Life on Mars: Rover finds one essential, traces of carbon

Also: Scientists find gene link to teenage binge drinking

NASA's Mars rover Curiosity, dispatched to look for the chemical ingredients and environments for microbial life, has found hints of carbon, though whether this building block for life on Earth has played a similar role on Mars is unknown, scientists said on Monday.

"Just finding carbon somewhere doesn't mean that it has anything to do with life, or the finding of a habitable environment," lead scientist John Grotzinger, with the California Institute of Technology, told reporters at the American Geophysical Union conference in San Francisco.

Meanwhile, another NASA probe has revealed organics, ice on Mercury.

Despite searing daytime temperatures, Mercury, the planet closest to the sun, has ice and frozen organic materials inside permanently shadowed craters in its north pole, NASA scientists said on Thursday.

Earth-based telescopes have been compiling evidence for ice on Mercury for 20 years, but the finding of organics was a surprise, say researchers with NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft, the first probe to orbit Mercury. 

Voyager 1 probe reaches "magnetic highway" exit 

SAN FRANCISCO NASA's long-lived Voyager 1 spacecraft, which is heading out of the solar system, has reached a "magnetic highway" leading to interstellar space, scientists said on Monday. The probe, launched 35 years ago to study the outer planets, is now about 11 billion miles (18 billion km) from Earth. At that distance, it takes radio signals traveling at the speed of light 17 hours to reach Earth. Light moves at 186,000 miles per second). 

Scientists find gene link to teenage binge drinking 

LONDON Scientists have unpicked the brain processes involved in teenage alcohol abuse and say their findings help explain why some young people have more of a tendency to binge drink. A study published in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) journal found that a gene known as RASGRF-2 plays a crucial role in controlling how alcohol stimulates the brain to release dopamine, triggering feelings of reward. 

Scientists measure sea rise from polar ice melt 

LONDON The melting of the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets has raised sea levels by 11.1 millimeters since 1992, a fifth of the total rise which threatens low-lying regions around the globe, a new study published on Thursday said. The results of the study involving 47 researchers from 26 laboratories which was supported by the European Space Agency and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration give the most accurate measurements of ice loss to date, they said in the journal Science. 

Explorers to retrace Shackleton's epic Antarctic journey 

SYDNEY A group of intrepid explorers are readying themselves for the first-ever recreation of the epic voyage made by British explorer Ernest Shackleton on his ill-fated attempt to reach the South Pole in 1914, on an exact copy of Shackleton's lifeboat. Shackleton's boat, the Endurance, became trapped in the Antarctic ice and was eventually crushed and sank. His attempt to raise the alarm is considered by many to be one of the greatest journeys ever made.

 

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