Tag Archives: World

The Gross Side of Space: What Happens to Dead Skin in Microgravity

Warning: If you are looking for a story about the romance of space travel — the adventure, the wonder, the transcendence of what we know in the name of exploring a great unknown — this is not that. Turn away now.

Still with me? Great. Then here’s something from the other side of space. The less romantic, and in fact vaguely disgusting, side. The side that involves drinking recycled urine and using bathrooms that involve vacuums and trimming moustaches with clippers that resemble medieval torture devices. This one involves skin. Skin which, as it naturally does, sheds.

On Earth, we barely notice that process: Our skin cells molt and and gravity pulls them away from our bodies, conveniently and invisibly. In space, however, there is no gravity to pull the dead cells (technically: the detritus) away. Which means that the detritus, left to its own devices, simply floats. Which, given the fact that multiple astronauts live on the Space Station at the same time, and the fact that even highly trained space travelers might get skeeved out by floating clouds of dead skin, is less than ideal.

In the video above, former ISS denizen Don Pettit describes what happens when, in particular, you take your socks off on the Station. “This cloud, this explosion of skin particles — detritus — floats out,” he says. “And you’re in this weightless environment, and the particles have nowhere to go but out.”

That’s even true of foot calluses — which, after a few months of weightlessness, tend to soften. I’ll leave the details to Pettit, but the bottom line is this: If you ever find yourself living on a space station, make sure the station’s ventilation system works really, really well. Because, as astronaut Mike Massimino warns in the video: “This sounds actually pretty disgusting.”

“Well, it is,” Pettit replies. “But it’s part of being a human.”

Image: NASA

This article originally published at The Atlantic
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2013/08/01/dead-skin-microgravity/

Bacteria in Space Grows in Strange Ways

Bacteria in Space Grows in Strange Ways

Pseudomonas-aeruginosa

When bacteria grows in a dish of fake urine in space, it behaves in ways never-before-seen in Earth microorganisms, scientists say.

A team of scientists sent samples of the bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa into orbit aboard NASA’s space shuttle Atlantis to see how they grew in comparison to their Earth-dwelling counterparts.

The 3D communities of microorganisms (called biofilms) grown aboard the space shuttle had more live cells, were thicker and had more biomass than the bacterial colonies grown in normal gravity on Earth as controls. The space bacteria also grew in a “column-and-canopy” structure that has never been observed in bacterial colonies on Earth, according to NASA scientists.

“Biofilms were rampant on the Mir space station and continue to be a challenge on the [International Space Station], but we still don’t really know what role gravity plays in their growth and development,” NASA’s study leader Cynthia Collins, an assistant professor in the department of chemical and biological engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., said in a statement. “Our study offers the first evidence that spaceflight affects community-level behaviors of bacteria, and highlights the importance of understanding how both harmful and beneficial human-microbe interactions may be altered during spaceflight.”

Most biofilms found in the human body and in nature are harmless, but some are associated with disease, NASA officials said.

The space bacteria were cultured in artificial urine on NASA’s Atlantis shuttle in 2010 and again in 2011 before the retirement of NASA’s space shuttle program. Collins and her team of researchers used fabricated urine because it can be used to study the formation of biofilm outside and inside the body. Understanding how to safely remove and recycle waste is particularly relevant because of its importance in long-term spaceflight, NASA officials said.

“The unique appearance and structure of the P. aeruginosa biofilms formed in microgravity suggests that nature is capable of adapting to nonterrestrial environments in ways that deserve further studies, including studies exploring long-term growth and adaptation to a low-gravity environment,” Collins said in a statement. “Before we start sending astronauts to Mars or embarking on other long-term spaceflight missions, we need to be as certain as possible that we have eliminated or significantly reduced the risk that biofilms pose to the human crew and their equipment.”

Scientists sent 12 devices with eight vials of P. aeruginosa — a bacterium that can be associated with disease on Earth — into orbit on Atlantis. Once in space, astronauts on the shuttle introduced the bacterium to the fake urine while scientists on the ground began the control experiment.

After the samples arrived safely on Earth, Collins and her team took a detailed 3D image of the biofilms to investigate their internal structure, and used other research methods to investigate the colony’s thickness and cell growth.

