Tag Archives: earth

Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute Release First Observations From “Alien Megastructure” Star

Take down the Welcome Aliens! bunting and pack away the cosmic red carpet. New observations have suggestedthat the alien megastructure spotted around a distant star is probably not alien at all, and likely has a more mundane (but probably still interesting) natural explanation. Here come the pretzels.

The star system KIC 8462852, 1,400 light-years away,hit the news big time when Jason Wright, an astrophysicist from Pennsylvania State University, suggested to The Atlantic that a huge dip in light seen from the star up to 20 percentof its light could be artificial in origin. Naturally, this had people dreaming of Dyson spheres, vast theoretical structures that could potentially harness the power of entire stars, and other exciting extraterrestrial constructs.

But following the suggestion, the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute in Mountain View, California,trained their vast Allen Telescope Array of 42 antennas on the system. And now, after two weeks of observations, the results are in and its disappointing news.

The array looked for signals between frequencies of one and 10 gigahertz, which would be consistent with emissions from an alien race harnessing the power of an entire star, and found nothing. They also looked for a hailing signal being sent out in all directions, but to no avail. This rules out omnidirectional transmitters of approximately 100 times todays total terrestrial energy usage in the case of the narrow-band signals, and ten million times that usage for broadband emissions, astatementfrom SETI said.

The Allen Telescope Array, pictured, consists of 42 separate antennas. Seth Shostak/SETI Institute

The history of astronomy tells us that every time we thought we had found a phenomenon due to the activities of extraterrestrials, we were wrong, SETI Institute director Seth Shostak said in the statement. But although its quite likely that this stars strange behavior is due to nature, not aliens, its only prudent to check such things out.

All hope is not lost, though; the press release notes that a signal being deliberately pointed in our direction would have a significantly lower frequency, which has not been looked for yet. “Just because someone helicopters you into a field in Africa and you dont see any elephants, it is not proof that there are none,” Shostak told IFLScience.”So too do our measures only rule out signals at the level we could detect.”

However, the lack of a detection in the microwave frequency band that was studied, which Shostak thinks would be “favored for interstellar signalling,” suggests the object is more likely a natural than an artificial phenomenon.The most prominent theory, suggested in a paper led by Tabetha Boyajian in September, is that it is a cloud of debris, possibly cometary in origin.

While the alien theory can seemingly be ruled out, dont despair just yet.With hundreds of billions of planets in our galaxy alone, its pretty unlikely that ours is the only one that hosts life. Even in our own Solar System, there are hints that worlds such as Mars and Saturn’s moonEnceladus may be habitable, and were doing our best to find out if theres anything out there via various current and future spacecraft.

The dream may appear to be over forKIC8462852, but the search for other life in the universe goes on.

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/alien-megastructure-probably-not-alien-megastructure-says-seti

Giant Comets Pose Threat To Life On Earth

Huge comets called centaurs deserve greater recognition as potential destroyers of life on Earth, according to a team of astronomers from the Armagh Observatory and the University of Buckingham. Measuring 50 to 100 kilometers (30 to 60 miles) across, these enormous masses of ice and rock have been identified in their hundreds over recent decades in the trans-Neptunian region the area beyond Neptune, which is the outermost planet in the Solar System.

However, these centaurs can make their way towards the inner planets as their orbits become deflected by the gravitational fields of Neptune, Uranus, and Saturn. Publishing a review of their research in Astronomy and Geophysics,the team estimates that centaurs are likely to cross the Earths orbit every 40,000 to 100,000 years.

Depending on the size, composition, and distance of a given comet, its effects on terrestrial ecosystems are likely to be highly variable. Because centaurs are thought to be unstable, the authors expect the majority of these effects to be caused by dust and other small fragments that result from the disintegration of the comets.

