InSight Has Landed

November 27, 2018
Planetary scientists are celebrating today, with the announcement from NASA that the InSight rover has successfully landed on the planet Mars.

The NASA spacecraft is designed to burrow beneath the surface of Mars, and relay back data on the inner structure of the red planet. Previous spacecraft that were sent to Mars were able to dig down a few inches and studied the surface rocks and dust, but this will be the first probe to go deep into the underlying rocks.

InSight has been traveling through space for six months, covering nearly 500 million kilometers and culminating in a six minute descent through the Martian atmosphere. There was some uncertainty in the landing site, but preliminary photos from the lander show a sandy surface with very few large rocks. This is exactly what scientists were hoping for, and should make the next stages of the mission easier than if the lander had ended up on a mountain top!

This was was NASA's ninth attempt to land at Mars since the success of the 1976 Viking probes, and the eighth successful mission.

The next stage will be for the 1.8 meter robotic arm to install a seismometer into the surface, which will allow scientists on Earth to monitor "Mars quakes". The second part of the mission will be to place a mechanical drilling unit onto the surface, which will actually hammer itself down through five meters of the Martian surface before settling into its final position. At that point the rover will begin transmitting data about the subsurface, including information on the temperature beneath the Martian plains.

By examining the properties of the Martian rocks, scientists are hoping to better understand how our solar system's rocky planets formed 4.5 billion years ago, and perhaps gain a better understanding of why different planets have vastly different properties - from cold, dry Mars to the heated, dense Venus or Mercury, to the habitable properties of our own Earth.

The one critical mission that InSight will not be conducting however is the search for Martian life. That mission is expected to be conducted by a new rover, still in the planning stages, that is set to reach the red planet in two years time and then, if successful, will return Martian rocks to Earth for a more detailed analysis.

But that is the future, and this is today. For today the world is celebrating another successful Mars landing, and another step forward in our fundamental understanding of our own Solar System.
 

The Edge Of Reality

November 24, 2018
Today we have more of an announcement than a scientific article, so I hope you will forgive me for doing a little promotional work for a change.

A couple of my friends from the physics and mathematics community have launched a new online science series, and have asked me to promote it through my website. It is called The Edge Of Reality, and will be using professional scientists and mathematicians to present some very modern and exotic scientific theories to a general audience. The goal is to ...
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The New Kilogram

November 17, 2018
A slightly different form of science today, as the international scientific community has today officially changed the definition of the kilogram. And while it may not be the most exciting scientific discovery, it has many ramifications for a number of future research projects and experiments.

In a historic vote, scientists and engineers (and a few politicians) from more than sixty different nations unanimously approved a change to the international measurement system that is the basis for g...
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Remembrance Day

November 11, 2018
Remembrance Day 

Let us each take a moment out of our busy schedules to remember all of those who sacrificed to protect our freedoms. Lest we forget...


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Upgrades at TRIUMF

November 3, 2018
Normally I would not comment on political stories or news items about funding announcements, but I will be making an exception today as this news item not only concerns a major particle accelerator in Canada, but also the facility where I did a significant portion of my own research when I started out as a graduate student. (Which also means I may be a little biased on this particular item :) )

For those of you who are not familiar with this story, last Thursday the prime minister of Canada ...
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Two Probes Down

November 2, 2018
There is some sad news from NASA this week, as two major space probes have both been declared dead within the last few days.

Just two days ago, NASA announced that the 9 1/2 year old Kepler space probe, which has detected thousands of new exoplanets over its near decade long mission, had stopped working. Some readers may remember that earlier in the year the control team were having some trouble with the probe, but managed to get it working again. This time it is more serious and more perman...
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Happy Halloween!

October 31, 2018
HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!


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The 2018 Nobel Prize In Physics...

October 2, 2018
The big day has arrived, and the Nobel committee has now announced the recipients of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics. And as I predicted, this year they have gone with a technological development rather than work in pure science. However the research that resulted in this year's prize is still pretty amazing.

I must also start with a disclaimer here that this research is well outside my own specialist field of theoretical and mathematical physics / astrophysics / particle physics. As such I ca...
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Nobel Predictions

October 2, 2018
Yes folks, its that time of year again. This week the Nobel committees will be announcing the 2018 winners of the most prestigious prize in science, and that means it is time to once again make a few predictions.

As usual I will begin with some comments on which theories and potential candidates will not be receiving a prize this year.

Every year when I make my predictions, I have readers from outside of the scientific community complain that I "forgot" to list certain people. I won't name the ...
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The Planet Pluto

September 11, 2018
Just when you thought you knew the solar system...

Some long term readers may recall a heated debate twelve years ago over the nature of Pluto. When it was first discovered over a century ago, astronomers named it and labelled it the ninth planet. Generations of students learned the names of the planets, and wrote endless reports about the ninth planet. A few years ago the New Horizons probe sent back detailed images of its surface, taken from orbit during a flyby as the probe left the solar s...
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About Me


Dr. Chris Bird I am a theoretical physicist & mathematician, with training in electronics, programming, robotics, and a number of other related fields.

   


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