terça-feira, 29 de janeiro de 2013

UA Doctoral Student First to Identify Nature of Meteorite

A UA doctoral student was the first among a group of researchers to identify the nature of a meteorite that landed in California and Nevada.

Robert Beauford, a UA doctoral student in space and planetary sciences, was one of many scientists who formed the Sutter’s Mill Consortium to research the meteorite that fell near that location. The consortium was able to link many researchers together and provide a clear line of communication through which they could share their results.

“We will know a great deal more about this meteorite because of this cooperation than we would have known otherwise,” Beauford said. “The efficiency of this group, in speed of research and in the thoroughness with which results are being communicated, will allow others to build upon our team’s successes more effectively and more quickly when the next new samples arrive from space.”

Their research was published in the journal “Science”, and Beauford’s recognition of the meteorite was mentioned in the title.

“I really only played a small part, along with many other very qualified scientists,” Beauford said. “It is nice that people have found my work to be useful. Science is a team effort.”

To identify the meteorite Beauford took an extensive series of pictures and examined the meteorite with a hand lens. He observed that it was composed of fragments of rock, which were visibly different from each other. He also noticed an unusually complex matrix that preserved the structures of the parent rocks that formed the impacted material. He said his primary avenue of research regards impacted rock types, which helped him identify the meteorite.

“I was simply in the right place at the right time, and with the right skill set to see something interesting about it,” he said. “I did the work for the enjoyment of it, and only sent it over because I thought the observations might be useful. I honestly never expected to be included in the subsequent research or in the paper that followed. It was a real pleasure to be able to contribute further.”

Meteorites are rare in general, but carbonaceous chondrites, like Sutter’s Mill, are even more so because only about 1.5 percent of them have been identified in all falls and finds, Beauford said. Not only is this a rare and important class of meteorite, it is the single most pristine example of this meteorite type that has ever been recovered, he said.

“Meteorites are among the most unaltered materials that we currently possess from the early solar system,” he said. “These meteorites are literal time capsules from the time of the formation of our sun and planets.”

From this group of meteorites researchers have been able to recover pre-solar grains, which are older than the sun, and organic carbon molecules, Beauford said. They also contain some of the most resource-rich materials in the solar system, which will show researchers some of the places that they should be focusing on in short-term space exploration and long-term solar development.

They also inform many branches of science by offering insights into earth’s geochemical and environmental systems, Beauford said.

“Understanding this meteorite and its parent asteroid translates to an increase in our understanding of the solar system itself, including us, our own planet, our sun, and our place in space and time,” he said.

Beauford is involved in three other projects regarding the Sutter’s Mill meteorite in addition to answering some questions about known impact craters on the Ozark Plateau. He said he is also working on refuting or confirming the location of two other possible impact craters and is in the process of researching and writing for several books.

“I achieved what I hoped for: to contribute my time and effort to the advancement of science,” Beauford said, “and to help other people’s research to be able to reach its potential by accurately and precisely informing their efforts with the results of my own investigations.”

Source: The Arkansas Traveler

quarta-feira, 23 de janeiro de 2013

We are not alone: 'Alien life' discovered in meteorite which crash-landed on Earth

A top British scientist discovered the two-inch wide rock was pitted with tiny fossils of algae, similar to the kind found in seaweed.

A top British scientist claims he has found proof that extraterrestrials exist after cracking open a meteorite.

Instead of finding an alien like Hollywood favourite ET, Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe discovered the two-inch wide rock was pitted with tiny fossils of algae, similar to the kind found in seaweed.

The respected professor believes it proves we are not alone in the universe.

He said: “These finds are crushing evidence that human life started outside Earth.”

The rock was one of several fragments of a meteorite which crash landed in central Sri Lanka in December.

They fell to earth in a spectacular fireball and were still smoking when villagers living near the city of Polonnaruwa picked them up.

The fossils were discovered when the rocks were examined under a powerful scanning electron microscope in a British laboratory.

They are similar to micro-organisms found in fossils from the dinosaur age 55 million years ago.

Critics say the rock had probably become contaminated with algae fossils from Earth.

But Prof Wickramasinghe insists they are the remnants of extra-terrestrial life.

He said: “The algae organisms are similar to ones found in Earth fossils, but the rock also has other organisms we have not identified.”

The scientist is a well known champion of the “panspermia hypothesis” – which suggests the first seeds of life were deposited on our planet from outer space 3,800 million years ago.

The professor believes these microbes came from comets, which then “multiplied and seeded” to form life on Earth.

