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Why is Mars so different from Earth?
April 1, 2015 07:40 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN

Did Mars ever support life of any sort?  Why is Mars so different from Earth? Can we deduce its history from current conditions?

NASA's Curiosity rover is using a new experiment to better understand the history of the Martian atmosphere by analyzing xenon. 

While NASA's Curiosity rover concluded its detailed examination of the rock layers of the "Pahrump Hills" in Gale Crater on Mars this winter, some members of the rover team were busy analyzing the Martian atmosphere for xenon, a heavy noble gas. 

Curiosity's Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) experiment analyzed xenon in the planet's atmosphere. Since noble gases are chemically inert and do not react with other substances in the air or on the ground, they are excellent tracers of the history of the atmosphere. Xenon is present in the Martian atmosphere at a challengingly low quantity and can be directly measured only with on-site experiments such as SAM.

New deep-water methane reservoir found deep in the Arctic Ocean
March 31, 2015 07:57 AM - University of New Hampshire via EurekAlert.

Research led by a University of New Hampshire professor has identified a new source of methane for gas hydrates -- ice-like substances found in sediment that trap methane within the crystal structure of frozen water -- in the Arctic Ocean. The findings, published online now in the May 2015 journal Geology, point to a previously undiscovered, stable reservoir for abiotic methane -- methane not generated by decomposing carbon -- that is "locked" away from the atmosphere, where it could impact global climate change.

"We've found an example where methane produced at a mid-ocean ridge is locked up in stable, deep water gas hydrate, preventing it from possibly getting out of the seafloor," says lead author Joel Johnson, associate professor of geology at UNH and guest researcher at the Center for Arctic Gas Hydrate, Environment and Climate (CAGE) at UiT The Arctic University of Norway in Tromsø. Johnson notes that the findings, which pinpointed a source of abiotic methane ¬produced in seafloor crust, indicate gas hydrates throughout the Arctic may be supplied by a significant portion of abiotic gas.

Lunch apparently not that appealing to children anymore
March 30, 2015 07:32 AM - Nestle via EurekAlert.

According to new analysis of data from the 2009-2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) that evaluated eating patterns of 3,647 children ages 4-13 years, skipping lunch is a common practice among children and adolescents, with 13% of younger children and 17% of 9-13 year olds skipping lunch on a given day. The study found that the behavior persisted throughout the week with nearly a quarter (approximately 23%) of 9-13 year olds skipping lunch on the weekends. These findings, part of Nestlé's new Kids Nutrition & Health Study (KNHS), were presented today at a poster session entitled "What Happened to Lunch? Dietary Intakes of 4-13 Year Old Lunch Consumers and Non-Consumers in the United States" at the American Society of Nutrition conference.

These findings are of particular concern given that lunch skippers had lower intakes of nutrients, including calcium and fiber, than lunch consumers. In addition, the data show that for some children, the lunch meal was primarily responsible for the higher essential nutrient intakes of vitamin D, potassium and magnesium, as well as a nutrient of concern, sodium. 

NASA captures best images yet of a dwarf planet
March 29, 2015 08:14 AM - NASA JPL

As NASA's Dawn spacecraft closes in on Ceres, new images show the dwarf planet at 27 pixels across, about three times better than the calibration images taken in early December. These are the first in a series of images that will be taken for navigation purposes during the approach to Ceres.

Over the next several weeks, Dawn will deliver increasingly better and better images of the dwarf planet, leading up to the spacecraft's capture into orbit around Ceres on March 6. The images will continue to improve as the spacecraft spirals closer to the surface during its 16-month study of the dwarf planet.

Climate change doesn't cause severe winters after all
March 28, 2015 06:59 AM - ETH Zurich via ScienceDaily

Cold snaps like the ones that hit the eastern United States in the past winters are not a consequence of climate change. Scientists at ETH Zurich and the California Institute of Technology have shown that global warming actually tends to reduce temperature variability.

