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  • -= Mercurious Chat =- (wolff08 Chat Log)During this online chat, 230 questions were asked by 12 schools. There were 48 adults and 17 students involved in this chat.

    Hosted by Dr. Michael Wolff of the Space Science Institute

    Elizabeth Schmeisser - Moderator at Space Explorers, Inc. from De Pere, Wisconsin comments:
    Room opened by Moderator on 01/17/08 at 13:00.

    Elizabeth Schmeisser - Moderator at Space Explorers, Inc. from De Pere, Wisconsin comments:
    Space Explorers would like to welcome Dr. Wolff as our host today. All of your questions will be viewed by a moderator. We will try to get through as many questions as possible during the chat period. Ask away!

    Kevin Koski - Teacher at Solar Ambassador from Cascade, Wisconsin asks:
    Whats one of the standout things the MRO has found so far

    oh, boy. I think that such a discover would be related to ground radar that is looking for water ice under the surface (or even water).

    Kapiolani - Student at Muldoon from Anchorage, Alaska asks:
    can you walk on eny planet but the moon?

    i am not sure what you mean. do you mean without a space suit or some other sort of assistance?

    Demo Account - Guest Teacher at Space Explorers, Inc. from De Pere, Wisconsin asks:
    Do you believe that it is possible to alter the Martian atmosphere ?

    yes. it is actually not difficult in principle...but it takes time and resources. i imagine that you are talking about terraforming??

    Demo Account - Guest Teacher at Space Explorers, Inc. from De Pere, Wisconsin asks:
    Why is Mars sometimes closer to Earth than other times?

    imagine that you are running on a track with a friend. you are in the inside lane and he or she is in the outside lane. you run faster so occasionally you come from behind and pass your friend. imagine what your friend looks like at various points around the track. the distance you are from your friend is like the distance between earth and mars. sometime close...and not so close.

    Maureen Gibbons - Teacher at Mies from Marlborough, Massachusetts asks:
    How old were you when you first started studyin the planets?

    i actually went to graduate school in astrophysics, studying interstellar dust. i didn't start really doing research with planets until after i graduated...so i was about 26.

    Demo Account - Guest Teacher at Space Explorers, Inc. from De Pere, Wisconsin asks:
    What is Mars' core like? Is it like Earth's? from the 5th grade at Smallwood

    ooo. i am not a geologist, so my answer will be simple. it was much more like the earths billions of years ago, but now it is believed to be solid. this lack of molten core is why one thinks that Mars does not have the same type of magnetic field as the earth. in fact, Mars doesn't really have a permanent magnetic field...but it has small places that have magnetic materials.

    Dr. Ali Fant - Guest Teacher at John Fredson School from Venetie, Alaska asks:
    How can the thin air on Mars create massive dust storms

    the martian atmosphere has a lot of dust relative to the earth's atmosphere. this dust absorbs energy from the sun and provides to the atmosphere to drive processes like dust storms. on the earth, this is usually done by water vapor in the atmosphere...of which there is very little on the current mars.

    Kathy Hobson - Teacher at Atlantic High School from Atlantic, Iowa asks:
    Spirit and Opportunity have performed above and beyond. In your opinion what are the chances and what has to happen in order for them to survive the Martian winter?

    i think that the chances are good, particularly for Opportunity which is at a more favorable latitude for solar energy (i.e., the sun is not as low in the sky during its winter). Spirit is doing well, and there shouldn't be any more big dust events for a while...but you never know. things sometime just break (or so i always told my parents ;-)).

    Maureen Gibbons - Teacher at Mies from Marlborough, Massachusetts asks:
    What would it be like to move around on the surface of Mars?

    do you mean in terms of gravity or what you would feel from the wind?

    Tori Rocole - Teacher at Peake from Arkadelphia, Arkansas asks:
    Have you ever been to Mars

    not that i know about.

    Dr. Ali Fant - Guest Teacher at John Fredson School from Venetie, Alaska asks:
    Emma asks: Why don't people go to Mars?

    if everyone decided the we should go to mars (and were willing to have the government spend the money that way), we could go in a few years. but that would be very, very expensive. to be affordable, there needs to be a program of studying spaceship design and how humans service in space. it would take about 6 months to get there.

