A Material Way To Make Mars Habitable

People have long dreamed of re-shaping the Martian climate to make it livable for humans. Carl Sagan was the first outside of the realm of science fiction to propose terraforming. In a 1971 paper, Sagan suggested that vaporizing the northern polar ice caps would “yield ~10 s g cm-2 of atmosphere over the planet, higher global temperatures through the greenhouse effect, and a greatly increased likelihood of liquid water.”

Sagan’s work inspired other researchers and futurists to take seriously the idea of terraforming. The key question was: are there enough greenhouse gases and water on Mars to increase its atmospheric pressure to Earth-like levels?

In 2018, a pair of NASA-funded researchers from the University of Colorado, Boulder and Northern Arizona University found that processing all the sources available on Mars would only increase atmospheric pressure to about 7 percent that of Earth – far short of what is needed to make the planet habitable.

Terraforming Mars, it seemed, was an unfulfillable dream.

Now, researchers from the Harvard University, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, and the University of Edinburgh, have a new idea. Rather than trying to change the whole planet, what if you took a more regional approach?

The researchers suggest that regions of the Martian surface could be made habitable with a material — silica aerogel — that mimics Earth’s atmospheric greenhouse effect. Through modeling and experiments, the researchers show that a two to three-centimeter-thick shield of silica aerogel could transmit enough visible light for photosynthesis, block hazardous ultraviolet radiation, and raise temperatures underneath permanently above the melting point of water, all without the need for any internal heat source.

The paper is published in Nature Astronomy.

“This regional approach to making Mars habitable is much more achievable than global atmospheric modification,” said Robin Wordsworth, Assistant Professor of Environmental Science and Engineering at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and the Department of Earth and Planetary Science. “Unlike the previous ideas to make Mars habitable, this is something that can be developed and tested systematically with materials and technology we already have.”

“Mars is the most habitable planet in our Solar System besides Earth,” said Laura Kerber, Research Scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “But it remains a hostile world for many kinds of life. A system for creating small islands of habitability would allow us to transform Mars in a controlled and scalable way.”

The researchers were inspired by a phenomenon that already occurs on Mars.

Unlike Earth’s polar ice caps, which are made of frozen water, polar ice caps on Mars are a combination of water ice and frozen CO2. Like its gaseous form, frozen CO2 allows sunlight to penetrate while trapping heat. In the summer, this solid-state greenhouse effect creates pockets of warming under the ice.

“We started thinking about this solid-state greenhouse effect and how it could be invoked for creating habitable environments on Mars in the future,” said Wordsworth. “We started thinking about what kind of materials could minimize thermal conductivity but still transmit as much light as possible.”

The researchers landed on silica aerogel, one of the most insulating materials ever created.

Silica aerogels are 97 percent porous, meaning light moves through the material but the interconnecting nanolayers of silicon dioxide infrared radiation and greatly slow the conduction of heat. These aerogels are used in several engineering applications today, including NASA’s Mars Exploration Rovers.

“Silica aerogel is a promising material because its effect is passive,” said Kerber. “It wouldn’t require large amounts of energy or maintenance of moving parts to keep an area warm over long periods of time.”

Using modeling and experiments that mimicked the Martian surface, the researchers demonstrated that a thin layer of this material increased average temperatures of mid-latitudes on Mars to Earth-like temperatures.

“Spread across a large enough area, you wouldn’t need any other technology or physics, you would just need a layer of this stuff on the surface and underneath you would have permanent liquid water,” said Wordsworth.

This material could be used to build habitation domes or even self-contained biospheres on Mars.

“There’s a whole host of fascinating engineering questions that emerge from this,” said Wordsworth.

Next, the team aims to test the material in Mars-like climates on Earth, such as the dry valleys of Antarctica or Chile.

Wordsworth points out that any discussion about making Mars habitable for humans and Earth life also raises important philosophical and ethical questions about planetary protection.