They estimate that a single centaur measuring 100 kilometers (60 miles) could contain about 100 times the mass of all the Earth-crossing asteroids detected to date. This translates to an awful lot of dust, leading the researchers to suggest that comets of this size could fill the Earths atmosphere with tiny particles, reducing the amount of sunlight that can pass through to roughly the level of moonlight, for up to 100,000 years. This, they say, would put an end to commercial agriculture.

A map of the Solar System, showing the orbits of several planets. In red are the orbits of 22 centaurs. In yellow are the orbits of 17 trans-Neptunian objects. Duncan Steel/Royal Astronomical Society

Additionally, larger fragments which could extend for several kilometers in length may generate catastrophic impacts, similar to that which is believed to have led to the extinction of the dinosaurs. According to the report, several such collisions may have occurred in the past, with the authors citing craters in the Gulf of Mexico, Ukraine, Siberia and Chesapeake Bay as likely candidates for centaur impact sites.

Given the probability of a centaur crossing Earths orbit at some point in the future, and the sheer volume of debris caused by the disintegration of these comets, the team claims that some level of impact is inevitable, although the nature and extent of the effects are likely to depend on various factors.

At present, attempts to quantify Earths risk of being affected by a collision are centered around NASAs Spaceguard initiative, which seeks to map up to 90 percent of near-Earth objects (NEOs) larger than 1 kilometer (0.6 miles). This programfocuses mainly on the asteroid belt that sits between Mars and Jupiter, although Professor Bill Napier, who helped to conduct this research, is now calling for the scope of this search to be extended to the outer reaches of the Solar System.

Our work suggests we need to look beyond our immediate neighborhood and look out beyond the orbit of Jupiter to find centaurs, he said in a statement. If we are right, then these distant comets could be a serious hazard, and it’s time to understand them better.

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/giant-comets-pose-potential-threat-earth

Russian Soyuz Spacecraft Malfunction Delays Arrival at ISS by 2 Days


The Soyuz TMA-12M rocket launches from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Wednesday, March 26, 2014 carrying Expedition 39 Soyuz Commander Alexander Skvortsov of the Russian Federal Space Agency, Roscosmos, Flight Engineer Steven Swanson of NASA, and Flight Engineer Oleg Artemyev of Roscosmos to the International Space Station.
Image: NASA Joel Kowsky

A Russian Soyuz spacecraft suffered an apparent malfunction in orbit late on March 25, forcing its three-man crew to circle the Earth two extra days before reaching the International Space Station as planned, NASA officials say.

The Soyuz TMA-12M space capsule launched into space March 25 carrying an American astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts on what was expected to be a standard six-hour trip to the International Space Station. But a malfunction on the Soyuz spacecraft prevented a critical engine burn to keep the capsule on course for its planned orbital arrival on the night of March 25.

Riding aboard the Soyuz are NASA astronaut Steve Swanson and cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev. The U.S.-Russian crew will now arrive at the station on the evening of March 27, NASA spokesman Josh Byerly said in an update.

“The crew is fine, but the ground teams are taking a look at what exactly happened aboard the Soyuz and what caused that [engine] burn to be skipped,” Byerly said during NASA’s televised coverage.

Russian Soyuz engineers are unsure if a software glitch or a mechanical malfunction caused the problem, Byerly said. An initial look at conversations between mission flight controllers in Moscow and Houston suggests, that the problem may beem caused by the Soyuz not being in the proper orientation for the planned engine burn, according to a NASA status update.

The Soyuz capsule launched into orbit atop a Russian-built Soyuz rocket from the Central Asian spaceport of Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 5:17 p.m. EDT. Its crew planned to join three other crewmates already aboard the station with docking at 11:05 p.m. EDT.

Now, Swanson and his crewmates must wait until March 27 at 7:58 p.m. EDT to link up with the International Space Station, Byerly said, adding that the exact time of the docking could change.

“They have supplies to keep them in orbit for many, many days,” Byerly said of the three space travelers.

Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft originally flew on two-day rendezvous flights to the space station similar to the backup trajectory the current Soyuz mission is forced to fly now. It is a two-day trip that includes 32 orbits of Earth in order to catch up with the space station. The last two-day Soyuz trip before this mission was in December 2012.

Russia’s Federal Space Agency began flying shorter, six-hour trips to the space station with unmanned cargo ships in 2012. The first crewed single-day trips to station on Soyuz vehicles launched in 2013.

Expedition 39 Launch
This long expsoure photograph shows the flight path of the Soyuz TMA-12M rocket as it launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Wednesday, March 26, 2014.

A standard six-hour trip to the International Space Station includes four orbits of the Earth and requires four major engine burn maneuvers, performed automatically by the spacecraft, in order to reach the International Space Station.

Byerly said the Soyuz TMA-12M’s flight computer failed to perform the third maneuver in the flight sequence slated for 7:48 p.m. EDT.

“Right now we don’t understand exactly what happened, so we’ll analyze and review all the telemetry of it,” a Russian flight controller radioed the Soyuz crew, according to a audio translation.

Russia’s three-person Soyuz spacecraft are currently the only vehicles capable of ferrying astronaut and cosmonaut crews to and from the International Space Station. NASA retired its space shuttle fleet in 2011, and is dependent on Russian Soyuz vehicles to fly American astronauts to the station and back. The U.S. space agency plans to fly American astronauts on commercial U.S. spacecraft beginning in 2017.

Swanson, Skvortsov and Artemyev are due to spend nearly six months in space during their current mission, which will bridge the space station’s Expedition 39 and 40 crews. The trio will join Expedition 29’s Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata, NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio and cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin already aboard the station, then stay on to serve as the outpost’s Expedition 40 crew.

Editor’s Note:

This story was updated at 10:50 pm ET to clarify that the cause of the Soyuz spacecraft’s missed engine burn is being studied as a possible software issue, mechanical malfunction or incorrect attitude.

This article originally published at Space.com

Read more: http://mashable.com/2014/03/26/russian-soyuz-spacecraft-malfunction/

Is Jupiter Earth’s Friend or Foe?


Jupiter’s largest moon, Ganymede, ducks behind the red giant once every seven days.

Is Jupiter a friendly planet, Earth’s enemy, or perhaps both? For decades, scientists have talked about how the giant gas planet keeps some asteroids from striking our small world, while others have pointed out that Jupiter’s gravity could send some civilization-shattering asteroids our way.

While that debate goes on, a subtler question arises about how influential Jupiter was in the early Solar System. Jupiter is by far the heavyweight planet in the Solar System, weighing in at 320 Earth masses. Its gravity not only influences small asteroids that go by, but also tugs on other planets in the solar system – including our own.

What if Jupiter had had a more eccentric orbit? Could that have affected the habitability of Earth? A new peer-reviewed study published on preprint site Arxiv, called “The role of Jupiter in driving Earth’s orbital evolution,” examines these questions in more detail. It was presented at the Australian Space Science Conference.

At first blush it appears Jupiter’s position in the solar system could vary greatly without hurting life’s beginnings as we know it, but more studies of how other planets influence Earth’s climate are needed before we can better understand what’s going on, the researchers said. Depending on how Jupiter interacts with Earth in different scenarios, Earth’s orbit could vary dramatically, thereby influencing the amount of sun we receive on the surface. Once we begin to figure out the ranges of habitability in the models, this could help us narrow the search for other habitable planets outside the Solar System that have gas giants nearby.

Life-friendly scenarios

Surveys with NASA’s Kepler space telescope and other observatories reveal one great truth about planets: they tend to form in groups. Most planets outside the solar system are found with companions. We’ve also seen an array of planetary systems, including those where gas giants known as “Hot Jupiters” are close to their parent star.

The search for habitability is often focused on finding rocky planets or moons similar in size to the Earth, and ones orbiting at the right distance from a star to make liquid water possible. However, other factors include the variability of a planet’s orbit, or the tilt of its poles, both of which could be influenced by bigger planets in that planet’s solar system.