    Kevin Koski - Teacher at Solar Ambassador from Cascade, Wisconsin asks:
    How much science to the rovers do on a day,is it hours or minutes

    it depends upon the season. right now, going into winter, Spirit does maybe an hour or and an hour-and-a-half a day (driving takes more energy and thus cuts down on the science). Opprotunity can do more than 2 hours at the moment. during the summer, these can be 2 or more time higher.

    Dr. Ali Fant - Guest Teacher at John Fredson School from Venetie, Alaska asks:
    Students ask: What is the responsibility or relationship between science and society

    an excellent question. a good answer would require the definition of a system of ethics to impose on the situation. i studied enough philosophy in college to feel uncomfortable about giving a quick answer. **however**, in my opinion, it a delicate balance between "do no harm" and "serving the greater good". it isn't a case of doing something simply because one can.

    Tori Rocole - Teacher at Peake from Arkadelphia, Arkansas asks:
    How many miles away from earth is mars?

    it was recently at its closest approach in December, but i am embarrassed to say that I don't recall the number. it is on the order of 50,000,000 km, i believe. at its closest approach, it is about half of the distance of sun-earth...so about 45 million miles on average.

    Dr. Ali Fant - Guest Teacher at John Fredson School from Venetie, Alaska asks:
    Emma asks: Can the American rovers find the British Rover and see what is wrong with it?

    although the rovers have been doing well for a long time, they have a straight-line path measured in km's...the intending landing site of the Beagle 2 was more than 1000 km away from either rover (i believe that is probably much farther than that, but i dont' have my mars globe with me.

    Shantell - Student at Muldoon from Anchorage, Alaska asks:
    what planet is not a planet anymore

    a trick question? how can it not be a planet if it is a planet? but, Pluto was recently demoted to dwarf planet.

    Tori Rocole - Teacher at Peake from Arkadelphia, Arkansas asks:
    Is it really true that people want to build houses on Mars?-Cody-Peake Elementary -Arkadelphia

    i think that it is true that people want to build houses anywhere. there are people studying how to build a habitat on Mars and how people would live in it. if you go the website (or google it) of the Planetary Society, you can fine more information (it is on Devon Island...my spelling is perhaps wrong for this)

    Michael - Chat Guest at McCutcheon from Chicago, IL asks:
    When will human life be able to go on mars?

    it's a question of how much money people want to spend and how fast. the technical problems can be solved in a few years...

    Martha Gould-lehe - Teacher at Muldoon from Anchorage, Alaska asks:
    What do you enjoy most about studying the planets?

    probably, the most interesting thing is that there is always something new to learn or a way to apply previous knowledge. i like using computers to study Mars, so as they get faster, new problems can be solved.

    Tori Rocole - Teacher at Peake from Arkadelphia, Arkansas asks:
    Why don't the rovers float away while on Mars?

    there is gravity and they cannot go fast enough to escape the

    Demo Account - Guest Teacher at Space Explorers, Inc. from De Pere, Wisconsin asks:
    What kinds of landforms would you see on Mars? from the 5th grade at Smallwood

    many of the same kinds that you seen on the earth that are caused by water or by wind. so, one could find dry river beds, lake beds (or some sort), canyons, mountains, volcanoes, etc.

    paul - Chat Guest at mccutcheon school from Chicago, IL asks:
    why is there no gravity in space

    you need to have matter. so, there is gravity everywhere in space even for the astronauts. but when they are in orbit, they are moving so quickly that they are always falling towards earth in such a way that they do not feel the pull. so, gravity is there...whether you "feel it" depends upon where you are and how you are moving.

    Dr. Ali Fant - Guest Teacher at John Fredson School from Venetie, Alaska asks:
    What sort of space suit does one need to walk around on the Mars surface?

    an excellent question, but not one i can answer very well. it doesn't not need to be as strong as for outer space or the moon because the atmosphere of Mars generally makes things less harsh (but it does depend upon what time of day you want to go on Mars...it gets very, very cold at night).

