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Perseverance Rover will peer beneath Mars’ surface

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Perseverance Rover Will Peer Beneath Mars' Surface
Perseverance’s Radar Imager for Mars’ Subsurface Experiment (RIMFAX) uses radar waves to probe the ground, revealing the unexplored world that lies beneath the Martian surface. The first ground-penetrating radar set on the surface of Mars, RIMFAX can provide a highly detailed view of subsurface structures down to at least 30 feet (10 meters) underground. In doing so, the instrument will reveal hidden layers of geology and help find clues to past environments on Mars, especially those with conditions necessary for supporting life. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/FFI

After touching down on the Red Planet Feb. 18, 2021, NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover will scour Jezero Crater to help us understand its geologic history and search for signs of past microbial life. But the six-wheeled robot won’t be looking just at the surface of Mars: The rover will peer deep below it with a ground-penetrating radar called RIMFAX.


Unlike similar instruments aboard Mars orbiters, which study the planet from space, RIMFAX will be the first ground-penetrating radar set on the surface of Mars. This will give scientists much higher-resolution data than space-borne radars can provide while focusing on the specific areas that Perseverance will explore. Taking a more focused look at this terrain will help the rover’s team understand how features in Jezero Crater formed over time.

Short for Radar Imager for Mars’ Subsurface Experiment, RIMFAX can provide a highly detailed view of subsurface structures down to at least 30 feet (10 meters) underground. In doing so, the instrument will reveal hidden layers of geology and help find clues to past environments on Mars, especially those that may have provided the conditions necessary for supporting life.

“We take an image of the subsurface directly beneath the rover,” said Svein-Erik Hamran, the instrument’s principal investigator, with the University of Oslo in Norway. “We can do

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Hidden Beneath the Ocean’s Surface, Nearly 16 Million Tons of Microplastic

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Plastic waste has long been a visible — and growing — problem in oceans around the world, with refuse littering the shorelines of once-pristine beaches, stretching out across a wide expanse of sea in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and threatening sea life that ingest it.

A new report offers a glimpse of one of the impacts below the surface of the ocean: the scale of microplastics building up on the ocean floor. In what researchers called the first such global estimate, Australia’s national science agency says that 9.25 million to 15.87 million tons of microplastics — fragments measuring between five millimeters and one micrometer — are embedded on the sea floor.

That is far more than on the ocean’s surface and it is the equivalent of 18 to 24 shopping bags full of small plastic fragments for every foot of coastline on every continent except for Antarctica.

It is an issue that activists have long warned about even as the fight to clean up the ocean has focused largely on the eradication of single-use plastic products like shopping bags.

The findings were published on Monday in a new study by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, or C.S.I.R.O.

“It really points to the ubiquity of the problem. It is really everywhere all the time and increasing,” Britta Denise Hardesty, a principal scientist for C.S.I.R.O. and an author of the study, said in a phone interview on Wednesday.

Microplastics are not confined to the ocean. They are also found in air particles and can be spread by wind. A variety of microplastics was even detected in the human gut.

In recent years, hundreds of plastic objects have been found in the bellies of dead whales around the world.

While cities have banned plastic bags and straws, the use of

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Salty Lake, Ponds May Be Gurgling Beneath South Pole on Mars | Science News

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By MARCIA DUNN, Aerospace Writer

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — A network of salty ponds may be gurgling beneath Mars’ South Pole alongside a large underground lake, raising the prospect of tiny, swimming Martian life.

Italian scientists reported their findings Monday, two years after identifying what they believed to be a large buried lake. They widened their coverage area by a couple hundred miles, using even more data from a radar sounder on the European Space Agency’s Mars Express orbiter.

In the latest study appearing in the journal Nature Astronomy, the scientists provide further evidence of this salty underground lake, estimated to be 12 miles to 18 miles (20 kilometers to 30 kilometers) across and buried 1 mile (1.5 kilometers) beneath the icy surface.

Even more tantalizing, they’ve also identified three smaller bodies of water surrounding the lake. These ponds appear to be of various sizes and are separate from the main lake.

Roughly 4 billion years ago, Mars was warm and wet, like Earth. But the red planet eventually morphed into the barren, dry world it remains today.

The research team led by Roma Tre University’s Sebastian Emanuel Lauro used a method similar to what’s been used on Earth to detect buried lakes in the Antarctic and Canadian Arctic. They based their findings on more than 100 radar observations by Mars Express from 2010 to 2019; the spacecraft was launched in 2003.

All this potential water raises the possibility of microbial life on — or inside — Mars. High concentrations of salt are likely keeping the water from freezing at this frigid location, the scientists noted. The surface temperature at the South Pole is an estimated minus 172 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 113 degrees Celsius), and gets gradually warmer with depth.

These bodies of water are potentially interesting biologically and