He said: “We are all aliens – we share a cosmic ancestry. Each time a new planetary system forms, a few surviving microbes find their way into comets.

"These then multiply and seed other planets.

“These latest finds are just more evidence to point to the overwhelming fact that life on Earth began on other worlds.”

The professor, an expert on inter-stellar dust, spent decades working with Sir Fred Hoyle – a British astronomer and mathematician who was well known for rejecting the Big Bang theory.

The pair set out on a mission to try to prove their “life from outer space” theory back in the 60s.

Prof Wickramasinghe said: “Evidence from astronomy overwhelmingly supports the view that life did not start on Earth but was seeded from outside.”

Source: http://www.mirror.co.uk/

quarta-feira, 16 de janeiro de 2013

Astronaut on Ice: A Search for Antarctic Meteorites

NASA astronaut Stan Love is having a hard time right now. Not in space, but on the forbidding East Antarctic Ice Sheet. Together with a group of dedicated volunteers, Love is looking for meteorites — rocks from space that have fallen to Earth. And it's not your usual vacation.

NASA astronaut Stan Love waves while participating in a meteorite hunt in Antarctica during a 2004-2005 expedition by the Antarctic Search for Meteorites Program at Case Western Reserve University. The astronaut ventured back to Antarctica in December 2012 for more meteorites. 
CREDIT: Antarctic Search for Meteorites Program, Case Western Reserve University 

"Being on the Antarctic ice is very much like being in space," Love told SPACE.com in December over dinner at the American McMurdo Station on the coast of the frozen continent. "Without proper protection, the environment would kill you within a few hours, and there's little hope of rescue if something goes terribly wrong."

Love has been in the astronaut corps for 14 years. In 2008, he paid a two-week visit to the International Space Station on the space shuttle mission STS-122. As a management astronaut, he is now involved with so-called spaceflight analog programs: terrestrial experiments and expeditions that pose similar challenges as a journey into space.

NASA's two main space analog programs are the underwater NEEMO (NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations) base off the Florida coast, and DesertRATS (Research And Technology Studies) in the Arizona desert. "But ANSMET [Antarctic Search for Meteorites] is much more space-like than these two," Love said. "If an emergency occurs in DesertRATS, you can be in a hospital within three hours. In the case of ANSMET, it might well take three days."

Meteorite Hunters

ANSMET started back in 1976. The program is funded by NASA, the National Science Foundation  and the Smithsonian Institution, and is led by geologist Ralph Harvey of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. Every austral summer, small volunteer teams head off to a remote region of Antarctica to set up a simple, self-contained field camp. For six weeks or so, they search the bluish ice for conspicuous dark rocks that might be extraterrestrial in origin.

NASA astronaut Stan Love poses with a meteorite found in Antarctica during a 2004-2005 expedition by the Antarctic Search for Meteorites Program at Case Western Reserve University. He ventured back to Antarctica in December 2012 to seek out more space rocks.
CREDIT: Antarctic Search for Meteorites Program, Case Western Reserve University

"Building a permanent station in such an isolated region is unthinkable," Love said. "You can only go there with a minimum amount of equipment." That includes two-person tents, food rations, warm clothing, of course, and snowmobiles, on which the team members survey the frozen surface much like police comb a forest when searching for a lost child. [Hunting for Space Rocks: Q&A with Geoff Notkin of 'Meteorite Men']

Thanks to the effect of exposed or sub-glacial hills and mountains on the slow motion of the ice sheet, meteorites that have fallen over the past tens of thousands of years are concentrated and pushed up toward the surface, where they're pretty easy to spot.

"I also joined the ANSMET team in the 2004-2005 season," Love said. "My eyesight is still quite OK, and I found lots of meteorites. Which, by the way, basically means I was lucky." ANSMET doesn't offically keep track of who found what — all meteorite finds are considered to be the result of a team effort.

Famous finds

Probably the most famous ANSMET meteorite is ALH84001, which originated on Mars and, in 1996, was thought to contain fossil evidence of microbial life. Since then, studies have cast doubt on that interpretation. But even run-of-the-mill meteorites (so-called ordinary chondrites) have scientific value: they provide astronomers with a window on the early history of our solar system. [Gallery: Meteorites From Mars]

Scientists work to gather meteorites in this scene from a recent meteorite-hunting season of the Antarctic Search for Meteorites Program run by Case Western Reserve University.
CREDIT: Antarctic Search for Meteorites Program, Case Western Reserve University/Katie Joy

But why would an astronaut go meteorite hunting? "First of all, I like it here," Love said. "Eight years ago, it surprised me how much Antarctica appeals to me."

