Posted by: COSI | July 11, 2008

Life’s Possibility Possible with the Discovery of Ice on Mars?

I still remember staring at the sky around 10 years old finding that reddish star which from charts I knew was Mars—and then as an adult getting my first really good personal look of Mars through the eyepiece of the 14 inch telescope we had at the Kopernik Observatory of the first museum I ran. Nothing between those years dampened my enthusiasm for the wonders of our night sky and its players.

So I thought it was just another exciting note about the latest from our exploration of Mars that hit the science news recently, continuing my personal fascination, I know shared with others, over our peeling the onion back on our closest planetary neighbor.

If you haven’t heard the latest from our exploratory reaches into near space, NASA scientists announced that they are comfortable in declaring that the Mars Phoenix Lander has uncovered water ice in its probing below the Martian soil. The white clumps, in a Martian season too warm (a balmy -80 degrees Celsius!) for carbon dioxide ice, can most likely be explained by water ice.

Images over four days show the white clumps disappearing. Now they wouldn’t melt at the temperatures at the surface, but they would disappear through a process called sublimating which is when a solid changes directly to a gas. We don’t normally think of materials skipping the liquid state between solid and gas, but here at COSI you’ve probably seen it demonstrated. Yes, the carbon dioxide ice, better known as “dry ice” earns its name legitimately. Dry ice is so useful in keeping food frozen not only for it’s cold temperature (it freezes at -125 degrees Celsius), but that it also doesn’t create a liquid normally as it warms—it sublimates.

Anyway, as a human race (me included!) we always seem enthralled with the universe—maybe because it gives us a greater sense of both specialness and universal connection. So I’m sure many will follow this ongoing investigation on the surface of Mars. I’ve been enjoying staying in touch through, as well as NASA’s own site


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