“If you’re going to enable life on the Martian surface, are you sure that there’s not life there already? If there is, how do we navigate that,” asked Wordsworth. “The moment we decide to commit to having humans on Mars, these questions are inevitable.”

Part-VIII Just Where Are We in this Cycle of Magnetic Reversal?

Here we are now, in Part VIII of this series, and I would think a great question to ask would be “Where in this layered multitude of decadal, centennial, and millennial magnetic reversal cycles are we?” Current studies suggest we are further along the process indicating we could be just several decades, or perhaps a century or two away from a full magnetic reversal. Like all historic magnetic reversals, the process takes a few thousand years to develop. With each passing decade from the previous cycle, the intensity of charged particles increase as the Earth’s magnetic field decreases.

My research suggest the current influx of cosmic rays has increased over the last few decades, with noticeable increase over the last two years. Data from the Swarm satellite have shown the magnetic field is starting to weaken faster than in the past. Previously, researchers estimated the field was weakening about 5 percent per century, but the new data revealed the field is actually weakening at 5 percent per decade, or 10 times faster than thought. As such, rather than the full flip occurring in about 2,000 years, as was predicted, the new data suggest it could happen much sooner.

Historically, during extended solar minimum cycles which could range from 40,000 years to 700,000 years – each being its own cycle within a cycle, could be a contributing factor in historic global extinctions. I would ascertain and with using minimal consideration, you might have surmised a large part of my research is the study of cycles, hence, my company’s title Science Of Cycles.

Ѡ We have reached the halfway point for this project thanks to you. Now just short $500, perhaps there are five member supporters who could help out. But of course whatever each of you can contribute is welcome. btw, this multi-part series has taken notice by a few in our highly recognized scientific bodies.  CLICK HERE

An instinctive second and third question you might inquire would be: “What do we look for and what actually happens related to a magnetic shift?” I would suggest that perhaps within the next 20-30 years, there will be people alive today who will witness the process of magnetic north bouncing around the northern hemisphere above 60° latitude and swing between 30° east and 30° west longitudes. Furthermore, there will be some of you who are young enough to witness a more pronounced swing in both latitude and longitude as magnetic north will drop below the equator then bounce back within the next 50-60 years.

For a full polarity reversal to occur, the magnetic field needs to weaken by about 90% to a threshold level. This process can take thousands of years, and during this time, the lack of a protective magnetic shield around our planet allows more cosmic rays – high-energy particles mostly from within our galaxy Milky Way, but also from neighboring galaxies, will be able to penetrate our solar system and Earth. When this happens, these cosmic rays collide with more and more atoms in our atmosphere, such as nitrogen and oxygen. This produces variants of elements called cosmogenic isotopes, such as carbon-14 and beryllium-10, which fall to the surface. This provides a method of tracking reversals of the past, which helps assess future events.

Part – IX  The Mysterious South Atlantic Anomaly

Part -V Short to Medium-Term Cycles to Long-Term Cycles and Back Again

Just as the Earth and other planets rotate around our Sun, our solar system has a rotating trajectory around our galaxy Milky Way. And I must say…before I leave this plane of existence, I feel confident future research will reveal new evidence announcing that our galaxy (along with neighboring galaxies), will have a periodicity rotation with cyclical parameters rotating around…what is yet to be discovered.

The Earth is regularly exposed to cosmic rays as it oscillates upward through the galactic disc. Every 60 million years or so, astronomers believe that our Sun and planets cycle northward in the galactic plane. Just as the Earth has her magnetic field, Milky Way has its own. Without the galactic plane’s magnetic field shielding our solar system, we would be at even higher risk of radiation exposure.

The idea the evolution of life is punctuated by major extinction events with intervals of many millions of years is well established. Familiar episodes include the Cretaceous – Paleogene transition (65.5 mya), which saw the final demise of the non avian dinosaurs and many shallow sea life-forms, and the end-Permian (251 mya) when an estimated 56% of marine genera became extinct.