The study, published in the April 20 issue of the journal PLOS ONE, also could have implications for bacterial research on Earth. It’s possible that this kind of research could help scientists and doctors more effectively limit the spread of infection in hospitals, Collins said.

Image courtesy of NASA

This article originally published at Space.com
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2013/07/10/bacteria-growth-space/

Does the Moon Have Levitating Lunar Dust?

Does the Moon Have Levitating Lunar Dust?

Does-the-moon-have-levitating-lunar-dust--ba51520a7f

Did you hear about the new restaurant on the moon? Great food, but no atmosphere.

While that wisecrack has been floating about in space circles for decades, a NASA lunar orbiter will gather detailed information about the moon’s atmosphere next year, including conditions near its surface and environmental influences on lunar dust.

NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) is to depart the Earth for the moon in August 2013. LADEE is loaded with science gear, including instruments that can address a lingering question that’s rooted in space history: Are electrostatically lofted lunar dust particles present within the moon’s tenuous atmosphere?

Twilight Rays on the Moon

In the 1960s, several NASA Surveyor moon landers relayed images showing a twilight glow low over the lunar horizon persisting after the sun had set. Also, a number of Apollo astronauts orbiting the moon saw twilight rays before lunar sunrise or lunar sunset.

In addition, some have floated the theory that the glowing transient lunar phenomenon seen from Earth might stem from sunlight reflecting off of suspended lunar dust.

LADEE will investigate this moon magic trick of levitating lunar dust. The spacecraft has the tools it needs to address mysteries and questions that have been around since Apollo, said Rick Elphic, LADEE project scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif.

Ames is responsible for managing the mission, building the spacecraft and performing mission operations.

Elphic told SPACE.com that among its duties, the LADEE mission can further investigate tantalizing hints about the dust and the moon’s exotic atmosphere.

“If we fly LADEE through the regions where the Apollo command module observations were made, we will know right away if there are small grains there or not,” Elphic said. LADEE’s Lunar Dust Experiment (LDEX) is a very sensitive dust-detecting instrument, he said, and scientists may be able to place new upper limits on the dust in the first week of the spacecraft’s orbiting operations.

Nagging Moon Question

“If LADEE never sees levitated dust, that settles the question for the high-altitude observations, at least for its mission time frame,” Elphic said.

Still, there’s the nagging question about what Surveyor saw, the near-surface horizon glow. “That might be something else entirely, and can only be addressed with a surface mission,” Elphic said.

“If LADEE does see dust, we will then have a basis for expecting the same phenomena at all other ‘nearly-airless’ bodies around the solar system,” Elphic added.

This dust may not pose much of a hazard, Elphic added, but the physics will need to be explained. Right now, no one has a good end-to-end model for getting dust to loft and secondly, stay suspended for long periods, he said.

“If LADEE observes levitated dust, then scientists will have to explain it. Right now, no one can,” Elphic said.

One-Way Trip Off the Moon

One scientist ready for the new data to be gleaned by LADEE is Harrison “Jack” Schmitt, Apollo 17 moonwalker and geologist. He and astronaut Eugene Cernan walked the lunar surface in December 1972 — the last mission of the Apollo moon landings.

“I do not know if LADEE will see lunar dust in the lunar atmosphere, but I will not be surprised if there is none,” Schmitt told SPACE.com. “We know about several transient gases in that atmosphere, and these may be what causes the horizon glow at sunrise and sunset.”

Moon dust, Schmitt added, was always been on his mind.

“My concern about levitated dust has always been that levitation, if it occurs at all, probably has to be a one-way trip off the moon … because many flat rock surfaces are essentially free of very fine dust, as I personally witnessed on Apollo 17.”

Schmitt said that if dust has been levitated and then dropped again, he would expect the rock surfaces to be covered with such dust.

“Nonetheless, LADEE data on this question, as well as various gases, should give us a lot to think about,” Schmitt said.

This article originally published at Space.com
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/11/20/nasa-ladee-levitating-lunar-dust/

See 'Summer Triangle' in Night Sky This Weekend

See ‘Summer Triangle’ in Night Sky This Weekend

Summer-triangle

This weekend, during the late evening hours, search for the famous “Summer Triangle” high in the eastern sky.

The triangle consists of three of the brightest stars in the sky, each the brightest in its own constellation. Bluish-white star Vega in Lyra (the lyre) is the brightest in the triangle, with yellow-white Altair in Aquila (the eagle) and white Deneb in Cygnus (the swan), following it as second- and third-brightest in the configuration.

