BU Today: Another Mars Landing! But What Now?

By Mary GordonDecember 6th, 2018in Withers

In a recent article from BU Today, CSP's Associate Professor Paul Withers discusses what the latest landing on Mars, InSight, could teach us with Doug Most.

“Nobody at BU is more fascinated than Paul Withers, a College of Arts & Sciences associate professor of astronomy and an expert on all things Mars. He is leading an experiment on NASA’s MAVEN orbiter around Mars, a spacecraft that will relay InSight’s data back to Earth. InSight will be the first craft to use a robotic arm to place scientific instruments on the surface of Mars.

“I’m tremendously excited to see InSight land on Mars!” Withers wrote in an email. “Studies of earthquakes on Earth have revealed so much about how Earth is structured and how Earth’s interior works, and InSight’s seismometer is going to do the same for another planet for the first time. Regardless of whether or not the interior of Mars turns out to be very similar to that of Earth, one thing is certain: there will be plenty of surprises and unexpected discoveries to amaze us all.”

Read the rest of the Article here:

NASA artistic rendering of the InSight Lander vehicle on the Mars surface.

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BU Research: Looking for Extraterrestrial Life

By Mary GordonAugust 6th, 2018in Clarke, Mendillo, Withers

In a recent BU Research article, CSP's Professor Michael Mendillo, Professor John Clarke, and Associate Professor Paul Withers, as well as PhD candidate Paul Dalba (Astronomy), discuss narrowing the search for extraterrestrial life with Barbara Moran.

“What more important question could we ask? Are we alone?” asks Boston University professor of astronomy Michael Mendillo. “I don’t know of any more fascinating question in science.”

For decades, astronomers have been searching these distant exoplanets for signs of life, mostly looking for that most essential molecule, water. But Mendillo and his colleagues have a different idea. In a paper published in Nature Astronomy on February 12, 2018, Mendillo, BU associate professor of astronomy Paul Withers, and PhD candidate Paul Dalba (GRS’18) suggest looking instead at an exoplanet’s ionosphere, the thin uppermost layer of atmosphere, which is whizzing with charged particles. Find one like Earth’s, they say, packed with single oxygen ions, and you have found life. Or, at least, life as we know it.

Read the rest of the Article here:

The search for extraterrestrial life has focused mostly on exoplanets like Kepler-186f, shown here, which circle M-class stars in a “habitable zone” where water may exist. But “not all habitable zones are created equal,” says Mendillo, who notes that some exoplanets are dangerously close to their stars, exposing them to hazardous radiation that might prevent life as we know it. “Earth’s habitable zone has a little more hospitality.” Photo credit NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-Caltech

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BU Today: Space Science for Kids

By Mary GordonJune 19th, 2018

Lily (second from left) was among the throng of youngsters at who visited CSP for our Space Science for Kids event, a free event for children over 10 hosted by BU’s Center for Space Physics June 15. Sophia Kressy (CAS’19) (right) explains a gyroscope to the fascinated Lily. The event showcased interactive experiments and gave kids a chance to interact and talk with scientists about their field.

Photo by Lexi Pline (COM’19)

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