Mars Surface

The Twin Peaks are modest-size hills to the southwest of the Mars Pathfinder landing site. They were discovered on the first panoramas taken by the IMP camera on the 4th of July, 1997, and subsequently identified in Viking Orbiter images taken over 20 years ago. The peaks are approximately 30-35 meters (-100 feet) tall. North Twin is approximately 860 meters (2800 feet) from the lander, and South Twin is about a kilometer away (3300 feet). The scene includes bouldery ridges and swales or “hummocks” of flood debris that range from a few tens of meters away from the lander to the distance of the South Twin Peak.

In science fiction stories, Mars is the favourite home of aliens. No one has found any green Martians wandering over the planet. But many scientists believe that Mars may be the best place to look for simpler forms of life. Of all the planets in the Solar System, Mars is the most similar to Earth. Although it’s probably too cold for life to exist on the surface of Mars, it could exist in warmer pockets below ground. Micro-organisms could be living around hydro-thermal vents near the planet’s surface. In the past, Mars was a very different world. The Mars Global Surveyor probe found evidence that there was running water on the planet’s surface. This would have made the planet much more hospitable to life.

Mars is the most similar planet to earth in the solar system. It is therefore one of the first places to look when we are considering life on other planets. It is certainly one of the first places that science fiction writers have looked. Ever since H.G Wells wrote War of the Worlds, books and films have portrayed different images of martians and what their civilisation may look like. Now that we have visited Mars we know that there are no advanced races living on the red planet.
When the Viking Landers were sent to Mars in the 1970s they found a cold desolate dry world that seemed unlikely to be able to support life. With such cold temperatures, a thin atmosphere and no sign of liquid water the chance of finding even some sort of microscopic life forms seemed remote. Tests performed by both Viking landers seemed to back this up. However with the advance of astrobiology in recent years it is worth taking another look at those experiments.
The Viking landers carried several experiments designed to detect organic materials and organisms on the Martian surface. These experiments gave mixed results. While one experiment detected no organic compounds in the soil, another test known as the Labeled Release experiment (LR) found positive results. The LR was designed to drop a nutrient solution into a soil sample from Mars, and then measure the changes in the gaseous sample container to determine if the changes were organically induced (if bacteria were multiplying because of the nutrients they’d been given). When the experiment was conducted on both Viking landers, it gave positive results almost immediately. Most scientists on the Viking mission believed the positive results were attributed to the discovery of oxides in the soil, and that a chemical reaction occured when the nutrient solution was mixed with the oxides. However, the LR’s designer and principal investigator, Dr. Gilbert Levin, was convinced that his experiment found life.
Levin also says that the experiment which did not find organic materials in the soil were not sensitive enough to detect it in small amounts. This has been confirmed by NASA as possible. The experiment in question was tested in Antarctica and also found negative results, which was incorrect because there are organic materials there. This does not prove that the Viking landers found evidence of life. It means that the tests conducted were unsatisfactory.

Betelgeuze
Betelgeuze
Have you ever been late up and watched the sky above you ? Did you ever wondered whats all about There ? Well with my little telescope I’ve (picture below) been many times awake during several nights, even with temperatures like this (-15 degrees below zero). Yes, perhaps I am a dreamer, but it does not harm anyone. So a few days ago I spotted Orion in all its beauty….You guessed it already, my favorite constellation is Orion, with the mighty Betelgeuze. The giant red star Betelguese – the red star in the shoulder of the constellation Orion – is 700 million km across, about 800 times larger than the Sun. Light takes 1 hour to travel from one side of the giant star to the other. The name of this star means “The Armpit of the Central One” in Arabic, which shows that like many other constellations, Orion was recognized across many cultures. Ever wondered how to pronounce it? This is how: Be7tel7geuse (btl-jz, btl-jz). Betelgeuse is the 12th brightest star in the sky. It is called Alpha Orionis even though it is fainter than Beta Orionis (Rigel). This is because Betelgeuse, a variable star, was misclassified.
Betelgeuse is also known as:
@ Betelguex; Betelgeuze; Beteiguex; Al Mankib.
@ Alpha Orionis
@ HR 2061
@ HD 39801

So, you have problably heard of the Southern Cross, but this constellation is not to be seen at this side of the northern hemisphere. Its a pitty. Two years ago, my daughther and I where in the Namibian desert called “Sosusvlei” where we had the privilege to adore the milkyway in al its enourmus beauty , and within it the constellation very faint the Southern Cros. The Southern Cross constellation is eagerly sought by travellers from the North, visiting the Southern Hemisphere. The cross has four main stars marking the tips (alpha, beta, gamma and delta). These four stars are also on the New Zealand flag. A smaller star (epsilon), separate from the cross, is included on the Australian flag. Two bright stars, alpha and beta Centauri, are pointers to the head of the cross. Do not be confused by three crosses in the Southern sky. Only the smallest and brightest, with two pointers aimed at the head of the cross, is the true cross. The brightest star (alpha Crucis) is at the foot of the true cross. The pointers lie to the east. The diamond cross has no pointers and is fainter than the other two. The head of the diamond cross is just below (north of) a very bright part of the milky way, which includes numerous star clusters and the amazing eta carina nebula. Many clusters and the nebula are visible in binoculars. The head of the diamond cross (theta carina) is actually in a star cluster, which makes the head look fuzzy to the naked eye. In binoculars you can see many of the cluster stars around theta carina. So its a very stange constellation.