From our viewpoint, Vega appears twice as bright as Altair and more than three times brighter than Deneb. But sometimes things are not always what they seem. We know that Vega clearly is more luminous compared to Altair, because it’s situated at a greater distance from us.  Altair is 17 light years away, while Vega is just a little farther out at 25 light years away.

The light you’re seeing from Altair tonight started on its journey to Earth in 1996, and the light from Vega started on its way toward Earth back in 1988. But brilliant Vega actually pales in comparison with Deneb, one of the greatest supergiant stars known.

Deneb’s distance measures 1,467 light-years from Earth with a luminosity computed to be more than 60,000 times that of the sun. Because its light takes nearly 15 centuries to reach us, Deneb merely appears as a fairly conspicuous but by no means particularly notable star.

See the Milky Way

With the moon arriving at new phase on Monday, July 8, and then waxing to just a thin crescent phase by week’s end, there is no better time than now to observe the beautiful summer Milky Way.

Under a dark sky with a good pair of binoculars or a telescope you can now observe millions of sparkling little stars that make up this glowing, irregular belt of luminosity.

It appears to arch from the north-northeast to the south-southeast, with its brightest and most spectacular region running across the summer triangle and beyond toward the south-southeast horizon.

There appears to be a great black rift dividing it into two streams (called the “dark bifurcation”), beginning with Cygnus and extending down toward the south. Also in Cygnus is the black void known as the “northern coal stack.” The coal stack and the rift are not holes in the Milky Way, but rather are vast clouds of dust “floating” out in interstellar space which present a solid and impenetrable curtain between us and the more distant stars.

Star-Crossed Lovers

There have been many stories, myths and legends told about the Milky Way across different cultures.

In a Japanese legend involving the galaxy, the star Vega represented Orihime, the weaving princess, who produced brilliantly colored fabrics. Across the “heavenly river” (the Milky Way), Altair represented the cow herder Hikoboshi, who was also known as Kengyu.

After meeting each other, they received divine permission to marry, whereupon both abandoned their occupations. This angered the gods who consequently separate them and send them back to their original jobs on opposite sides of the heavenly river.

The couple, however, received permission from the gods to get together for one night each year. That special night is July 7 — but only if the sky is clear.

As a result, the evening of July 7 has evolved into a young people’s holiday in Japan called Tanabata, meaning “evening of the seventh.” Prayers are offered for clear skies so that Orihime and Hikoboshi, the star-crossed lovers can be reunited.

Popular customs relating to the festival vary by region, but generally, girls wish for better sewing and craftsmanship, and boys wish for better handwriting by writing wishes on strips of paper. The date of Tanabata also varies by region, but the first festivities begin on July 7 of the Gregorian calendar.

The original Tanabata date was based on the Japanese lunisolar calendar, which is about a month behind the Gregorian calendar. As a result, some festivals are held on July 7, some last for a few days around August 7 and others take place on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month of the traditional Japanese lunisolar calendar, which is usually in August in the Gregorian calendar.

This year, the Gregorian date of “the seventh day of the seventh lunar month of the Japanese lunisolar calendar” will fall on Aug. 13.

Editor’s note: If you snap an amazing picture of the night sky that you’d like to share for a possible story or image gallery send photos, comments and your name and location to Managing Editor Tariq Malik at spacephotos@space.com.

Image courtesy of Flickr, Socalastro

This article originally published at Space.com
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2013/07/05/summer-triangle/

Hillary Clinton Opens the Social Good Summit

Hillary Clinton Opens the Social Good Summit

Hillary-clinton-opens-the-social-good-summit-video--7431a17dfe

The third annual Social Good Summit kicked off Saturday in New York with a surprise address from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

“Leaders around the world are coming together around at the United Nations seeking solutions for some of the toughest challenges we might face,” Clinton said. “At the same time a revolution in social media is helping people everywhere take part in a global conversation about how we can work together to advance the common good.”

Clinton encouraged the connected generation to get involved helping to build a better future.

“We need your help,” she said. “Please use this unprecedented opportunity to become involved. Share your ideas. Mobilize your friends. Take action online and off.”

Even if you couldn’t make it to New York, you can catch all of the excitement on the Social Good Summit livestream.