    Dr. Ali Fant - Guest Teacher at John Fredson School from Venetie, Alaska asks:
    Emma asks: Are there lakes on Mars containing ice or water?

    people would really like to find one. however, scientists have found evidence that there were in the past (from time to time). the size of these bodies of water is a question of active research (i.e., what was the biggest body of water...a lake, a sea, or a small ocean? they don't know)

    Kevin Koski - Teacher at Solar Ambassador from Cascade, Wisconsin asks:
    how deep can the MRO scan for water of frozen water ice

    i am told that they can see down several km's, but i have to admit that i cannot give you precise answer. it is dependent upon the characteristics of the material that is on top of it...

    Michael - Chat Guest at McCutcheon from Chicago, IL asks:
    Why does the north star stay in place?

    it does not really stay in place, it's position changed from the perspective the earth very slowly because it is nearly above the point on the earth that just spins around...but the star itself does move as does the point on the sky where the earth's axis points.

    Kevin Koski - Teacher at Solar Ambassador from Cascade, Wisconsin asks:
    Do you think Phoenix will find microable life or fossils

    i hope it does. however, it is very limited to how far down it can search. if there is life still on Mars, it is probably very good at hiding itself from the currently unpleasant conditions which would probably entail being a bit further underground.

    Michael - Chat Guest at McCutcheon from Chicago, IL asks:
    How much CO2 is on mars?

    95% of the atmosphere is CO2. i can't give you an estimate of the mass...but someone has certainly done this calculation. sorry.

    paul - Chat Guest at mccutcheon school from Chicago, IL asks:
    why do u need a rocket to get in space?

    at present, it's the easiest way. if you could great worm holes and have control over where the other end of it would be, perhaps that would be an example of an alternate form of transport.

    John Bock - Teacher at Chignik Bay from Chignik, Alaska asks:
    mystudents would like to know how far we can currently plan on going into space, and the length of the voyage?

    NASA has a nebulous plan (in my opinion) go to Mars sometime around 2020-2030. the current plan would have the astronauts gone for about 2+ years (6 months to go each way and 1-1.5 yrs on the surface). you have to wait for a good time to come back if you only want to spend 6 months traveling.

    Dr. Ali Fant - Guest Teacher at John Fredson School from Venetie, Alaska asks:
    Cynthia asks: Can humans breathe the Mars air?

    not for long.... so, no, they wouldn't get nothing useful even if you took the atmosphere, warmed it up, and increased the pressure to sea level on the earth. plants would probably enjoy it though.

    Tori Rocole - Teacher at Peake from Arkadelphia, Arkansas asks:
    What are the combinations of gases on Mars?

    95% CO2, a couple percent of nitrogen and argon and oxygen...and less than a percent of everything else

    Maureen Gibbons - Teacher at Mies from Marlborough, Massachusetts asks:
    Gabriel asks: Why is there no water on Mars?

    there is water on mars. there is just not a lot on the surface at the moment other than water ice near the poles. if you poured a glass of water on the surface of mars, it would almost always "boil"...go from liquid to gas. there are a few places on the surface where water could survive for a few days as a liquid.

    Tori Rocole - Teacher at Peake from Arkadelphia, Arkansas asks:
    Why is the Earth tilted?

    this is related to how things smashed into when it was very young.

    Michael - Chat Guest at McCutcheon from Chicago, IL asks:
    Why is the north star on the axis?

    it just happens to be at the moment. this changes over tens of thousand of years.

    John Bock - Teacher at Chignik Bay from Chignik, Alaska asks:
    Why are you nebulous about the NASA plan?

    becuase i haven't seen a detailed plan. i am not saying that they don't have one, but there are a number of questions that they have to answer before it would mean anything. so, even if they have a very specific plan, the probability that you can assign to any one date depends how far it is in the future. these sort of big plans tend to change as do the presidents in the white house.

    Michael - Chat Guest at McCutcheon from Chicago, IL asks:
    Does big planets have lots of rock?

    not necessarily. gas giants do not need to have a lot rock relative to their size...though there may be a rocky core that as big or bigger than the earth.