Repeated cold snaps led to temperatures far below freezing across the eastern United States in the past two winters. Parts of the Niagara Falls froze, and ice floes formed on Lake Michigan. Such low temperatures had become rare in recent years. Pictures of icy, snow-covered cities made their way around the world, raising the question of whether climate change could be responsible for these extreme events

Antarctic ice loss is accelerating
March 27, 2015 07:08 AM - British Antarctic Survey

New research published this week in the journal Science Express describes how the ice shelves around Antarctica are thinning and therefore allowing more of the ice sheet behind them to flow into the sea. 

Using nearly two decades of satellite data, the team of international researchers observed an acceleration of ice loss from the continent’s ice shelves, with an increase in loss of 70% in West Antarctica over the last decade. In the Amundsen and Bellingshausen regions, some ice shelves have lost up to 18% of their thickness in less than two decades. 

Was there ever life on Mars?
March 25, 2015 08:05 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN

Did Mars ever support life?  This question has intrigued us for centuries!  We have had spacecraft on Mars for quite a while poking and analyzing soil and rocks and taking photos.  Now NASA has new data which help answer these questions.

A team using the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument suite aboard NASA's Curiosity rover has made the first detection of nitrogen on the surface of Mars from release during heating of Martian sediments. 

The nitrogen was detected in the form of nitric oxide, and could be released from the breakdown of nitrates during heating. Nitrates are a class of molecules that contain nitrogen in a form that can be used by living organisms. The discovery adds to the evidence that ancient Mars was habitable for life.

Are you getting enough Zinc in your diet?
March 24, 2015 09:14 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN

Zinc is an important part of the human diet. You get it in Cashews, spinach, beef, shrimp, flax seed, Oysters, garlic, lima beans peanuts, turkey, Salmon, Pork, Brown rice and other foods. These are not listed in any particular order.

Zinc, is an important mineral in human health, that appears to affect how the immune system responds to stimulation, especially inflammation, new research from Oregon State University shows.

Zinc deficiency could play a role in chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes   that involve inflammation. Such diseases often show up in older adults, who are more at risk for zinc deficiency.

“When you take away zinc, the cells that control inflammation appear to activate and respond differently; this causes the cells to promote more inflammation,” said Emily Ho, a professor and director of the Moore Family Center for Whole Grain Foods, Nutrition and Preventive Health in the OSU College of Public Health and Human Sciences, and lead author of the study.

NASA using space radar to track groundwater pollution risks
March 20, 2015 05:25 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN

Water is our most precious natural resource.  Without clean water to drink human populations cannot exist.  But our water supplies are under constant assault from anthropogenic pollution.

When pollutants get into groundwater, they can stay there for decades. Cleanup efforts are difficult, expensive and not always successful. It would be better to protect groundwater from contamination in the first place, but risks to groundwater are moving targets. Although unchanging factors such as porous soil or shallow aquifer depth play a role, the greatest risk comes from the source of the pollutants: people. And people are always moving. A growing city, in particular, usually means a growing threat to groundwater quality. To lock on to the moving target of groundwater risk, planners worldwide need up-to-date information on how people are changing the land surface.

Arctic sea ice continues to shrink
March 19, 2015 02:20 PM - World Wildlife Foundation

Arctic sea ice shrank to the lowest winter extent ever recorded, according to data released today by the US-based National Snow and Ice Data Center. The record-low ice level follows earlier news that 2014 was the warmest year since record keeping began.
 
An unusually warm February in parts of Alaska and Russia contributed to the record ice low. The winter reach of Arctic ice decreased 1.1 million square kilometres compared to the average maximum from 1981 to 2010. This represents an area more than twice the size of Sweden.
 
"This is not a record to be proud of. Low sea ice can create a series of reactions that further threaten the Arctic and the rest of the globe," said Alexander Shestakov, Director, WWF Global Arctic Programme.

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