Researchers got interested in the effects of nearby planets on life after observing the Moon.

“I started looking at the effects of the moon on Earth’s climate,” said University of London geologist David Waltham, a co-author of the study. “It’s often said the moon stabilizes the Earth’s axis. It’s wrong. It actually nearly destabilizes the axis.”

Certainly, if you suddenly took the Moon away, the Earth’s axis would destabilize. But Waltham said the better question is to ask what would happen if there was a larger moon from the beginning.

“Any initially stable planet will eventually become unstable as its spin slows but, without a moon, this could take tens or hundreds of billions of years,” Waltham said.

“Having a moon increases the rate with which the spin slows so that, in Earth’s case for example, it will only take 6 billion years (from formation) for the Earth’s axis to become unstable.”

In a nutshell, taking the Moon away today is not the same thing as not having a Moon in the first place.  We’ve had 4.5 billion years of lunar-generated spin-deceleration.

From there, Waltham began considering scenarios where moons would not destabilize a planet as quickly. One of them would be if the solar system was precessing, or moving, more slowly. This led him to wonder about the influence of other planets on Earth, a question also preoccupying Jonti Horner, an astronomer and astrobiologist at the University of Southern Queensland, who is affiliated with the Australian Centre for Astrobiology.

Jupiter on the move

The researchers ran models of our Solar System. With each iteration, seven of the eight planets in the solar system are in the same starting conditions in terms of mass, location and orbit. The eighth, Jupiter, kept the same mass but was moved around in various ways.

The researchers used different orbital eccentricities ranging from perfectly circular to orbits that are moderately eccentric, or elliptical, where Jupiter’s closest and furthest distances range 20 percent further than usual. In distance terms, this means Jupiter would rove as much as two astronomical units or Earth-sun distances in its orbit, ranging from 4.2 AU from the Sun to 6.2 AU from the sun.

In addition, the authors moved the entire orbit of Jupiter inwards and outwards (testing what would happen if it had formed closer to the Sun, or further away), and at each new location, again tested a range of orbital eccentricities between circular and moderately eccentric. This meant that, in their most extreme close-in scenario, Jupiter came all the way in to 3.4 AU at perihelion, while in the most extreme distant scenario, it ranged out to over 7.4 AU from the Sun.

Using tens of thousands of permutations, Waltham and Horner stepped forward each simulation through a million years of time, recording Earth’s orbital parameters every 100 years and then charting the results.

“The default assumption is this is something that is important,” Horner said. “There’s a lot of flexibility where Jupiter will be, and you would assume that you’d have a very smooth, very gentle variation in how the Earth’s orbit behaves over time.”

The model showed that most of Jupiter’s locations resulted in little change in Earth’s orbit and tilt, although the effect on Earth’s climate is unclear. Horner said he is working with James Gilmore, a climatologist at University of London, to better understand how changes in the Earth’s tilt or orbit would affect its habitability. Changing the tilt would affect the seasons, while changing the orbit would alter the amount of sun on the surface.

Waltham, meanwhile, says there is a discrepancy between the results in this study and a previous one he had done with analytical equations showing that Jupiter’s position has a striking influence on Earth’s climate. While he believes this study is more accurate, he wants to go back to his earlier work to resolve the difference.

Searching for life beyond Earth

Although this simulation dealt specifically with the Earth-Jupiter relationship, there are implications for worlds that are beyond our Solar System’s reaches, the researchers said. Take solar systems that are comprised of planets orbiting in spaces as small as Mercury’s orbit of the Sun.

“It’s about spacing,” Waltham said. “I think there is a strong implication that compact solar systems are less likely to have planets with stable axes, which makes them less likely to be habitable.”

That said, he warns there are no “absolute rules” about habitability. There could be scenarios where the axis moves too quickly for complex life to keep up, but simple life forms such as bacteria are be able to evolve fast enough to adapt to temperature changes.

