The April issue of Physics Today has a bunch of articles on planetary science, though only two are available without subscription. The Mars water article looks particularly good, and it’s one of the free ones.
Incidentally, in the letters section there’s a response to a naive letter about the roots of terrorism in a previous issue which hits the nail on the head.
The Martian oceans may yet prove to be a mirage. Scientists analyzing the Martian data may have had a case of mistaken hematite identity:
Although the NASA rover Opportunity has found other evidence that the plain was likely to have been a shallow sea, it has yet to find a single flake of the grey hematite.
“It’s not panned out so far in the images we’re seeing,” said U.S. geochemist Professor Donald Burt of Arizona State University.
Opportunity may be finding the same old red hematite that gives the planet its nickname, eats away at our cars here on Earth and doesn’t require nearly as much water to form.
I’m still more interested in the methane, myself.
HEY…DON’T LOOK AT ME…
They seem to have discovered methane on Mars.
I find this much more exciting than water for two reasons. First, while there are abiological means of methane production (e.g., vulcanism), if there’s been any recent (i.e., in the past few hundred years) such activity, this would be the first and only evidence of it, so some form of life is definitely a strong possibility. Water means that life might have once been there. Methane means much more strongly that it might be there now, since it doesn’t persist that long.
It’s also potentially a source of fuel, though it may be too trace to easily collect.
[Hat tip to “cspackler” at Free Republic, from an amusing thread on this topic.]
[Update a couple minutes later]
The best place to go for in-depth and smart blogging on subjects Martian is probably Oliver Morton’s Mainly Martian site. He’s all over this one, and has taken the effort to come up with flatulent cow equivalents. He thinks it’s just a couple thousand for the whole planet.
Keith Cowing has a nice essay on the current state of our knowledge of Martian history.
Jay Manifold’s comment on this post:
A few years back, when I lived in Dallas, the director of the planetarium at Fair Park told a Texas Astronomical Society meeting that when the planetarium announced that telescopes would be available for public viewing of the Tue 10 Jun 94 annular solar eclipse, they got calls from people asking why they hadn’t scheduled it on a weekend, when more people could drive down to see it.
These calls were from teachers.
…got me to thinking.
His power grows.
How did Glenn manage to schedule the opposition of Mars with his birthday? He moved an entire planet just so he could take the day off from blogging?
Be very afraid.
If the sky’s clear in your area, go check out the comet tonight after sunset. Thanks to Jay Manifold for the link.
I have no problem with looking for ET–I just object to making it the holy grail of the agency, while ignoring more practical goals that could make it fasterbettercheaper to not only look for ET, but to actually go out and sing Kumbaya with him, or use a disintegrator ray on him–and to figure out quickly which was appropriate to the circumstances.