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    Narrowing our search for life on Mars

    By news editor, on 12 September 2013

    Life on Mars? (Image by MelissaBowersock on Flickr.)

    Life on Mars? (Image by
    MelissaBowersock
    on Flickr.)

    pencil-iconWritten by Cassy Fiford, a recent graduate from UCL and a science communication intern at the European Planetary Science Congress.

    What might Martian life look like? Not like little green men, according to Dr Lewis Dartnell, a UK Space Agency research fellow who was talking at the European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC) currently being held at UCL. Dr Dartnell is a former member of the Centre for Planetary Sciences at UCL/Birkbeck.

    Even the gloomy Monday morning rain did not dampen the spirits of the many scientists who joined the congress at UCL, each counting down until the 2016 launch of ExoMars, a European space mission with the purpose of finding life on Mars. UCL’s Mullard Space Science Laboratory is playing a leading role in the development of ExoMars, including the design of the main camera, which will land with the second ExoMars probe in 2019.

    Contrary to the classic Martian stereotype of little green men, Dr Dartnell and his team have focused on microscopic signs of life. They found that certain minuscule biomarkers, chemical ‘fingerprints’ of life, could be able to withstand the hostile conditions of Mars and may be indicative of life on our neighbouring planet. The survival of these man-made biomarkers in a Mars-like environment means the real thing might have survived on Mars and could be detected by the ExoMars programme.

    (more…)

    Scientists, MPs, and NASA directors flock to Parliament to discuss planetary science’s impact on society

    By news editor, on 12 September 2013

    The Houses of Parliament, Westminster, London.

    The Houses of Parliament, Westminster, London.

    pencil-icon

    Written by Katrine Iversen, a current student at UCL and a European Planetary Science Congress science communication intern.

    It’s packed in Parliamentary Committee Room 11 as the first Policy Meeting of the European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC) is due to begin in Parliament.

    As a part of the EPSC, currently being held at UCL, people flocking to the meeting include MPs, NASA directors and scientists from all over the world, looking to discuss the importance of planetary science to society and how to ensure further growth and development within the field.

    The meeting, which took place on Monday 9 September, was a huge success. Two members of the Parliamentary & Scientific Committee, Andrew Miller (MP for Ellesmere Port and Leston) and Dr Phillip Lee (MP for Bracknell), chaired the meeting while other MPs sent researchers to report back.

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    NEOShield – the program the dinosaurs wish they’d had

    By news editor, on 11 September 2013

    Bruce Willis, star of the
    1998 film Armageddon
    (by jmribolhos54 on Flickr).

    pencil-iconWritten by Joanne Leonard, a current PhD student at Imperial College London. Joanne is a science communication intern at the European Planetary Science Congress which is taking place at UCL.

    In February 2013 an entirely undetected asteroid entered the Earth’s atmosphere above Chelyabinsk, Russia at roughly 60 times the speed of sound and at a very shallow entry angle. The object, which was ‘only’ 17-20 metres across, exploded as it entered the atmosphere producing a bright flash, many small meteorites and a powerful shock wave damaging 7,200 buildings and injuring 1,500 people.

    The light produced was brighter than the Sun, the heat from the fireball was felt by people on the ground and it released 20-30 times more energy than the atomic bomb detonated at Hiroshima. It also caused significant panic as the lack of detection meant no warning and no explanation!

    So what if something 500 metres across was to come our way? Have you ever wondered if there were secret international committees discussing this?

    There are.

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