Comet SWAN Could Soon Grace our Skies - Astronomy News with The Cosmic Companion May 21, 2020

A green comet is now starting to be seen in northwestern skies in the hours after sunset. Will Comet SWAN dazzle or disappoint? Here's how to see it.

A new comet is coming our way — Comet SWAN. Will it be sight to remember, or will it dash our dreams, like Comet ATLAS?

By James Maynard

Comet C/2020 F8 (SWAN), seen on May 2,2020, showing a bright head, and a budding green tail. Image credit: Diego Toscan @toscan.diego (cc)

Night skies in late May and early June may be graced by the sight of a magnificent swan. But, this is no bird — it is a visitor from the distant reaches of the Solar System.

C/2020 F8 (SWAN) (or Comet SWAN) is, just now, starting to be visible to viewers under dark skies without the use of binoculars or a telescope.

Oddly, this icy remnant from the outer solar system was discovered by an amateur scientist, looking in data from an instrument not meant to find comets.

Read more: https://bit.ly/Comet_SWAN


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Massive Mud Volcanoes may have Helped Shape Mars - Astronomy News with The Cosmic Companion May 20, 2020

Features on Mars thought to be caused by lava were, in fact, the result of massive mud flows, a new study reveals.

Researchers study canyons on Mars by playing with mud in a laboratory. How did mud volcanoes affect the Red Planet?

By James Maynard

This mud volcano in Azerbaijan may be similar to features seen on Mars, and other small, frozen worlds around the Solar System. Image credit: Petr Brož Czech Academy of Sciences

Mud volcanoes on Mars could be the cause of distinctive features that most researchers had thought were left over from ancient lava flows. Tens of thousands of channels spread out over the Martian surface. Hundreds of kilometers long, and tens of miles wide, these ribbon canyons reach far across the ruddy landscape of Mars.

Planetary science suggests these features were carved out as massive floods, comparable in size to the largest ever seen on Earth, tore across the surface of Mars long ago. As the water settled into the Martian crust, it (naturally) formed mud. Rapid freezing could have led to eruptions of mud in the regions, the study concludes.

“The rapid burial of water-rich sediments after such flooding could have led to sedimentary volcanism, in which mixtures of sediment and water (mud) erupt to the surface. Tens of thousands of volcano-like landforms populate the northern lowlands and other local [high sediment regions] on Mars,” researchers explained in an article published in Nature Geoscience.

Using the Mars Chamber at the Open University, researchers developed simulations of mud moving across the surface of the Red Planet. These models simulated frigid temperatures, as well as low pressures, like those seen today on Mars.

Read more: https://bit.ly/Muddy-Volcanoes-Mars


Coming May 26: An interview with Dr. Alejandro Soto of the Southwest Research Institute, talking about water on Mars, and how salty conditions there could affect exploration of the Red Planet.

https://thecosmiccompanion.net/astronomy-news-with-the-cosmic-companion


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Interview with Dr. Thea Kozakis of the Carl Sagan Institute - Astronomy News with The Cosmic Companion Video and Podcast May 19, 2020

  
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Hello everyone:

In this week's episode of Astronomy News with The Cosmic Companion, we talk about Comet SWAN, which could soon grace our skies as the brightest comet in years. We will delve deep into small pockets of water, trapped in the crust of Mars, where salty water may be too harsh for life. And, finally, we will learn about the rhythms of stars, and what it can teach us about the nature of these thermonuclear furnaces.

And, in her first interview since earning her doctorate in astrophysics and astrobiology last week, we talk with Dr. Thea Kozakis, who recently led a study exploring planets around dead stars, looking for life.

Watch the video version of this episode:

This podcast is also available from all major podcast providers.

Coming May 26: Alejandro Soto of the Southwest Research Institute, talking about water on Mars, and how salty conditions there could affect exploration of the Red Planet.  If you enjoyed this episode of The Cosmic Companion, please download and share the episode on YouTube or any major podcast provider.

For more details on space and astronomy news, please visit: thecosmiccompanion.net or thecosmiccompanion.com.

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- James

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A Salty Story of Life on Mars - Astronomy News with The Cosmic Companion May 14, 2020

Exploring Mars means protecting the Red Planet from microbes from Earth. Small deposits of water which might offer refuge may be too salty for life to exist, a new study suggests.

A new look at the climate of Mars suggests life would be even harsher than thought for life on The Red Planet. That could be good news for Mars exploration.

James Maynard

Mars was once a water world. Today, pockets of water may still exist for a few hours a day, for a short time each Martian year. Still, these regions may be too salty for microorganisms from Earth to survive. This could, potentially, protect Mars from contamination by lifeforms from Earth that hitch a ride aboard a spacecraft. Image credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser

Microorganisms from Earth traveling to Mars aboard spacecraft would struggle to survive in pockets of salty brine on the Red Planet, a new study suggests. This could be good news for the exploration of Mars, as these conditions would make it less likely the planet may be contaminated by microbes from Earth, hitching a ride on landers touching down on the alien surface.

Planetary protection from microbes from Earth has been a goal of NASA and other space agencies since the earliest days of space exploration.

“Such regions would be of concern for planetary protection policies owing to the potential for forward contamination (biological contamination from Earth),” researchers described in an article detailing their study, published in Nature Astronomy.

Read more: https://bit.ly/Salty-Life-Mars


Coming May 26: An interview with Dr. Alejandro Soto of the Southwest Research Institute, talking about water on Mars, and how salty conditions there could affect exploration of the Red Planet.

https://thecosmiccompanion.net/astronomy-news-with-the-cosmic-companion


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