Universe Today – Last week, scientists announced findings based on data from the SPICAM spectrometer onboard ESA’s Mars Express spacecraft. The findings reported in Science by Maltagliati et al (2011), reveal that the Martian atmosphere is supersaturated with water vapor. According to the research team, the discovery provides new information which will help scientists better understand the water cycle and atmospheric history of Mars.
The animated sequence shows the water cycle of the Martian atmosphere in action:
When the polar caps of Mars (which contain frozen Water and CO2) are warmed by the Sun during spring and summer, the water sublimates and is released into the atmosphere.
Atmospheric winds transport the water vapor molecules to higher altitudes. When the water molecules combine with dust molecules, clouds are formed. If there isn’t much dust in the atmosphere, the rate of condensation is reduced, which leaves water vapor in the atmosphere, creating a supersaturated state.
Water vapor may also be transported by wind to the southern hemisphere or may be carried high in the atmosphere.In the upper atmosphere the water vapor can be affected by photodissociation in which solar radiation (white arrows) splits the water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen atoms, which then escape into space.
While the amount of water in Mars’ atmosphere is about 10,000 times less water vapor than that of Earth, previous models have underestimated the amount of water in the Martian atmosphere at altitudes of 20-50km, as the data suggests 10 to 100 times more water than expected at said altitudes.
I think that creating something like Jack and the Beanstalk with the ability to climb your way into heaven is probably still maybe 100 years away. However, we’re making enormous inroads with carbon nanotubes and graphene.
If graphene is so powerful, then why can’t we make this ladder to the stars? The problem is strictly technical. The largest amount of pure carbon nanotubes and graphene that we can make in the laboratory is about that big. We need thousands of miles of pure cable in order to create a space elevator. The problem with going to the stars is only the first few hundred miles. If you can negotiate the first few hundred miles and get off the gravitational well of the planet earth, you’re well on your way to going to the stars themselves. That’s why a space elevator could literally revolutionize space travel.
Nextbigfuture covered a comet which seem to have caused a coronal mass ejection. There is also a longterm risk of manmade solar explosions.
Weird Warp – A new telescope is starting to look at the universe. ALMA is the most powerful millimetre/submillimetre wavelength telescope in the world. These are longer wavelengths roughly about 1000 times longer than visible light wavelengths. Using these wavelengths ALMA allows astronomers to study really cold objects in the universe such as dense clouds of cosmic dust and gas from which stars and planets form as well as distant objects in the early universe. ALMA could also see through dust and gas and therefore it will look at the super massive black hole at the centre of our galaxy. It is 4 million times the mass of our Sun and may provide significant discoveries.