A few weeks ago NASA gathered journalists from across the globe for an announcement about something they'd found on Mars. Naturally, the collective imagination went nuts, because surely, SURELY this was going to be The Big Announcement: finally, the discovery of Life Elsewhere In The Universe!
Turns out, nope ... not quite. NASA did have some very cool things to talk about. Curiosity, the Mars Rover that just keeps on keeping on, has found seasonal changes in methane levels, which could be produced by biological mechanisms. It also found a bunch of interesting organic molecules in the martian soil. Neither of these discoveries say that life ever existed on Mars, but they're both tantalising whispers urging us to keep looking, keep looking ...
Syzygy is produced by Chris Stewart and co-hosted by Dr Emily Brunsden from the Department of Physics at the University of York.
To view the podcast chapter list and artwork in this episode, you could do worse than use the Overcast app on iOS, or Pocket Casts on Android. (Other podcast players are available, though they may not handle mp3 chapters nicely.)
Some of the things we talk about in this episode:
The first Science paper about Methane: http://science.sciencemag.org/content/360/6393/1093
The second Science paper about organics in the dirt: http://science.sciencemag.org/content/360/6393/1096
NASA’s Curiosity rover: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/msl/index.html
Video showing Curiosity’s view of the Gale Crater: https://youtu.be/U5nrrnAukwI
Curiosity’s selfie: https://www.nasa.gov/feature/jpl/mount-sharp-photobombs-mars-curiosity-rover
Curiosity sings Happy Birthday to itself: https://youtu.be/uxVVgBAosqg
Water on Mars: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_on_Mars
ESA’s ExoMars: http://exploration.esa.int/mars/48088-mission-overview/
The fate of the Schiaparelli Lander: http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-blogs/schiaparelli-requiem-for-a-mars-lander/
NASA’s Spirit & Opportunity rovers: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/mer/index.html
The Mars 2020 mission: https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/mission/overview/
The Mars Helicopter! https://youtu.be/oOMQOqKRWjU
Sending humans to Mars: https://www.nasa.gov/content/journey-to-mars-overview