It is hypnotized the closer our solar system travels to the galactic center, we researchers observed a correlation between these cyclical events and its concordance with partial and mass extinctions transpiring with measurable regularity on Earth over the past 500 million years.

Identifying mass extinction signals is part of a wider search of periodicity to causal processes associated with geological events. Previous studies have identified a variety of periods including:

1) 26-35 Myr. (million year) geo-period evidenced by mantle plumes, flood basalt, and large igneous provinces (LIPs): 2) A 60-62 Myr cycle identified by marine genera, sea level and LIPs: 3) A 135 -145 Myr. cycle established by marine genera, and oxygen isotope records and also identified a ice age epoch.

 

I’m guessing some of you know where I’m going with this new series of research articles. However, I believe most of you are still not quite sure. I must say, it has been a long-long time since I had to re-written 2 or 3 times on this article and the previous ones. I feel confident this series of articles are very important and perhaps it may be difficult for one to wrap their mind around this information realizing how closely connected our little planet is to our solar system and galaxy.

*If you find this information meaningful feel free to contribute. Go to the click here button to support this work.  CLICK HERE

At this moment I truly can’t say how many parts to this series there will be. I am certain of at least two more after this one, but 3 to 5 additional is not out of the question. I wish to thank you the two or three of you for your contribution. It comes at a good time. I have made a choice to dedicate a significant amount of time to these new understandings, and it is very important for me to present them to you in a method and style which most people will understand; and eventually all of you.

Coming Next: Part VI – Coming Friday but not sure of title as of know

Earth’s Mantle Is Geochemically Diverse Mosaic

In countless grade-school science textbooks, the Earth’s mantle is a yellow-to-orange gradient, a nebulously defined layer between the crust and the core.

To geologists, the mantle is so much more than that. It’s a region that lives somewhere between the cold of the crust and the bright heat of the core. It’s where the ocean floor is born and where tectonic plates die.

A new paper published today in Nature Geoscience paints an even more intricate picture of the mantle as a geochemically diverse mosaic, far different than the relatively uniform lavas that eventually reach the surface. Even more importantly, a copy of this mosaic is hidden deep in the crust. The study is led by Sarah Lambart, assistant professor of geology at the University of Utah, and is funded by European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program and the National Science Foundation.

“If you look at a painting from Jackson Pollock, you have a lot of different colors,” Lambart says. “Those colors represent different mantle components and the lines are magmas produced by these components and transported to the surface. You look at the yellow line, it’s not going to mix much with the red or black.”

Primitive minerals

Our best access to the mantle comes in the form of lava that erupts at mid-ocean ridges. These ridges are at the middle of the ocean floor and generate new ocean crust. Samples of this lava show that it’s chemically mostly the same anywhere on the planet.

But that’s at odds with what happens at the other end of the crust’s life cycle. Old ocean crust spreads away from mid-ocean ridges until it’s shoved beneath a continent and sinks back into the mantle. What happens after that is somewhat unclear, but if both the mantle and the old crust melt, there should be some variation in the chemical composition of the magmas.

So Lambart and her colleagues from Wales and the Netherlands, sought to discover what the mantle looks like before it rises as lava at a mid-ocean ridge. They examined cores, drilled through the ocean crust, to look at cumulate minerals: the first minerals to crystallize when the magmas enter the crust.

“We looked at the most primitive part of these minerals,” Lambart says, adding that once they located the primitive minerals they analyzed only the chemical composition from those very earliest minerals to form. “If you are not actually looking at the most primitive part you might lose the signal of this first melt that has been delivered to the crust. That is the originality of our work.”

They analyzed the samples centimeter by centimeter to look at variations in isotopes of neodymium and strontium, which can indicate different chemistries of mantle material that come from different types of rock. “If you have isotopic variability in your cumulates, that means that you have to have isotopic variability in the mantle too,” Lambart says.

