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Multiple Underground Water Reservoirs Discovered On Mars, New Study Finds

A number of liquid bodies have been found on Mars, raising the tantalizing possibility that liquid water could exist on the Red Planet long believed to be desolate and hostile to life.

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Multiple underground water reservoirs discovered on Mars, new study finds
Photo Credit: TMU

(TMU) – A number of liquid bodies have been found on Mars, raising the tantalizing possibility that liquid water could exist on the Red Planet long believed to be desolate and hostile to life.

A major new study published Monday by the journal Nature Astronomy indicates that a subterranean reservoir of extremely salty water is located close to the Martian south pole. For scientists, the existence of such a lake – along with a number of other wet areas – is a tell-tale sign that the planet could harbour its own native microscopic life, given the importance of liquid water to survival.

While some researchers still remain unconvinced that liquid water exists on Mars, the new study lends credibility to the belief that the Mars Express robot orbiter made the discovery, according to tentative findings from 2018 during the mission to radar map the planet’s crust.

The research gleaned from those findings found that an underground “lake” of liquid water lies beneath layers of sediment close to the planet’s south pole, similar to the sub glacial lakes that exist underneath Greenland and Antarctica’s ice sheets here on Earth.

The 2018 study was hailed as a huge breakthrough in the search for alien life in our universe, in general, and on Mars, specifically, but sceptics continued to question whether scientists had actually accumulated enough details to know with certainty that they had actually found a vast lake of liquid water.

However, this latest study used the techniques used by the satellites orbiting our own planet to study the massive subterranean lakes underneath Antarctic glaciers to confirm that the vast store of liquid does exist on Mars, and spans about 15 miles across.

Earth’s own sub glacial lakes thrive with bacterial life, leading scientists to believe that their Martian counterparts could also be teeming with microscopic activity.

“We are much more confident now,” said Elena Pettinelli, a geophysics professor at Italy’s Roma Tre University, who led the research on this and the previous study. “We did many more observations, and we processed the data completely differently.”

The researchers were also able to use the method to locate a patchwork of other buried reservoirs in the region, separated from the main reservoir.

Researchers still don’t know precisely how deep the reservoirs go, but they are located a bit more than a mile below the surface.

The data also shows that the bodies are likely filled with hypersaline solutions, or water that is so saturated with a thick concentrate of calciummagnesiumsodium and potassium that they are able to remain liquid despite the extremely cold conditions on the Martian south pole.

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If these pools are filled with liquid water, they are a likely venue for microbial alien life – which itself could be the remnant of life that may have existed billions of years ago on the planet if Mars had the sort of oceanic expanses of water on its surface that the Earth does.

If the discovery is confirmed, this will be the very first time that liquid water will have been found on Mars.

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Science & Technology

NASA Spacecraft Spots “Dancing Sprites” And Colorful Electrical Bursts In Jupiter’s Sky For First Time

Nobody had ever seen these bright, transient luminous events dancing across alien skies – until now.

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Photo Credit: NASA

(TMU) New high-definition imagery captured of Jupiter by NASA’s Juno spacecraft is revealing colourful, lighting-like bursts of energy in the upper atmosphere of our solar system’s largest planet.

The phenomena – haunting, jellyfish-like spurts of red lightning dubbed “sprites” and glowing disks known as “elves” – are common occurrences in the upper reaches of the Earth’s atmospheres during thunderstorms, and were first discovered in 1989. Since then, they have been sighted over every continent besides Antarctica.

Scientists have theorized that any planet that has lightning would also produce these super-fast electrical bursts that occur up to 60 miles up in the Earth’s sky, reaching toward space. Researchers predicted that this would certainly be the case in Jupiter’s massive, roiling atmosphere.

However, nobody had ever seen these bright, transient luminous events dancing across alien skies – until now.

Since 2016, Juno has orbited Jupiter and collected troves of images of its aurorae through the spacecraft’s ultraviolet light, or ultraviolet spectrograph instrument (UVS). When scientists began processing some of these images, they noticed an unexpected detail: bright, narrow streaks of ultraviolet emissions that appeared in a flash before quickly vanishing.

“In the process of putting together those images, we noticed that very occasionally we saw these surprising, short-lived, bright flashes,” said Juno scientist Rohini Giles during a Tuesday press conference at the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences, according to Business Insider.

“We then went and searched through all of the data that we’ve taken over four years of the mission and we found a total of 11 flashes all with very similar properties,” she added. The outbursts only lasted mere milliseconds.

On Tuesday, her team published a new study on these phenomena in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets.

Here on Earth, sprites often resemble alien-like jellyfish-style creatures dangling from the ionosphere, or the layer that lies just above the dense lower atmosphere. In other cases, they look like vertical pillars of light with thin, curling tendrils – and these are called carrot curls due to their resemblance to the root vegetable.