Telescope Maza
Telescope Maza

“A star’s primary source of energy, during its lifetime, is the fusion of hydrogen occurring in its core. As the hydrogen is used up, the helium which is produced fills up the core. But the temperature is not high enough for helium fusion to occur, so core energy production slows down, its outward pressure decreases, and the gravitational forces cause the core to contract. As the core contracts the atoms bunch closer together causing an increase in density and temperature. When the core temperature is high enough, helium fusion begins. At the same time as the helium core is contracting and heating up, an outer hydrogen shell expands and begins fusing to form more helium. It is this expansion and fusion reaction in the hydrogen shell which pushes the star’s envelope out into space. The surface of the now giant star is so far away from the hot core that it cools down and turns red (hence the name red giant).”
So enough talked abouth stars, and go on reading and listening to a personal favourite of mine with this poem and song about the Southern Cross by Jason Webly, just click on the player below and enjoy……..:

Southern Cross (c)2002 by Jason Webley

Jason Webly

Hey, do you know where you’re going?
Have you noticed its snowing,
Although it is June?
They, said your weakness was growing,
That your rapture was showing,
Just a little too soon.
But under these mountains,
The nights and the shadows grow long.
The stars up above you feel wrong.
This is not your sky.
Pray, to a strange constellation.
Thank God for your isolation,
This forever goodbye.
Dawn, throws its light on the covers.
In this bed there’s another,
Asleep at your side.
Gone, the embrace of a lover,
And the fire you discovered,
Already has died.
Her body recoils,
As your hand goes to touch her again.
She’s a temple that won’t let you in.
At her side you’re alone.
On her back is the same constellation,
Confirming your alienation.
No this flesh is not home.
You, carry a vague conviction,
This life rose from an eviction,
Out of your homeland.
True, but it’s also addiction,
To this soft crucifixion,
Under these foreign hands.
And like all Christs before you,
You kneel down beneath the night sky,
To look into your father’s eyes,
And only feel lost.
Crucified to a strange constellation,
A new king awaits coronation,
But there will be no great revelation,
Your journey is your destination,
And discomfort could be your salvation,
Here, under the Southern Cross.



So, you have problably heard of the Southern Cross, but this constellation is not to be seen at this side of the northern hemisphere. Its a pitty. Two years ago, my daughther and I where in the Namibian desert called “Sosusvlei” where we had the privilege to adore the milkyway in al its enourmus beauty , and within it the constellation very faint the Southern Cros. The Southern Cross constellation is eagerly sought by travellers from the North, visiting the Southern Hemisphere. The cross has four main stars marking the tips (alpha, beta, gamma and delta). These four stars are also on the New Zealand flag. A smaller star (epsilon), separate from the cross, is included on the Australian flag. Two bright stars, alpha and beta Centauri, are pointers to the head of the cross. Do not be confused by three crosses in the Southern sky. Only the smallest and brightest, with two pointers aimed at the head of the cross, is the true cross. The brightest star (alpha Crucis) is at the foot of the true cross. The pointers lie to the east. The diamond cross has no pointers and is fainter than the other two. The head of the diamond cross is just below (north of) a very bright part of the milky way, which includes numerous star clusters and the amazing eta carina nebula. Many clusters and the nebula are visible in binoculars. The head of the diamond cross (theta carina) is actually in a star cluster, which makes the head look fuzzy to the naked eye. In binoculars you can see many of the cluster stars around theta carina. So its a very stange constellation. This is one of the first constellations learnt by children in Australia. If you can find the Southern Cross in the night sky then you know your are looking towards the south. The vertical axis of this constellation points towards the South Celestial Pole. It is usually way up there with Orion and Scorpio in terms of the constellations initially picked up by kids in the Southern Hemisphere. This is of course before the advent of the Simpsons, Playstations and the Internet.

Just as if they had been dotted on top of the myriads of glowing suns in the Milky Way, this image depicts some of the brightest stars of the southern sky: on the right, in a rhomboidal shape reminding that of a kite, are the four stars of the constellation Crux, the Southern cross; in the lower left part, instead, shine the two most brilliant stars of the constellation Centaurus, the Centaur.

‘Crux’, being Latin for ‘cross’, commonly known as the ‘Southern Cross’ (in contrast to the Cygnus (constellation) Northern Cross), is the smallest of the 88 modern constellations, but nevertheless one of the most distinctive. It is surrounded on three sides by the constellation Centaurus while to the south lies the ‘Fly’ (Musca). Crux was originally thought of by ancient Greeks as part of Centaurus, but was defined as a separate asterism in the 16th Century after Amerigo Vespucci’s expedition to South America in 1501. Vespucci mapped the two stars, Alpha Centauri and Beta Centauri as well as the stars of the Crux. Although these stars were known to the ancient Greeks, gradual precession had lowered them below the European skyline so that they were forgotten.