But there's more. Love said his astronaut training and experience could be useful for the ANSMET team. Just like the crew of a spaceship, the meteorite hunters are a small group of interdependent people, working for weeks on end in a very isolated environment, with all the social and psychological challenges that might show up.

"I called Ralph [Harvey] and offered to come along for a second time and share my experiences,"  Love said. "The timing was perfect: Ralph had just been considering a suggestion by some  isolation researchers to provide his team members with some kind of teamwork/leadership training."

Getting along well with each other is not just more enjoyable, according to Love — it could be crucial to the success of the expedition. "If the social environment gives you a lot of energy, everything goes smoother. However, if it takes a lot of energy, everything is harder — you've got less energy left for your actual work, for risk awareness, etcetera."

Group dynamics

Moreover, years of training have convinced Love that, surprisingly enough, good chemistry between people is really trainable.

"Feeling comfortable with your tent companion is something that you can actively gain. Of course, my family would laugh if I told them I plan to teach this kind of stuff. They'd say I'm breaking the rules every day."

During the second week of December, the ANSMET group left McMurdo for an unexplored region at the head of the Beardmore Glacier, on the west side of the Transantarctic Mountain Range. This time, the meteorite hunters set up their camp in two or three different locations, while a special reconnaissance team searched for new hunting grounds farther south.

Of course, Love said, there are also many differences between ANSMET and spaceflight. "With ANSMET, it's the extreme cold that permeates every aspect of life. With spaceflight, it's the microgravity. But in terms of team size, isolation, and resupply and rescue challenges, they are very similar."

Another important difference is that every space mission is led and guided by Mission Control down on Earth. "ANSMET is much more autonomous," Love said. 'The decision makers are in the field, with the crew. With future manned missions to Mars, we may need similar crew autonomy. In that sense, NASA can also learn something from the meteorite hunters."

To learn more about the ANSMET program, visit: http://www.case.edu/ansmet

Dutch astronomy writer Govert Schilling visited McMurdo Station and the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station as a selected member of the U.S. National Science Foundation's 2012/2013 media visit program.

Source: http://www.space.com

domingo, 13 de janeiro de 2013


by Walter Jayawardhana
      A meteorite that Landed recently, close to the ancient city of Polonnaruwa in Sri Lanka has been described as the most important scientific discovery in the last 500 years as it carried “compelling evidence of life” from outer space.

      The scientists who discovered the contents of the meteorite said, “we report here the first compelling evidence for life existing outside the earth.’

     Following extensive lab work in the United Kingdom and Sri Lanka  four scientists in a paper said , “We report the discovery for the first time of fossilized diatoms  in a carbonaceous meteorite that fell on 29 December 2012”.  Diatoms are a variety of algae.

     They very firmly said contamination, a hazard scientists face when examining things fallen from the sky on the ground is excluded in the meteorite they have named Polonnaruwa.

     The four scientists,  Chandra Wickramasinghe, J. Wallis, D.H.Wallis, and Anil Samaranayaka said, there are also structures in the meteorite similar to the red rain cells that fell within days in the area.

     The team in a paper to be published in the Journal of Cosmology added, “The new data on fossil diatom provide strong evidence to support the theory of Cometary Panspermia” -a theory that says life came to our planet earth and other worlds hitchhiking on comets from far corners of the universe.


The leader of the team, Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe from the Buckingham Center for Astrobiology in UK told this correspondent, “”I think the discovery of an unequivocal microbial structure such as a diatom deeply trapped in the rock matrix proves beyond doubt that this life existed in the parent comet from which the meteorite was derived. The highly intricate and woven patterns on the outer shells of diatoms are impossible to generate by any other process than biology. This could ultimately turn out to be the most important scientific discovery in 500 years. The cosmic ancestry of humans becomes ever more securely established.”

“People might try to say that what we found were terrestrial contaminants. Contamination after landing on Earth is ruled out absolutely because of the way the diatoms are woven between the rock matrix. In any case we found many diatom types that are not known to be present on the soil where the meteorite landed.”

      The scientists said minutes after a large fire ball seen by a large number of people in Sri Lanka on 29 December 2012 a large meteorite disintegrated and fell in the village of Araganwila located few miles away from the historic city of Polonnaruwa.

     At the time of entry into the earth’s atmosphere on 29 December 2012 the parent body of the Polonnaruwa meteorite would have had most of its interior porous volume filled with water , volatile organics and possibly viable living cells.  The scientists said  a remarkable coincidence was the red rain.