Sprites were given their quasi-magical name by late University of Alaska physics professor Davis Sentman, who devised the name for this weather phenomenon due to it being “well suited to describe their appearance” and fleeting, fairy-like nature – much like the mischievous characters from English folklore.

Sprites occur when lightning strikes the ground, releasing positive electrical energy that requires balancing by an equal and oppositely charged electrical discharge into the sky. The sprites also occur much higher into the sky than regular lightning, which strikes in between electrically charged air, clouds, and our planet’s surface.

In some cases, lightning strikes also send electromagnetic pulses upward, producing glowing disks known as elves.

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“On Earth, sprites and elves appear reddish in color due to their interaction with nitrogen in the upper atmosphere,” Giles noted. “But on Jupiter, the upper atmosphere mostly consists of hydrogen, so they would likely appear either blue or pink.”

The Juno team is still unable to confirm whether the events were actually caused by lightning strikes, mainly because the probe’s device that detects lightning is on the opposite side of the spacecraft from its UVS. The images from the two devices are also taken 10 seconds apart, which is far too long a period of time for both instruments to analyze the same flash of light.

However, the researchers are confident that the 11 outbursts detected were transient luminous events. In each case, they disappeared in flash, emitted massive amounts of hydrogen, and took place 186 miles above Jupiter’s water clouds – far too high to be simple lightning.

“We’re continuing to look for more telltale signs of elves and sprites every time Juno does a science pass,” Giles said.

“Now that we know what we are looking for, it will be easier to find them at Jupiter and on other planets,” she added. “And comparing sprites and elves from Jupiter with those here on Earth will help us better understand electrical activity in planetary atmospheres.”

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Science & Technology

NASA Announces “Exciting New Discovery”: Water Confirmed To Exist On The Moon

NASA has finally spilled the details about its stunning new find.

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NASA Announces “Exciting New Discovery”: Water Confirmed To Exist On The Moon
Photo Credit: Getty

After a week of dropping tantalizing hints about an “exciting new discovery” it had made, NASA has finally spilled the details about its stunning new find: there is water on the sunlit surface of the moon – and much, much more than previously expected.

While water ice has previously been found on the moon in the past – mainly in the frigid, shadowed regions of the moon’s huge craters and north and south poles – this is the first time that water has been found on those surfaces exposed to sunlight.

It was previously believed that if water on the lunar surface had been exposed to the warming radiation of the sun, it would evaporate.

However, it turns out that water molecules are trapped within mineral grains across the moon, with more water likely hidden in the ice patches residing under the permanent shadows along the lunar surface, which are believed to have not seen any sunlight for billions of years.

A team of researchers is reporting that the moon could have some 40,000 square kilometres of permanent shadows where hidden pockets of water in the form of ice could be harboured.

The discovery that water is capable of withstanding lunar conditions under sunlight could have major implications for any future efforts to settle the moon as a human settlement, offering a precious resource that future astronauts could potentially use for drinking, or as an ingredient in the production of rocket fuel.

“We had indications that H2O – the familiar water we know – might be present on the sunlit side of the moon,” said Paul Hertz, the director of the astrophysics division of the science mission directorate at NASA’s Washington headquarters. “Now we know it is there. This discovery challenges our understanding of the lunar surface and raises intriguing questions about resources relevant for deep space exploration.”

The discovery, which is detailed in a pair of papers published by the journal Nature, relied on NASA’s airborne Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, which is a Boeing 747SP aircraft modified to carry a telescope..

One team led by Casey Honniball of the Goddard Space Flight Centre in Maryland found molecular water on the lunar surface, trapped within natural glasses or between grains of debris. While past observations had difficulty discerning between water and hydroxyl – its molecular cousin –the new detection method offered clear findings.

However, the identified hydrogen and oxygen molecules are quite far apart, meaning that they are not lying in puddles or solid blocks of ice.

“A lot of people think that the detection I’ve made is water ice, which is not true. It’s just the water molecules — because they’re so spread out they don’t interact with each other to form water ice or even liquid water,” Honniball said.

The scientists believe that the water could have travelled by way of solar winds or from micrometeorites that contained some water.

Another paper found that the Moon’s “billions” of tiny craters have offered the ideal texture for creating shadowy regions across the moon, offering perfect conditions to hold frozen ice. Some of the shadows are no bigger than a small coin, according to researchers led by planetary scientist Paul Hayne of the University of Colorado, Boulder.

“Our research shows that a multitude of previously unknown regions of the moon could harbour water ice,” Hayne said. “Our results suggest that water could be much more widespread in the moon’s Polar Regions than previously thought, making it easier to access, extract and analyse.”

It still remains to be determined whether the water, which appears to be extant across our natural satellite, will be easily accessible to future explorers or settlers.

“We don’t know yet if we can use it as a resource, but learning about water on the moon is key for our Artemis exploration plans,” NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine noted in a tweet.

