Category Archives: NASA

The NASA MAVEN mission to study Mars

A NASA image of Mars from the Hubble Space Telescope

The NASA mission to mars, MAVEN (Mars Atmospheric and Volatile     EvolutionN), will be launching in a little over a week on November 18. This very exciting mission is going to investigate what happened to Mars’s atmosphere. It is thought that at one time the atmosphere was dense enough to support water on the surface of Mars. The mission will give clues about whether Mars could have supported life at one time. MAVEN will take 10 months to reach the planet of Mars.

You can keep tabs on the mission here.


The Discovery of Greenland’s Massive Canyon

NASA scientists have recently discovered a canyon underneath Greenland’s ice sheet by using radar data. The canyon is 400 miles long and half a mile deep (for comparison, the Grand Canyon is 277 miles long and a little over a mile deep). This canyon was believed to have been formed before the glacier over Greenland formed.

Radar uses electromagnetic waves to penetrate through the ice. In much the same way that shining a flashlight through a window to a wall will case light to reflect off of the wall back to the person holding the flashlight outside, the longer radio waves used with radar reflect off of the earth’s surface.

It is definitely interesting to learn about this canyon, but the importance of the discovery is beyond being a neat fact. Water flowing beneath the glaciers actually contributes to a complex relationship with glacial movement and melting, and the transport of glacial melt water from inland portions of the glacier to the ocean is pertinent to this topic.

Europa’s ocean may have similar salts to Earth’s ocean


Image of Europa from NASA/JPL

A recent study done with the Hawaii Keck telescope looked at spectra from Jupiter’s famous icy moon Europa. Many scientists have speculated that the moon may harbor life in an ocean underneath its thick ice shell. Now, spectra are showing a magnesium sulfate compound on the surface of the ice. While it is though the sulfate component may have come from the volcanic moon Io, it is still speculated that the magnesium may be from salts within the ocean. Thus, there is hope there are similar salts in Europa’s ocean to what is in Earth’s ocean. Read more about this here.

Watch as NASA’s GRAIL Spacecraft Crashes Into the Moon Today

If you happen to be perusing the internet and want something to watch, NASA will be providing live commentary as the Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) craft crashes (purposefully) into the moon today. The mission has mapped the moons gravitational field, and allowed scientists to get a better understanding of the interior structure of the moon. Read more here.