pettinelli, who is also an author on the study published in Nature Astronomy.

“The main lake is surrounded by smaller bodies of liquid water, but because of the technical characteristics of the radar, and of its distance from the Martian surface, we cannot conclusively determine whether they are interconnected,” she said in a statement.

The subsurface lakes appear to be “hypersaline solutions” — extremely briney liquid with high concentrations of salt — which may explain why they are not frozen solid, given the extreme cold of Mars’ south pole. 

The number of lakes also suggests their formation was a natural occurrence and that they have likely existed in several permutations throughout the planet’s history. If the lakes have been a consistent presence through long stretches of time, researchers believe they could have hosted alien life when Mars had a more hospitable environment. Perhaps, they speculate, some of the descendants of these life forms remain.

“While the existence of a single subglacial lake could be attributed to exceptional conditions such as the presence of a volcano under the ice sheet, the discovery of an entire system of lakes implies that their formation process is relatively simple and common, and that these lakes have probably existed for much of Mars’ history,” said Roberto Orosei, principal investigator of the MARSIS experiment.

“For this reason, they could still retain traces of any life forms that could have evolved when Mars had a dense atmosphere, a milder climate and the presence of liquid water on the surface, similar to the early Earth.”

Researchers hope more studies in the future will examine whether alien life — or “astrobiological activity,” as it’s also called — can definitively be discovered on the planet.

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'Massive' coral reef taller than the Empire State Building discovered in Australia – CTV News

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A “massive” new reef measuring 500 metres has been discovered in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, making it taller than some of the world’s highest skyscrapers.

Scientists found the detached reef, which is the first to be discovered in more than 120 years, in waters off North Queensland while on an expedition aboard research vessel Falkor, ocean research organization Schmidt Ocean Institute announced Monday.

The reef was first discovered on October 20, as scientists completed an underwater mapping of the seafloor of the northern Great Barrier Reef.

At 500 metres high, it is taller than the Empire State Building (381 metres to the top floor), the Sydney Tower (305 metres) and the Petronas Twin Towers (451.9 metres.)

Using an underwater robot named SuBastian, the team explored the reef on Sunday, and live streamed footage of the exploration.

Experts say that the base of the “blade-like” reef measures 1.5 kilometres wide, rising 500 metres to its shallowest depth of 40 metres below the ocean surface.

There are seven other tall detached reefs in the area, including the reef at Raine Island — a significant green turtle nesting site.

Robin Beaman, who led the expedition, said he was “surprised” by the discovery.

“To not only 3D map the reef in detail, but also visually see this discovery with SuBastian is incredible,” he said in a statement.

“This unexpected discovery affirms that we continue to find unknown structures and new species in our ocean,” Wendy Schmidt, co-founder of Schmidt Ocean Institute, said in a statement.

“The state of our knowledge about what’s in the ocean has long been so limited. Thanks to new technologies that work as our eyes, ears and hands in the deep ocean, we have the capacity to explore like never before. New oceanscapes are opening to us, revealing the ecosystems and diverse life forms that share the planet with us.”

The Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest coral reef, covers more than 214,000 square kilometres and is home to more than 1,500 species of fish, 411 species of hard corals and dozens of other species.

But the reef is facing a crisis — recent studies have shown that it has lost 50% of its coral populations in the last three decades, with climate change a key driver of reef disturbance.

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Surrey vet offers tips as Canada reports first COVID-19 case in dog in Ontario – News 1130

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SURREY (NEWS 1130) – As Canada’s first case of COVID-19 among dogs is reported in Ontario, a Surrey-based vet is providing some advice to pet owners who may have concerns.

Dr. Sajjid Ijaz with Lifetime Veterinary Clinic says research on COVID-19 in pets is still evolving, but at this point, there’s little evidence to suggest dogs can transmit the virus to humans.

He notes many owners have flagged their COVID-19 concerns with him and his staff over the past few months.

“Obviously, at this point because we do not have any data to give any concrete answers to them, so, we have just been telling them to be careful about going out of their own bubble, as far as their own personal self, as well as the pets themselves. So what we’ve been telling them is to try and limit the pet access to dog parks and all that stuff, and be careful about it,” he explains.

Ontario dog tests positive for COVID-19

A dog in Ontario’s Niagara area has been identified as the first canine to test positive for COVID-19 in Canada. Experts have said this isn’t cause for panic.

The dog apparently belongs to a household where four people tested positive for COVID-19.

Experts told the Toronto Star the dog “had no symptoms and a low viral load, suggesting that dogs remain at relatively low risk of becoming gravely ill or passing on COVID to others.”

Ijaz says while they’re not pushing that message too hard, he and his staff want pet owners to continue to be smart.

Pets and your social bubble

Because of the uncertainty around how the coronavirus is transmitted among pets, Ijaz says it’s wise to apply the same advice to pets when it comes to humans and their social bubbles.

“So, yes, I’ve been telling my clients to limit access, not just totally isolate them, but just to be smart about it,” he explains.

Ijaz understands that pets are often a big part of any family, which is why he believes it’s best to be safe rather than sorry.

“As much as we can limit the bubble, that will help,” he says, adding your social bubble shouldn’t exclude these animals.

According to the World Organisation for Animal Health, there’s been no report of pets spreading COVID-19 to people. There have been reports of possible transmission from mink at a farm in the Netherlands to humans, however, the federal government says this is still being studied.

-With files from 680 NEWS

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Hockey Twitter demands a Lunar Classic after NASA reveals moon has a lot more ice than previously believed – Russian Machine Never Breaks

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NASA made a special announcement on Monday that had the hockey world buzzing.

“Several studies have showed that water on the moon surface is in its permanently shadowed craters,” Paul Hertz, director of astrophysics at NASA Headquarters, said according to CBS News. “Today, we are announcing that for the first time, water has been confirmed to be present on a sunlit surface of the moon.

It is believed that there are at least 15,000 square miles of the moon’s surface that have deposits of water ice, meaning future astronauts could live off the land.

And Hockey Twitter is hoping those future astronauts are NHL players.

The ridiculousness began early in the day when the NHL on NBC Twitter photoshopped the Blackhawks and Bruins facing off on the moon. “MOON. HOCKEY. 🌕,” they wrote. “We’re ready, @NASA!”

“Call it the Lunar Classic,” the Ducks demanded.

“The Lunar Classic is going to be out of this world!” the Blackhawks added with an excellent pun.

The Hurricanes were excited about some “space hockey.”

So were the Devils.

Later, on their Instagram page, NHL on NBC photoshopped Alex Ovechkin, Roman Josi, and David Pastrnak as astronauts.

Hockey Twitter imagined hockey scenarios on the moon, while another fan, Matthew Henderson, created an elaborate media kit promoting a fake moon hockey event.

I want this to happen so badly now.

Headline photo: Pixabay images

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