About Ericsson

Read more of Mashable’s coverage of the 2012 Social Good Summit:

Day One:

Day Two:

Day Three:

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/09/22/hillary-clinton-social-good/

China to Launch First Space-Based Quantum Communications Experiment

China to Launch First Space-Based Quantum Communications Experiment

Satellite

The “Chinese Quantum Science Satellite” will launch in 2016 and aim to make China the first space-faring nation with quantum communication capability.

The ability to send perfectly secure messages from one location on the planet to another has obvious and immediate appeal to governments, the military and various commercial organizations such as banks. This capability is already possible over short distances thanks to the magic of quantum cryptography, which guarantees the security of messages — at least in theory.

For the moment, however, quantum cryptography works only over distances of 100 km or so. That’s how far it is possible to send the single photons that carry quantum messages through an optical fiber or through the atmosphere.

Last year, we watched as European and Chinese physicists battled to claim the distance record for this technology with the Europeans finally triumphing by setting up a quantum channel over 143 kilometers through the atmosphere.

That distance is a good fraction of the way into space. And the reason that’s important is that it’s a stepping stone to sending quantum messages to orbiting satellites which can then route the messages to almost anywhere else on the planet.

Today, the Chinese claim another small victory in this quantum space race. Jian-Wei Pan at the University of Science and Technology of China in Shanghai and his fellow researchers say they’ve bounced single photons off an orbiting satellite and detected them back on Earth. That’s significant because it simulates a satellite sending single photons from orbit to the surface, crossing off another proof-of-principle milestone in their quantum checklist.

The experiment is simple in principle. These guys have two telescopes in a binocular formation which they pointed at a satellite orbiting at an altitude of 400 kilometers. This satellite is covered with reflectors capable of bouncing a laser beam from Earth back to its original location.


Image courtesy of “Experimental Single-Photon Transmission from Satellite to Earth”

They used one of the telescopes to send pulses of light towards the satellite and the other, with a diameter of 60 cm, to look for the reflection.

Of course, the Earth’s atmosphere absorbs a very high percentage of the photons transmitted from the ground. So Pan and his team produced each pulse with just enough photons so that, on average, just one would reach the satellite and be reflected back to Earth. The idea was to simulate the satellite itself sending single photons to the surface.

Each pulse began its journey from Earth with about 1 billion photons and, on average, just one started the return journey. Obviously, many of the returning photons would also be absorbed by the Earth’s atmosphere. So the pulse was repeated many millions of times per second.

Pan and his team say that they were able to detect the returning photons at a rate of about 600 per second. “These results are suf?cient to set up an unconditionally secure QKD link between satellite and earth, technically,” they add in the paper that accompanies their research.

That’s a significant stepping stone. “Our results represent a crucial step towards the ?nal implementation of high-speed QKD between the satellite and the ground stations, which will also serve as a test bed for secure intercontinental quantum communication,” the team says.

However, this experiment raises something of a puzzle. The researchers say they used a German satellite called CHAMP for their experiment. The satellite launched in 2000, and its mission was to make a precise gravity map of the Earth by bouncing lasers off it.

What’s curious about the Chinese announcement is that CHAMP deorbited in 2010. So a question worth asking is when the team did this work. Clearly, the team has been sitting on this result for some time.

Why publish it now? The answer may be a small but significant detail revealed in the final paragraph of the paper. Here Pan and his colleagues announce that they plan to launch the first quantum science experiment into space. The spacecraft is called the Chinese Quantum Science Satellite and it is scheduled for launch in 2016.

A quick Google search shows that the official Chinese news agency, Xinhau, revealed in March that its scientists were planning a quantum information and technology space experiment. But the announcement did not give the name of the satellite and appears to have had little if any coverage in the west.

‘We hope to establish a quantum communication network from Beijing to Vienna,” according to Pan, a plan that will presumably require significant co-operation from their arch-competitors in Europe.

Last year, European scientists themselves proposed sending a quantum communications experiment to the International Space Station, an idea that could be beat the Chinese at their own game and would be relatively cheap and quick. But whether this plan has gained traction isn’t clear.

What is abundantly clear is that the quantum space race is rapidly hotting up. But the embarrassing truth for American science is that the U.S. isn’t yet a player in the quantum space race (at least not publicly). Perhaps that’s something that should change.