     They said the red rain analyzed at the Medical Research Insitute in Colombo contained red biological cells that show spontaneous movement and the ability of reproducing. Abnormally high in arsenic and silver they are connected to a non territorial habitat , possibly connected with a cometary asteroidal body. The four scientists said the Polonnaruwa meteorite was a result of a fragmentation of such a body.

     The electron microscopic studies of the Polonnaruwa meteorite had been done at the School of Earth Sciences of the Cardiff University, in the United Kingdom.

     The scientists said in the meteorite microfossils rather than living cells were seen . The scientists said in the meteorite the donut shaped structure seen has a striking similarity to Kerala red rain cells and the cells contained in the red rain that followed the meteorite fall in the Polonnaruwa area.

     The scientists said contamination is decisively ruled out in the meteorite since the structure is deemed to be fossilized  and fossil diatoms were not present on the surface of the ground where it fell.The scientists said ,  contamination is excluded by the circumstance that the elemental abundances within the structures match closely with those of the surrounding matrix. There is also evidence of structures morphologically similar to red rain cells that may have contributed to the episode of red rain that followed within days of the meteorite fall.  They said , “We conclude therefore identification of the fossilized diatom of  the Polonnaruwa meteorite is firmly established and unimpeachable.”

     They also said,” Since this meteorite is considered to be an extinct cometary fragment , the idea of microbial life carried within comets and the theory of cometary panspermia is vindicated.”

     The paper said , “The universe , not humans must have the final say to declare what the world is really like.”

Source: http://www.lankaweb.com

quinta-feira, 3 de janeiro de 2013

Meteorite carries ancient water from Mars

Rock is among the oldest known from the planet and matches findings from NASA rovers.

It may just look like your average rock, but in fact it's an extra-special delivery from the red planet. Laboratory analysis has revealed that a specimen bought from a Moroccan meteorite dealer in 2011 is the first sample of Martian origin that is similar to the water-rich rocks examined by NASA’s rovers.

The meteorite, dubbed Northwest Africa (NWA) 7034, contains a concentration of water by weight about ten times higher than in any of the other 100 or so known Martian meteorites — those rare rocks that get ejected from the Martian surface into space when an asteroid hits the planet, and eventually find their way to Earth. It’s also the only known Martian sample on Earth that hails from a critical period, about 2 billion years ago, when Mars is thought to have become colder and drier than it was originally.

Carl Agee of the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque and his colleagues report their findings from samples of the meteorite in Science online today1.

Water clues
“Agee and his collaborators have thrown open the door to a whole new part of Mars,” says planetary scientist Munir Humayun at Florida State University in Tallahassee, who was not involved in the study. The meteorite, he adds, is “the first of a new class of Martian meteorites that provides more direct clues to the surface history of Mars.”

Moreover, Humayun says, NWA 7034 may provide the only direct corroboration for the rovers’ observations for some time to come, as the fate of a long-delayed mission to bring samples of Mars back to Earth is still uncertain.

The elemental composition of the meteorite strongly resembles that of rocks examined in 2005 by NASA’s Spirit rover at Gusev Crater2. Those rocks showed evidence of chemical alteration by interactions with liquid water, notes Agee. The composition of NWA 7034 also matches that of rocks studied by Curiosity, NASA’s newest rover, as described in preliminary reports from members of that mission.

Missing link
Dating from 2.1 billion years ago, NWA 7034 is the second-oldest Martian meteorite, and provides a "missing link" in the planet’s geological record, according to Agee. (The oldest prospective Martian meteorite, ALH 84001, is 4.5 billion years old, whereas all other Martian meteorites are 1.3 billion years old or younger.) Several lines of evidence indicate that parts of Mars were warmer and wetter, and therefore a possible haven for carbon-based life, some 4 billion years ago. The relatively high water content of NWA 7034, which could be as much as 0.6% by weight, suggests that “crustal or surface processes involving water may have lasted” well beyond the 4-billion-year mark, Agee adds.

That is not a surprise, given the map of hydrogen (a stand-in for water) generated by an instrument on the Mars Odyssey orbiting spacecraft and the presence of small amounts of water in younger Martian meteorites, notes Harry McSween at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

The meteorite is made of volcanic rock, and the presence of water in it suggests that crustal rocks on Mars interacted with surface water that was delivered by volcanic activity, near-surface reservoirs or by impacting comets, Agee says. But Jeffrey Taylor of the University of Hawaii in Honolulu says that whether that water content truly reveals an abundance of surface water on Mars 2.1 billion years ago awaits further study.

Source: http://www.nature.com