Horner, meanwhile, is examining scenarios under which giant planets send giant impactors, such as asteroids, towards inner planets. For Earth, a Jupiter-sized planet is both a good and a bad thing. The gas giant absorbs some impacts from meteorites, but also alters the orbits of small bodies and could send them towards Earth.

He added that the new research underscores how a small change in parameters could change habitability wildly, pointing to the need to look at more solar systems in formation to see under what conditions planets form. Examining new solar systems will be a strength of NASA’s forthcoming James Webb Space Telescope, which is launching into space in 2018.

Horner emphasized that the numerous simulations his team ran on Jupiter’s influence in the solar system shows that where planets end up is often a result of chance as much as physics.

“Every object you add to [a planetary] system adds complexity, and the end result is a result of random chances,” said Horner. “So if you change something very small when the solar system is forming, it’s kind of chaotic.”

This article originally published at Space.com

Read more: http://mashable.com/2014/06/01/jupiter-earth-stable-axis-habitability/

North America To Scale On Various Planets In Our Solar System

We’ve all seen images comparing the size of Earth with that of other planets in the solar system. The problem, John Brady of Astronomy Central realized, is that these images assume a grasp of Earth’s scale. So Brady decided to do something different and compare astronomical objects with pieces of the planet his readers may be familiar with

Suddenly, with the huge continent of North America dwarfed by Jupiter’s storms, the universe seems an even larger place. In the other direction, Mars looks so much more human-scaled.

John Brady/Astronomy Central. How the U.S. and Canada would measure up to Mars.

Brady has also reversed the process, showing what the solar system’s largest mountain, Olympus Mons, would look like if it replaced the Grand Canyon as Arizona’s prime tourist attraction. At 26 kilometers (85,000 ft) high, it would truly be a wonder, since the Earth’s greater gravity restricts mountains to a third of that size or less.

John Brady/Astronomy Central. If located appropriately, Olympus Mons would cover the whole state of Arizona.

Not everything makes us feel small. If you live in Liverpool, UK, you might be tempted to go for a bike ride around the area that Brady shows would be encompassed by a neutron star, or make an equivalent image for your own home with the help of satellite photos.

John Brady/Astronomy CentralNeturon stars really are the size of a city.
Brady told the Huffington Post, “I got the ‘North America on Jupiter’ image to scale by looking at size comparisons on NASA images of Earth compared to Jupiter’s Great Red Spot. The Mars image with North America placed over it was done by knowing the diameter of the red planet, then finding the distance between two U.S. cities. I used New York and San Francisco.” 

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/universe-north-american-scale

Hubble Snaps Incredible Photos of Nearby Comet

Hubble has been an unmatchable resource for interstellar and intergalactic astronomy, but its skills can also be incredible fornearby objects.

In this latest case, astronomers from the Planetary Science Institute (PSI)used the space telescope to obtain high-resolution images of Comet 252P/LINEAR, a periodic comet thatorbits between the orbits of Earth and Jupiter.

The comet’s closest approach to the Sun was on March21 this year, and astronomers took this chance to observe it. The images reached a resolution of 1.6kilometers (1 mile) per pixel, 10 times sharper than any previous ground-based observation of this comet.

Comet 252P is one of the smallest comets we know of.Our main goal is to determine its size and study how comets become smaller and smaller as they pass around the Sun, said PSI Senior Scientist Jian-Yang Li, who led theproject, in a statement.

From this we will infer the properties of building blocks of planets at the start of the Solar System. In addition, we will also study other dynamic properties of the comet, such as its rotation and how it releases dust under the heating of the Sun.

The narrow jet is clearly visible in in these three images ofComet 252P/LINEAR. NASA / ESA / J.-Y. Li (Planetary Science Institute).

The images show how active the small nucleus became with anarrow, well-defined jet of dust seen ejected by the comet. But it’s increased distance from the Sun means thecomet is now too small to produce a large tail.

