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Space

Rosetta Probe Reveals Martian Cloud Systems 26

MattSparkes writes "The ESA's Rosetta probe swooped around Mars on Sunday, completing a key manoeuvre in its 10-year mission to land on a distant comet. The 3-tonne probe came within 155 miles of the planet's surface, and took some incredible images that reveal cloud systems on the planet. "At this time of the Martian year, a large fraction of Mars' atmosphere is evaporating from the southern polar cap and will migrate to the northern polar cap during nothern winter. Over most of the Martian disk one can see large cloud systems.""
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Rosetta Probe Reveals Martian Cloud Systems

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  • all the more tantalizing. Even if the only thing we did was use Mars as a test bed for climatological effects on Earth. It's an engineering/scientific endevour that appears just out of our reach...but only just.

    Then again...it may be that the phrase, "It's not nice to fool with Mother Nature" applies to the Solar System as well.
    • by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Monday February 26, 2007 @02:11PM (#18155754) Journal
      Terraforming makes for nice fiction, but misses the mark that the planet must _already_ be earth-like enough. Or you must be capable of the godlike feat of increasing its mass a few times, changing its rotation speed, melt its core again, etc. Otherwise the same reasons that shafted its original atmosphere, will shaft whatever atmosphere you create.

      E.g., for Mars, it's simply too small and it cooled down too fast. (Well, just right for its size and mass, actually.) So the magnetic field is much too weak to shield it from solar winds, and its low gravity doesn't do much to hold an atmosphere either. So it just escaped and was swept away into space. Any atmosphere you're going to create there while terraforming, is going to just go away too.

      The only way to terraform Mars would be to (A) increase its size to something more earth like, _and_ (B) melt its core again, and (C) bring from somewhere all the elements that got swept away in the past, e.g., a metric buttload of hydrogen, and maybe (D) fiddle with its rotation speed too, so that core you just melted generates enough magnetic field. Does it sound like pure SF yet?

      Heck, _if_ anyone were to start terraforming anywhere, the easiest start wouldn't be Mars, but Venus. It's about the same size as Earth, about the same density too, it still has a magma core, and it's in the right band to support life too. Why Venus ended up the poisonous wasteland instead of Earth-like? It spins way too slowly. So it pretty much doesn't have any magnetic shielding against the solar winds. The very weak magnetic field it has is mostly due to interaction between solar winds and its atmosphere, rather than an internal dynamo. So without shielding, it pretty much lost all its hydrogen. Whatever water it had evaporated, got ionized sooner or later and the hydrogen was just swept away. So now the atmosphere is almost pure CO2 and some nytrogen.

      By now you probably get the idea that terraforming even Venus is just nuts. You'd have to bring a heck of a lot of hydrogen from somewhere else (from where and at what cost?) _and_ give it a good spin (with what energy and just how?) _and_ somehow start some plate tectonics mechanism to get the convection currents going in the planet and start its dynamo (again, how?) _and_ oh, for that matter, get rid of all that carbon in the atmosphere or all the water will just boil off. Pretty tall order, don't you think? :P

      So "appears just out of our reach...but only just" must be the understatement of the century. Maybe if by "just" you mean "not in another million years."
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by The Fun Guy ( 21791 )
        You'd have to bring a heck of a lot of hydrogen from somewhere else

        Reproduce the creation of our own moon by throwing Pluto at Venus. Any off-center hit will plow Pluto's mass of rock and ice into Venus' crust, vaporizing a good chunk of it and imparting a huge spin to the remaining planetary mass. Granted, that's not enough hydrogen yet, but any system capable of moving Pluto should surely be capable of tossing around other substantial icy bodies.

        (from where and at what cost?)

        Nuclear powered ion thrusters,
        • Reproduce the creation of our own moon by throwing...

          Why did I start reading that thinking "your own moon" in place of our? And why did it make more sense that way? I think your ruse is getting thin.
          • by The Fun Guy ( 21791 ) on Monday February 26, 2007 @06:01PM (#18159278) Homepage Journal
            To: Lord Traalogc Sstoarthlx, Undersecretary of Terraforming, Western Spiral Arm Division
            From: Dr. Flaorlesq Vvaerklyn, Managing Scientist-Supervisor (codename: "The Fun Guy")
            Re: Status report, Project 8723F-R3381-PTV11-03, Sol-III.

            Traal,

            It looks like this terraforming project we initiated on Sol-III is finally moving into the stage where it will begin paying off. As you can see from this latest message (attached below), the locals are starting to figure out that their planet is habitible because we gave them a moon of reasonable size. Pretty soon, they'll work out the interplanetary space drive and the cultural embargoes will expire; I give it less than one local year after they get off-world, and they'll be easy pickings for our marketing division. They'll be in hock to us for the rest of all eternity!

            I remember how expensive it was to bust up that fifth rocky planet so we could have something to throw at Sol-III, but that nickle & iron core was perfect for the job. It knocked all the light silicates into orbit, and when they coalesced into Sol-III's moon, it was heavy enough to keep the primary's core molten through tidal action, light enough to solidify completely without a liquid core of its own.

            True, it's been pretty time-consuming waiting around for semi-intelligent tool users to develop from the primordial life we seeded down there, but as I've said all along, just think how long we'd have had to wait without all of the intelligent designing we've done over the years. It's slower, but still cheaper to grow up our own customers than trying to find naturally occurring ones. You know how incredibly rare habitable planets are in this galaxy. What a dump!

            Anyway, it shouldn't be much more than another 600 years, local time, before they get off-world and we can start to really exploit them. The first job will be to get them to do the terraforming of Sol-II. Trust me on this one - they'll work for peanuts.

            Cheers,

            Lesq

            Reproduce the creation of our own moon by throwing...
            Why did I start reading that thinking "your own moon" in place of our? And why did it make more sense that way? I think your ruse is getting thin.

      • by Anonymous Coward
        Mod parent down, he doesn't really understand the time scales which he is talking about, relative low mass and near non existent magnetic field are completely irrelevant to human time scales.. This is due to loss of atmosphere being expressed in millions of years, time scales much larger then humans have existed. As such if after a few million years loss of atmosphere becomes an issue, I'm sure the humans still living on Mars then will be more then able to fix the situation more permanently then us poor non
      • by dave1g ( 680091 )
        Terraforming mars or venus are both pretty much impossible from an energy/matter budget. You could possibly heat up mars in a few hundred years... but it would never have earths gravity. Mars is at ~ 1/4 earths gravity. You would have to move gigatons of matter from asteroids into the planet. The heat would just make the atmosphere be even more depleted.
        Mars may have some water, but I doubt it has as much water as earth's oceans frozen in its soil. You would have to move a tone of hydrogen like you said.

        At
  • by BetaRelease ( 110550 ) on Monday February 26, 2007 @11:45AM (#18153404)
    You unbelievers! See how global warming on earth has now started to affect other planets!
    • by prmths ( 325452 )
      haha! too bad i dont have mod points anymore! MOD PARENT UP to 5!
    • by Dausha ( 546002 )
      I myself have also wondered why there's more meltage on Mars. It seems the two planets (America, er, Earth and Mars) are both experiencing a similar warming trend. If only we could see something that the two share in common.
      • by hawkfish ( 8978 )

        If only we could see something that the two share in common.
        Gosh, you are sooo witty! How on earth did anyone miss [realclimate.org] investigating such a subtle point?
    • Yup. It's all those SUV's and coal-fired electric plants that have caused the polar icecap on Mars to melt.

Repel them. Repel them. Induce them to relinquish the spheroid. - Indiana University fans' chant for their perennially bad football team

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