Image courtesy of NASA

This article originally published at MIT Technology Review
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2013/06/11/china-quantum-communications/

See Space Station and Cargo Ship in Night Sky This Week

See Space Station and Cargo Ship in Night Sky This Week

Stargazing

The International Space Station and a European cargo-carrying spacecraft are locked in a cosmic dance, and you can see it all unfold right from your own backyard.

The European Space Agency’s bus-size Automated Transfer Vehicle-4 (ATV-4) — a space cargo ship loaded with food, rocket fuel and experiments — launched toward the space station last Wednesday. This week, weather permitting, you’ll be able to see both the station and the ship (named “Albert Einstein”) pass overhead.

This is a sight that should easily be visible to almost anyone, even those in brightly lit cities across southern Canada, all of Europe and much of the United States.

The appearance of either the International Space Station or an ATV cargo ship moving across the sky is not unusual. On any clear evening, within a couple of hours of local sunset and with no optical aid, you can usually spot several Earth-orbiting satellites creeping across the sky like moving stars.

Satellites become visible only when they are in sunlight and the observer is in deep twilight or darkness; this usually means shortly after dusk or before dawn.

What makes this week’s prospective passages so interesting is that you’ll be able to see the ATV-4 gradually “chase down” the space station around the Earth, ultimately catching up and docking with the orbiting outpost. Docking is scheduled for Saturday, June 15 at 9:46 a.m. EDT.

Both vehicles will appear to travel across the sky along the same path, and the gap between the two will diminish as the week unfolds.

Today they have about 42 minutes of travel time between them. By Wednesday, they’ll be 36 minutes apart and, by Thursday, 20 minutes apart. But on Friday evening — mere hours before docking — they will be flying in close tandem with each other.

Resembling a pair of bright “stars,” the International Space Station will shimmer brightly and seem to lead the dimmer Albert Einstein across the sky. The space station is, by far, the largest and brightest object currently orbiting the Earth. It shines as brightly as Jupiter and can occasionally even rival Venus in brilliance.

Traveling in their respective orbits at 18,000 mph (29,000 km/h), both should be visible for about one to four minutes as they glide with a steady speed across the sky.

Although the “chase” will be visible in many parts of the Northern Hemisphere, it will be difficult to spot in parts of the southern United States (particularly in Florida and the Gulf Coast region), as the few (if any) passes will occur before sunset in the daytime sky.

So what is the viewing schedule for your hometown? You can easily find out by visiting Chris Peat’s Heavens Above or NASA’s SkyWatch.

Both websites will ask for your ZIP code or city and, using that information, will formulate a list of suggested spotting times. Predictions computed a few days ahead of time are usually accurate to within a few minutes. They can change, however, due to the slow decay of the space station’s orbit and the periodic reboosts to higher altitudes. Check frequently for updates.

Another site, N2YO.com, tracks more than 8,000 satellites in real time. Check out the website’s sidebar for additional data, including the satellite’s speed, elevation and altitude. The sidebar also provides a forecast (with a corresponding map) of any given satellite’s movements in the next five days.

Image courtesy of Flickr, jacsonquerubin

This article originally published at Space.com
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2013/06/12/see-iss-in-the-sky/

Google Lunar X Prize Robot Built to Find Lunar Water

Google Lunar X Prize Robot Built to Find Lunar Water

Google-lunar-x-prize-robot-built-to-find-lunar-water-7386cc4bdd

The search for water ice on the moon could be led someday by a robot armed with a 4-foot drill. With the first prototype of the lunar rover, called Polaris, comes the prospect of eventually extracting resources from the moon, asteroids or other planets through space mining.

Polaris is the robot of choice for Astrobotic Technology, one of many private teams competing for the $30 million Google Lunar X Prize for landing robotic explorers on the moon. But Astrobotic also wants to build a lasting business out of its lunar exploration efforts by testing the technologies needed for space mining.

“This rover is a first step toward using off-Earth resources to further human exploration of our solar system,” said John Thornton, president of the Pittsburgh-based  robotics company, which unveiled the prototype Oct. 8.

Polaris is the size of a golf cart and tall enough to wield a 4-foot drill. It can move a foot per second on its 2-foot-wide wheels and carry 150 pounds (70 kilograms) of drilling equipment and science instruments. Between its heavy drill and batteries and its lightweight wheels and chassis, the robot weighs about 330 pounds (150 kilograms).

