Tuesday, 16 October 2012

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Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Water on Mars has a long history

It was November 1971. The scene at Nasa was a tense one, similar to that of Curiosity's landing back in August. Ground controllers held their collective breath as Mariner 9 approached Mars. If everything went to plan, the spacecraft would make history by being the first manmade object to go into orbit around Earth's neighbouring planet.
Mariner 9 was an octagonal spacecraft just less than a metre and a half across, with four cross-like solar panels sticking out another two metres from its body. Its mission was to map Mars. At the appointed time, the retrorockets fired and Mars' gravity took hold of the spacecraft.
Soon afterwards, data began to flow back to Earth from the cameras. Images built up on the monitor screens line by line but the scientists stared in mounting disappointment. Nothing was visible. The whole planet was engulfed in a dust storm. All the exquisite geology that the spacecraft was meant to see lay buried under a blanket of suspended particles.
All the personnel could do was wait for the dust to settle, and pray that the spacecraft would wait too. Even today spacecraft can be fickle things. Back then, they were positively cranky. They could fail at any time, for any of a thousand different unanticipated reasons. Mariner 8, for example, had been destroyed during its launch.
Time was of the essence as the dust storm raged. Days turned to weeks until the Martian skies finally began to clear in January. As it did, one titanic mountainous peak after another broke through the murk. These were the extinct volcanoes of the Tharsis region.
t is now 40 years since that first observational proof was beamed back to Earth. Every Mars mission since has corroborated the finding and yet new evidence for rivers or lakes still excites us more than anything else. The only news that could trump it would be the discovery of life on Mars.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

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Tuesday, 28 August 2012



The strange and weirdly beautiful terraced pools of Pamukkale have been appreciated for over two millennia and yet still remain a little known wonder of the world. Thousands of years ago earthquakes, which are common in Turkey, created fractures that allowed powerful hot springs to bring water rich in calcium carbonate to the surface. As the water evaporated the chalky material condensed and formed layer-upon-layer of Travertine and thus slowly built up the walls over time in the same way that a stalactite forms in a cave. Apparently Pammakale means Castle of Cotton but the Greco-Romans built a town above it called Heirapolis – meaning “Holy City” or “Sacred City”. They too recognised it as a rare and important place attributing healing powers to the milky-white waters.  


These large, spherical, alien and strangely beautiful boulders are mainly located on Koekohe Beach, part of the Otago coast of New Zealand’s South Island. Known as “Moeraki Boulders” they were originally formed on the sea floor from sedimentary deposits that accreted around a core in the same way that a pearl will form around a particle of sand. The erosion of the cliffs often reveals these boulders from the surrounding mudstone allowing them to join those already on the beach. Some of the larger boulders weigh several tonnes and can be up to three metres wide.Maori legend attributes their origin to the arrival of the first ancestors / giants who came in the great Araiteuru canoe which was sunk by three great waves at nearby Matakaea. .


Beppu, located on the Japanese island of Kyūshū, is the second largest producer of geothermal water in the world. Located in the same area are the “Nine Hells” or ponds that each has its own remarkable character and colour thanks to the variety of minerals in the outflows. These “Hells” are a popular tourist attraction in Japan but are little known outside of the country. Seven of the strange geothermal springs are located in the Kannawa area and are known as: Sea or Ocean Hell (Umi Jigoku), Shaven Head Hell (Oniishibozu Jigoku), Cooking Pot Hell (Kamado Jigoku), Mountain Hell (Yama Jigoku), Devil or Monster Mountain Hell (Oniyama Jigoku,) Golden Dragon Hell (Kinryu Jigoku) and White Pond Hell (Shiraike Jigoku).

Colorfull Pics of MARS 2012 by Curiosity