When the blender turns on

That’s exactly what the team found. The amount of isotope variability in the cumulates was seven times greater than that in the mid-ocean ridge lavas. That means that the mantle is far from well-mixed and that this variability is preserved in the cumulates.

The likely reason, Lambart says, is that different rocks melt at different temperatures. The first rock to melt, for example the old crust, can create channels that can transport magma up to the crust. Melting of another type of rock can do the same. The end result is several networks of channels that converge towards the mid-ocean ridge but don’t mix — hearkening back to the streaks of paint on a Jackson Pollock painting.

To get at what this finding means for geology, picture a smoothie. No — go farther back than that and picture the blender carafe full of fruit, ice, milk and other ingredients. That’s like the mantle — discrete ingredients, as different from each other as a strawberry is from a blueberry. The fully blended smoothie is like the mid-ocean ridge lava. It’s fully mixed. At some point between the deep mantle and the mid-ocean ridge, Earth turns on the blender. Lambart says that her results show that at the very top of the mantle, the mixing hasn’t happened yet. The blender, it turns out, doesn’t turn on until somewhere in the crust.

Lambart’s work helps her and other geologists redefine their idea of how material moves up through the mantle to the surface.

“The problem is we need to find a way to model the geodynamic earth, including plate tectonics, to actually reproduce what is recorded in the rock today,” she says. “So far this link is missing.”

Now Lambart is setting up a new experimental petrology lab to study the conditions for the magmas to preserve their chemical compositions during their journey through the mantle and the crust.

Strange Martian Mineral Deposit Likely Sourced From Volcanic Explosions

Ashfall from ancient volcanic explosions is the likely source of a strange mineral deposit near the landing site for NASA’s next Mars rover, a new study finds. The research, published in the journal Geology, could help scientists assemble a timeline of volcanic activity and environmental conditions on early Mars.

“This is one of the most tangible pieces of evidence yet for the idea that explosive volcanism was more common on early Mars,” said Christopher Kremer, a graduate student at Brown University who led the work. “Understanding how important explosive volcanism was on early Mars is ultimately important for understand the water budget in Martian magma, groundwater abundance and the thickness of the atmosphere.”

Volcanic explosions happen when gases like water vapor are dissolved in underground magma. When the pressure of that dissolved gas is more than the rock above can hold, it explodes, sending a fiery cloud of ash and lava into the air. Scientists think that these kinds of eruptions should have happened very early in Martian history, when there was more water available to get mixed with magma. As the planet dried out, the volcanic explosions would have died down and given way to more effusive volcanism — a gentler oozing of lava onto the surface. There’s plenty of evidence of an effusive phase to be found on the Martian surface, but evidence of the early explosive phase hasn’t been easy to spot with orbital instruments, Kremer says.

This new study looked at a deposit located in a region called Nili Fossae that’s long been of interest to scientists. The deposit is rich in the mineral olivine, which is common in planetary interiors. That suggests that the deposit is derived from deep underground, but it hasn’t been clear how the material got to the surface. Some researchers have suggested that it’s yet another example of an effusive lava flow. Others have suggested that the material was dredged up by a large asteroid impact — the impact that formed the giant Isidis Basin in which the deposit sits.

For this study, Kremer and colleagues from Brown used high-resolution images from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to look at the geology of the deposit in fine detail. Kremer’s co-authors on the work are fellow Brown graduate student Mike Bramble, and Jack Mustard, a professor in Brown’s Department of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences and Kremer’s advisor.

“This work departed methodologically from what other folks have done by looking at the physical shape of the terrains that are composed of this bedrock,” Kremer said. “What’s the geometry, the thickness and orientation of the layers that make it up. We found that the explosive volcanism and ashfall explanation ticks all the right boxes, while all of the alternative ideas for what this deposit might be disagree in several important respects with what we observe from orbit.”

The work showed the deposit extends across the surface evenly in long continuous layers that drape evenly across hills, valleys, craters and other features. That even distribution, Kremer says, is much more consistent with ashfall than lava flow. A lava flow would be expected to pool in low-lying areas and leave thin or non-existent traces in highlands.