Polaris will need to withstand frigid temperatures as low as minus 280 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 173 Celsius).

The lunar rover’s power comes from solar panels designed to point toward the sun as it peeks just above the moon’s south pole.

A lack of GPS on the moon required a workaround. Astrobotic hit upon the clever idea of having the rover match whatever it sees on the surface with pictures of satellite images taken by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

If Polaris reaches the moon, it could be perhaps the first of many robots that scout sites for space mining operations. NASA has already begun talking with about putting its own ice-prospecting instruments on the private rover — one of nine contracts worth $3.6 million that the U.S. space agency has awarded to Astrobotic.

This article originally published at TechNewsDaily
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/10/11/google-lunar-x-prize-robot/

NASA Uses Photo Filters to Enhance, Study Pics of the Sun

NASA Uses Photo Filters to Enhance, Study Pics of the Sun

Sun-nasa

Gradient filters to boost contrast in photos aren’t just for photographers anymore. Astronomers are using them to take a better look at our sun, too.

NASA scientists say they can apply the photo-editing technique to enhance places of contrast around the sun, making its explosive plasma loops not only more stunning, but also easier to study.

A new video of the sun from the Solar Dynamics Observatory shows coronal loops bursting from the sun. These huge arcs of solar material, which are constrained by magnetic fields, can swirl slowly on the edge of the sun for hours, sometimes even days.

Scientists at the observatory carefully adjusted gradient algorithms to make these coronal loops appear much more defined in the new video, NASA officials said in a statement Thursday. The loops — highlighted in orange and red — pop out next to the more fuzzy areas in the sun’s atmosphere.

Sharp observations of plasma loops can help astronomers understand the sun’s complicated magnetic fields, according to NASA. And coronal loops are of particular interest to scientists because they may be the root of explosive solar flares that can wreak havoc on satellites in space and power grids on Earth.

The sun is currently going through an active phase of its 11-year solar weather cycle and is expected to reach its peak activity in 2013. The current sun weather cycle is known as Solar Cycle 24.

The Solar Dynamics Observatory has been recording high-definition images and video of the sun since its launch in 2010.

This article originally published at Space.com
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/10/22/nasa-uses-photo-filters-to-enhance-sun-video/

Mars Has Tectonic Plates Just Like Earth

Mars Has Tectonic Plates Just Like Earth

Mars-has-tectonic-plates-just-like-earth-63a7d12283

Mars is like Earth in a lot of ways: It snows on the Red Planet, and a full day is a little more than 24 hours. Now, scientists have found yet another similarity. Just like Earth, Mars also has tectonic plates.

For years, scientists suspected these tectonic plates existed on the Red Planet. But UCLA Professor An Lin confirmed it this week after analyzing more than 100 satellite images from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. About a dozen of those images contained features Yin had seen before in his studies of Earth’s major plate divides.

“Many of the features looked very much like fault systems I have seen in the Himalayas and Tibet, and in California as well, including the geomorphology,” said Yin in a statement.

This week, Curiosity beamed its first high-resolution images of Mars. The Red Planet’s incredible desert-like landscape is eerily similar to that of California or Patagonia. And based on Yin’s research, the Mars rover is sure to find even more similarities during its two-year trip.

Mars has very smooth canyon walls, a feature that only a fault can generate. We can see those same images in California’s Death Valley, where a similar fault is located. Additionally, Mars has a linear volcanic zone, which Yin said is a typical product of plate tectonics.

“You don’t see these features anywhere else on other planets in our solar system, other than Earth and Mars,” Yin said.

These plate tectonics explain the landslides that we already knew occurred on Mars. But could they mean that the planet also suffers from major earthquakes?

“I think so,” Yin said. “I think the fault is probably still active, but not every day. It wakes up every once in a while, over a very long duration — perhaps every million years or more.”

Yin describes Earth as a broken eggshell, with seven major plates. However, Yin has only seen two plates on Mars. While he hasn’t yet seen images of the entire planet, he doesn’t expect that there are any other major plates.

But just how did those tectonic plates form? Yin plans to answer that question in his follow-up round of research, which will appear in the journal Lithosphere.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/08/11/mars-tectonic-plates/