Dust devils recorded on Mars (and a quote in The Atlantic)

Dust devils form on Mars for much the same reasons that they form on Earth: Turbulence in the atmosphere. Today, the surface of Mars is dominated by these wind-related processes. We can see in real time how wind moves materials across the planet and how these materials can gently scour rocks and accumulate, thereby changing the landscape.

I got to speak about Martian wind processes with Marina Koren at The Atlantic: “The Luckiest Rover” — Perseverance Captures Mars Dust Devil Sound, December 2022

From the summer: GRAPE 2022 Field Work in the Canadian Arctic

 ICYMI: Our Los Alamos National Laboratory health physics field coordinator James Harper tells the story of our Explorers Club Discovery Expedition #GRAPE2022 field work in the Canadian Arctic at Haughton Crater this summer.

Keeping Mars scientists safe in the Arctic Arctic by James Harper — What a radiological control technician supervisor was doing 600 miles north of the Arctic Circle with a team of Mars scientists

In his own words, James Harper, a health physics field coordinator at Los Alamos National Laboratory, gives a fascinating account of why he accompanied a team of the Laboratory’s Mars scientists this summer to a 31-million-year-old crater, 600 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Around the Lab, Harper provides radiation protection field support to workers carrying out national security missions. This unexpected assignment definitely broadened his horizons. 

James Harper: “Wow! The day I never expected has finally arrived. As I cross the threshold of the Boeing 737, I reflect. Several months have slowly passed until this point and now in a few short days I’ll be exploring the secluded Arctic, in total isolation, thousands of miles from civilization — in the name of…”

Read more.

From LANL: “Ann Ollila and Nina Lanza traversing the river’s shoreline in search of a hydrothermal vug — a void in a rock formation created when mineral crystals in the rock are dissolved or eroded. Most hydrothermal vugs are filled with flowing, mineral-saturated water.”

Standing on Mars

I got to stand on Mars, see a full size model of Perseverance and Ingenuity, and talk visitors’ ears off about SuperCam last month at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science for the Perseverance Mars Rover’s Roving With Perseverance tour!

Nina on the simulated Mars surface at NMMNHS.
This is a life-sized view of the Amalik area. Can you see the abrasion patch?

Roving With Perseverance Tour Dates

Check the the Roving With Perseverance website for tour dates. Upcoming and current locations include (in addition to NMMNHS) the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, the Edelman Planetarium in Glassboro, N.J., the Museum of Science in Boston.

Also, I couldn’t resist…

Nina doing a headstand on the simulated Mars surface at NMMNHS

Los Alamos National Laboratory

Why Premature Claims of Life on Mars Hurt Science

So far, we’ve seen a human face on Mars, a monster crab, and a cannonball.

At least that’s what the internet tells us.

It’s easy for people to look at images from the red planet and see all sorts of things that seem to indicate alien life—even though the truth is much less exciting. The human face is a mesa, the crab is just a rock, and the cannonball is a pebble.

Most scientists aren’t surprised when some people come up with a sci-fi explanation for an image from another planet. After all, humans evolved to find recognizable patterns amid chaos. There’s even a word for it: pareidolia. But what we don’t expect is for fellow scientists—those who have been trained in the scientific method—to make those claims. When they do, it hurts science as a whole.

Read More Here: https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/why-premature-claims-of-life-on-mars-hurt-science/

Did Life Sign the Guest Book on Mars?

If life exists on Mars, it still hasn’t showed itself—but recent evidence from the Red Planet increasingly supports the possibility. Life could have developed there. Most of the conditions are right, and nothing found so far rules out the possibility, either in the distant past or today. 

If something is or was alive on the Red Planet, it’s probably tiny. Because microbes make up the vast majority of life on Earth and live in its most inhospitable environments, they are the most likely thing to find somewhere else. It’s not so easy figuring out what “alive” means on another planet—let alone discovering a living microbe. Scientists are still puzzled by life on Earth struggling to understand how life started, what it requires to survive, what it looked like 4 four billion years ago, and how to recognize traces of ancient life today. 

Read More Here: https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/did-life-sign-the-guest-book-on-mars/

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This was a Hiya, Scout! design.