And the stratigraphic relationships in the area rule out an origin associated with the Isidis impact, the researchers say. They showed that the deposit sits on top of features that are known to have come after the Isidis event, suggesting that the deposit itself came after as well.

The ashfall explanation also helps to account for the deposit’s unusual mineral signatures, the researchers say. The olivine shows signs of widespread alteration through contact with water — far more alteration than other olivine deposits on Mars. That makes sense if this were ashfall, which is porous and therefore susceptible to alteration by small amounts of water, the researchers say.

All told, the researchers say, these orbital data strongly lean toward an ashfall origin. But the team won’t have to rely only on orbital data for long. NASA’s Mars2020 rover is scheduled to land in Jezero Crater, which sits within the olivine deposit. And there are exposures of the deposit within the crater. The olivine-rich unit will almost certainly be one of the rover’s exploration targets, and it might have the final say on what this deposit is.

“What’s exciting is that we’ll see very soon if I’m right or wrong,” Kremer said. “So that’s a little nerve wracking, but if it’s not an ashfall, it’s probably going to be something much stranger. That’s just as fun if not more so.”

If it does turn out to be ashfall, Kremer says, it validates the methodology used in this study as a means of looking at potential ashfall deposits elsewhere on Mars.

But whatever the rover finds will be important in understanding the evolution of the Red Planet.

“One of Mars 2020’s top 10 discoveries is going to be figuring out what this olivine-bearing unit is,” said Mustard, Kremer’s advisor. “That’s something people will be writing and talking about for a long time.”

Exotic Matter Uncovered In The Sun’s Atmosphere

Scientists from Ireland and France have announced a major new finding about how matter behaves in the extreme conditions of the Sun’s atmosphere.

The scientists used large radio telescopes and ultraviolet cameras on a NASA spacecraft to better understand the exotic but poorly understood “fourth state of matter.” Known as plasma, this matter could hold the key to developing safe, clean and efficient nuclear energy generators on Earth. The scientists published their findings in the leading international journal Nature Communications.

Most of the matter we encounter in our everyday lives comes in the form of solid, liquid or gas, but the majority of the Universe is composed of plasma — a highly unstable and electrically charged fluid. The Sun is also made up of this plasma.

Despite being the most common form of matter in the Universe plasma remains a mystery, mainly due to its scarcity in natural conditions on Earth, which makes it difficult to study. Special laboratories on Earth recreate the extreme conditions of space for this purpose, but the Sun represents an all-natural laboratory to study how plasma behaves in conditions that are often too extreme for the manually constructed Earth-based laboratories.

Postdoctoral Researcher at Trinity College Dublin and the Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies (DIAS), Dr Eoin Carley, led the international collaboration. He said: “The solar atmosphere is a hotbed of extreme activity, with plasma temperatures in excess of 1 million degrees Celsius and particles that travel close to light-speed. The light-speed particles shine bright at radio wavelengths, so we’re able to monitor exactly how plasmas behave with large radio telescopes.”

“We worked closely with scientists at the Paris Observatory and performed observations of the Sun with a large radio telescope located in Nançay in central France. We combined the radio observations with ultraviolet cameras on NASA’s space-based Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft to show that plasma on the sun can often emit radio light that pulses like a light-house. We have known about this activity for decades, but our use of space and ground-based equipment allowed us to image the radio pulses for the first time and see exactly how plasmas become unstable in the solar atmosphere.”

Studying the behaviour of plasmas on the Sun allows for a comparison of how they behave on Earth, where much effort is now under way to build magnetic confinement fusion reactors. These are nuclear energy generators that are much safer, cleaner and more efficient than their fission reactor cousins that we currently use for energy today.