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Science & Technology

Study: 1,000 Potential Alien Star Systems Could Be Watching Us From Afar

A study of Earth’s “solar neighborhood” has found that over 1,000 different systems have the perfect angle to view Earth.

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Photo Credit: TMU

(TMU) Motivated by the “Pale Blue Dot” NASA photo researchers are asking the question, could other planets be looking at us just like we’re looking at them? A study of Earth’s “solar neighborhood” has found that over 1,000 different systems have the perfect angle to view Earth.

The infamous “Pale Blue Dot” photograph was suggested by astronomer Carl Sagan who implored that the Voyager 1 space probe take a picture of Earth from nearly four billion miles away. The new study published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, seeks to find out how many different exo-planet systems with alien life could be watching us. Ironically, the research comes from the Cornell’s Carl Sagan Institute.

The study’s co-author Lisa Kaltenegger stated their list focuses on main-sequence stars similar to our own sun. These solar systems may contain exoplanets, Earth-like worlds sitting in the habitable zone for life. All of the prospective systems are within 300 million light-years of Earth, close enough to see our world’s chemical traces according to the researchers.

“Let’s reverse the viewpoint to that of other stars and ask from which vantage point other observers could find Earth as a transiting planet,” Kaltenegger, the director of Cornell’s Carl Sagan Institute said in a press release.

“If observers were out there searching, they would be able to see signs of a biosphere in the atmosphere of our Pale Blue Dot… and we can even see some of the brightest of these stars in our night sky without binoculars or telescopes.”

What makes this listing of 1,004 star systems novel and significant is they all sit in Earth’s elliptic orbit or the plane of the planets orbit around our Sun. Exoplanets traveling along this same path would be able to see the Earth according to the researchers.

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To foreign observers, Earth would be a transiting planet that passes in front of its sun as the observer looks at distant stars. Theoretically, these exoplanets would be able to see Earth crossing the Sun, which sounds like a marvellous sight.

“Only a very small fraction of planets will just happen to be randomly aligned with our line of sight so we can see them transit,” co-author Joshua Pepper of Lehigh University says. “But all of the thousand stars we identified in our paper in the solar neighbourhood could see our Earth transit the sun, calling their attention.”

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Neuroscience

Neuroscientist Claims That Consciousness Itself Is Its Own Energy Field

A neuroscientist has suggested in a new theory that our consciousness is derived from a field of electromagnetic waves given off by neurons.

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Neuroscientist Claims That Consciousness Itself Is Its Own Energy Field
Photo Credit: TMU

A neuroscientist has suggested in a new theory that our consciousness is derived from a field of electromagnetic waves given off by neurons.

The study published last month in the journal Neuroscience of Consciousness is entirely based off a theory absent of tangible evidence. However, the author of the research Johnjoe McFadden said that his hypothesis could offer a way forward for robots that think and feel emotions.

McFadden believes that neuron waves of electrical activity get sent out and as they propagate across the brain, they help compose our entire conscious experience.

Johnjoe McFadden, is a molecular geneticist and director of quantum biology at the University of Surrey. McFadden points to flaws in other models of consciousness as the reason that we don’t have sentient artificial intelligence or robots capable of achieving consciousness.

McFadden’s hypothesis swerves away from most traditional neuroscientists, who generally see consciousness as a narrative that our brain constructs out of our senses, perceptions, and actions. Instead, McFadden returns to a more empirical version of dualism — the idea that consciousness stems from something other than our brain matter.

McFadden’s theory adapts the idea of “dualism,” which is the belief that consciousness is a supernatural force. Dualism has long been rejected by scientists and ruled pseudo-science, but McFadden has attempted to apply a scientific explanation for the idea, which hasn’t been done before.

Neuroscience news reports that the theory is based on scientific fact:

“The theory is based on scientific fact: when neurons in the brain and nervous system fire, they not only send the familiar electrical signal down the wire-like nerve fibres, but they also send a pulse of electromagnetic energy into the surrounding tissue. Such energy is usually disregarded, yet it carries the same information as nerve firings, but as an immaterial wave of energy, rather than a flow of atoms in and out of the nerves.”

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It’s also a fact we have an electromagnetic field surrounding our brain is well-known and is detected by brain-scanning techniques such as electroencephalogram (EEG) and magnetoencephalography (MEG) but has previously been dismissed as irrelevant to brain function and supernatural. Instead, McFadden contends that the brain’s information-rich electromagnetic field is, in fact, itself the seat of consciousness, driving the ‘free will’ of an individual.

“How brain matter becomes aware and manages to think is a mystery that has been pondered by philosophers, theologians, mystics and ordinary people for millennia,” McFadden said in a press release published by Medical Xpress. “I believe this mystery has now been solved, and that consciousness is the experience of nerves plugging into the brain’s self-generated electromagnetic field to drive what we call ‘free will’ and our voluntary actions.”

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