252P/LINEAR was most likely an object that originated very near Jupiter, with the giant planet creatingsuch a great perturbation that for the last 400 years its orbit has stretched further and further towards the Sun. Nowthe comet comes around every 16 years, and this time it was only 5.5 million kilometers (3.3 million miles) from us, about 14 times the Earth-Moon distance.

Because comets are usually only a few kilometers in size, and probably less than 1 kilometer for this comet, reliable measurement of size is best done when they are close to us, said Li.Thats why the close approach to Earth of this comet offered us a great opportunity to study it.

Photo Gallery

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/hubble-snaps-incredible-photos-nearby-comet

Juno Spacecraft Passes By Earth And Moon

Juno Spacecraft Passes By Earth And Moon

The space age may be in its infancy, but it’s still here. 

NASA‘s Juno spacecraft is traveling to Jupiter, and is set to reach the gassy planet by July of 2016. The craft is outfitted with a slew of special equipment to track, test, and observe space. 

One sensor is a special camera “optimized to track faint stars” which recently had a very unique view of the Earth and our moon.

From 600,000 miles away, Juno captured one frame at a time and sent the footage back to Earth to be processed into this very special video. 

Already, the clip has amassed over half a million views!


Read more: http://www.viralviralvideos.com/2013/12/12/juno-spacecraft-passes-by-earth-and-moon/

Two Comets Will Whizz Past Earth This Week In Closest Flyby For 246 Years

Get ready to look up, lucky humans: Not one but two comets will fling themselves past Earth over the next two days, one of which will be the third closest comet flyby in recorded history. As reported by NASAs Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), these two frozen celestial spheres may be twins, in a manner of speaking.

Comet 252P/LINEAR was discovered by the Massachusetts Institute of Technologys LINEAR survey at the turn of the new millennium. The second, P/2016 BA14, was discovered just this year by the University of Hawaiis PanSTARRS telescope on the island of Maui; initially thought to be an asteroid, follow-up observations with both the University of Maryland and Lowell Observatory team with the Discovery Channel Telescope uncovered its true identity as a tail-wielding comet.

252P, about 230 meters (750 feet) in length, is barreling past our planet as you read this at a distance of 5.2 million kilometers (3.3 million miles). At half the size, BA14 will careen past at a far closer distance of 3.5 million kilometers (2.2 million miles) tomorrow, March 22, with the time of closest approach at 2:30 p.m. GMT (10:30 a.m. EDT). This is the closest approach of a comet to Earth since Lexell’s Comet approached at 2.2 million kilometers (1.4 million miles) in 1770, according to Sky & Telescope.

Theorbital paths of these two currently passing cometsare remarkably similar, but is this all there is to it?Not quite. We know comets are relatively fragile things, said Paul Chodas, manager of NASAs Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at JPL,in a statement.Perhaps during a previous pass through the inner Solar System, or during a distant flyby of Jupiter, a chunk that we now know of as BA14 might have broken off 252P.

(It should be noted that NASA incorrectly claims that cometIRAS-Araki-Alcock in1983 came closer than BA14 in its statement.)

The green glow of Comet 252P (left) due to the ionization of its diatomic carbon gas. M. Mattiazzo (CC BY-NC-ND)

So it could be that these two were once together. The break-up of comets isnt without precedent: Shoemaker-Levy 9, which smashed into Jupiter in 1994, was already in 21 individual pieces by the time it began colliding with the gas giant to give just one example.

Astronomers estimate that it had been captured by Jupiters gravity up to 30 years earlier, and that on one approach it moved perilously close to the planet. At this hazardously close distance, the gravitational forces of the world were strong enough to rip it apart into separate fragments, which slammed into the surface over the course of five days.

It isnt certain, however, that a huge planets gravitational field was the culprit behind the break-up of the original 252P. Another comet by the name of 73P may hold a clue, in that it is currently disintegrating merely by being heated by the Sun. Its now 66 individual icy pieces, and looks set to continue breaking down. Perhaps our local star, then, is to blame for 252Ps schism.