Professor at DIAS and collaborator on the project, Peter Gallagher, said: “Nuclear fusion is a different type of nuclear energy generation that fuses plasma atoms together, as opposed to breaking them apart like fission does. Fusion is more stable and safer, and it doesn’t require highly radioactive fuel; in fact, much of the waste material from fusion is inert helium.”

“The only problem is that nuclear fusion plasmas are highly unstable. As soon as the plasma starts generating energy, some natural process switches off the reaction. While this switch-off behaviour is like an inherent safety switch — fusion reactors cannot form runaway reactions — it also means the plasma is difficult to maintain in a stable state for energy generation. By studying how plasmas become unstable on the Sun, we can learn about how to control them on Earth.”

The success of this research was made possible by the close ties between researchers at Trinity, DIAS, and their French collaborators.

Dr Nicole Vilmer, lead collaborator on the project in Paris, said: “The Paris Observatory has a long history of making radio observations of the Sun, dating back to the 1950s. By teaming up with other radio astronomy groups around Europe we are able to make groundbreaking discoveries such as this one and continue the success we have in solar radio astronomy in France. It also further strengthens scientific collaboration between France and Ireland, which I hope continues in the future.”

Dr Carley previously worked at the Paris Observatory, funded by a fellowship awarded by the Irish Research Council and the European Commission. He continues to work closely with his French colleagues today, and hopes to soon study the same phenomena using both French instruments and newly built, state-of-the-art equipment in Ireland.

Dr Carley added: “The collaboration with French scientists is ongoing and we’re already making progress with newly built radio telescopes in Ireland, such as the Irish Low Frequency Array (I-LOFAR). I-LOFAR can be used to uncover new plasma physics on the Sun in far greater detail than before, teaching us about how matter behaves in both plasmas on the Sun, here on Earth and throughout the Universe in general.”

The work was funded by the Irish Research Council.

Part II – New Findings Show a Closer Connection Between Galactic Cosmic Rays, Our Solar System, and Milky Way

Just as the Earth and other planets rotate around our Sun, our solar system has a rotation trajectory around our galaxy Milky Way. And I must say…before I leave this plane of existence, I feel confident future research will show our galaxy, along with neighboring galaxies, will also have a periodicity rotation with cyclical parameters…rotating around what is yet to be discovered.

The Earth is regularly exposed to cosmic rays as it oscillates upward through the galactic disc. Every 60 million years or so, astronomers believe that our Sun and planets cycle northward in the galactic plane. Just as the Earth has her magnetic field, Milky Way has its own. Without the galactic plane’s magnetic field shielding our solar system, we would be at even higher risk of radiation exposure. It is hypnotized that the closer our solar system travels to the galactic center, we note a correlation between this cyclical motion and partial to mass extinctions happening with a fair amount of regularity on Earth over the past 500 million years.

Some scientists have surmised we are in the midst of a sixth mass extinction of plants and animals. An assemblage of researchers have noted the cycle we are currently experiencing may be a high ratio of species die-offs since. Although extinction is a natural phenomenon, it occurs at a natural “background” rate of about one to five species per year. Scientists estimate we’re now losing species at 1,000 to 10,000 times the background rate. However, to keep things in perspective – researchers currently know of about 1.2 million species to be recorded by science. What’s left to be discovered however is very interesting. The number of species that scientists think are left to be discovered is around 8.7 million. Still, new discoveries can change a scenario, and so can the numbers.

I have re-written this article and ones coming 3 or 4 times because of its importance. Some of you might remember an importance decision I made concerning the direction of my research. I had such a strong pull to go beyond the study of our Sun-Earth connection and peeking around the corner to see what’s next. What I hope to show you is that I am finding a very similar pattern of cause and effect, symbiotic relationship between each level of co-existence. I hope you agree and perhaps catch a flavor of my enthusiastic venturous demeanor. If so, pledge your donation to match renewed devotion to this work. If you happen to know Bill Gates, or his neighbor, give him a call.

Coming Next: Part III – First Will Come Reversal Excursions Then the Flip