The break-up of component B of comet 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 into even more pieces. NASA/ESA

To see these two broken comet fragmentsyoull probably need a relatively good telescope. Even at the astronomically close distance of BA14s flyby, thats still about nine times the distance from Earth to the Moon.

On the other hand, despite having a more distant flyby, 252P is rapidly brightening as it approaches Earth, and some think it’ll be 100 times brighter than expected. There’s a chance it’ll be visible to the naked eye.

252P is, for now, only visible in the Southern Hemisphere, roughly in the direction of the constellation of Scorpius. Conversely, BA14 is passing across Ursa Major in the Northern Hemisphere. Either way, if you miss the pair this time, youll have to wait 150 years for their return.

Photo Gallery

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/twin-comets-due-close-earth-flyby-may-be-part-same-disintegrating-comet

Late Sleepers Might Be Better Suited To Mars Missions

A study of the natural circadian rhythm, or daily cycle, of animals on Earth has yielded an interesting, separate conclusion, namely about how humans might cope with the shorter days on Mars.

According to the researchers, and a piece in The Telegraph, the issue comes down to the Martian day being 37 minutes longer than Earths day. For this reason, they say that people who sleep longer may be more suited to life on the Red Planet than early risers. The paper is published in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences, although it should be noted the link to Mars was made separately.

In a statement, Professor Andrew Loudon from the University of Manchester, one of the coauthors on the paper, said:The rotation speed of Mars may be within the limits of some peoples internal clock, but people with short running clocks, such as extreme morning types, are likely to face serious intractable long-term problems, and would perhaps be excluded from any plans NASA has to send humans to Mars.

He continued: If we ever do get to the Red Planet, I suspect we will be faced with body clock problems; those people with abnormally slow body clocks would be best suited to living there.

An interesting experiment in 2012 may provide a counter-argument, though. Prior to the landing of the Curiosity rover on Mars, scientists at NASA operated on Mars time, to ensure that the mission passed without a hitch. They did this for three months, with seemingly noill effects.

Can life on Earth explain future life on Mars?Tristan3D/Shutterstock

While this latest paper doesnt discuss Mars, it does highlight the importance of having a body clock that is in sync with the rotation of our own planet. In the study, an international team of scientists studied animals where a variation in a single gene can change the circadian cycle from 24 to 20 hours.

The animals were monitored in outdoor pens for 14 months, and it was found that mice with a shorter clock were gradually phased out over several generations, due to reduced survival and reproduction rates. By the end of the study, populations were dominated by animals with 24-hour circadian clocks.

For this reason, the leap has been made to assume the same will be true on Mars, with those people with a slightly longer circadian clock being more suited to life on the Red Planet.

Popular Science discussed how its not only early risers that might be left behind on missions to Mars. People with extreme dietary restrictions, such as vegans and those who are gluten-intolerant, might also miss out, as its hard to design a balanced diet for people in space with such restrictions on what they can eat, and what supplies are available.

That would cost a lot of extra money, NASA food scientistVicky Kloeris told Popular Science. So that would be a decision that NASA would have to make.

So there you have it. If youre a meat-eater who enjoys a lie-in, you could be perfect to take the next giant leap for mankind. Or something.

Photo Gallery

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/late-sleepers-might-be-better-suited-mars-missions

Incredible Video Shows The Earth “Breathing”

The people at NASA dont always have their heads above the clouds, looking outwards. They just as often use their incredible technology and expertise to get a bit introspective and gaze down onto Earth.

Using datareceived from numerous satellites, this incredible animation shows the 12-month cycle of Earths seasons. As well as showing the vegetative plantlife on land, it also shows the chlorophyll concentration from microscopic organisms called phytoplankton in the ocean.

The parts where the land looks brown and barren are regions of Earth experiencing their winter months, whereas during summer you’ll see a lush green.


Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/environment/nasa-video-shows-mother-nature-pulse-life