    Demo Account - Guest Teacher at Space Explorers, Inc. from De Pere, Wisconsin asks:
    Is a volcano on Mars like a volcano on Earth? from the 5th grade at Smallwood

    yes, but not being a geologist, i cannot say too much more. the big volcanoes on mars (Olympus Mons, the three Tharsis volcanoes) are shield volcanoes...or so i have been told.

    Dr. Ali Fant - Guest Teacher at John Fredson School from Venetie, Alaska asks:
    How was the solar panel on the rover wiped clean so it could run again.

    it is suspect that the rover was in the right place at the right time for a nice burst a wind. this happened when it was at the top of ridge line...so it is not shocking, but still cool.

    Michael - Chat Guest at McCutcheon from Chicago, IL asks:
    Can you live on Pluto? or Mars?

    you can live anywhere if you bring all the right stuff and can control at least a small part of the enviroment. for pluto versus mars, it's a question of how much you want to bring. the hope is that on mars, many of the basic building blocks are there to make what we need: water, breathable atmosphere, etc.

    Demo Account - Guest Teacher at Space Explorers, Inc. from De Pere, Wisconsin asks:
    Do you believe we are the only life in the universe?

    no. the way that i have heard it expressed is: "it would certainly be big wast of real estate"...but i don't remember who said that. Carl Sagan, Frank Drake, or someone like that.

    Kevin Koski - Teacher at Solar Ambassador from Cascade, Wisconsin asks:
    what the biggest discovery MRO has made

    MRO is really a monitoring mission, it is seeing cool stuff in ways not possible before...but it would be hard to point to a present discovery that would be huge. its biggest contribution is to finally give enough information that we may finally understand the climate and evolution of early Mars. this is important for asking question like "where might life have been" or where should there be water. of course, the ground penetrating radar is quite a new and novel measurement.

    Demo Account - Guest Teacher at Space Explorers, Inc. from De Pere, Wisconsin asks:
    how is mars' atmosphere different earth's? 5th grade smallwood

    the amount of air at the surface is only 1% of that of earth. so, to thin to breathe. the thin part also means that it doesn't retain heat as well...so it is quite a bit colder. and, it is mainly CO2; not something our bodies like to breathe.

    Lillian Harper - Teacher at Peake from Arkadelphia, Arkansas asks:
    Where do the rings of the planets come from?

    they can be left over debris from their formation or from things that are captured and broken up. very faint rings can be generated by particles from the sun smashing into moons or from the moons themselves erupting material in some way.

    Maureen Gibbons - Teacher at Mies from Marlborough, Massachusetts asks:
    We were wondering about the wind.

    there is definitely wind on mars. however, you feel it in a different way. because of the thin air, the wind would need to move at 100 mph on mars to give you the feeling of 10 mph on the earth.

    Michael - Chat Guest at McCutcheon from Chicago, IL asks:
    Are you with NASA?

    no, but i get NASA from money to do certain work. usually, i have to send a request for money (and tell them what i want to do). if a group of people think that it is a good idea, then they will send it to my institution, which is often kind enough to send me a paycheck. however, sometime people do not think that my ideas are always good (the fools!...;-) ).

    Jeffrey - Chat Guest at McCutcheon from Chicago, IL asks:
    How many universes are there?

    this is an area of theoretical physics...and science ficition. at present, we can only prove the existence of 1.

    Michael - Chat Guest at McCutcheon from Chicago, IL asks:
    My name is Michael too. Why are there stars?

    ...because there was a lot of gas that cooled in such a way that it broke up into blobs. and those blobs became smaller blobs...and so on. going back to far is not something that physics has been able to do too well yet...that is to say, where the universe begin or why?

    Tori Rocole - Teacher at Peake from Arkadelphia, Arkansas asks:
    How do the rovers make their way to Mars without getting off course?

    they have little rockets on them that can make small course correction...but basically, you have to have done a pretty good job getting it close to the right path. since they travel for many months, small changes in direction can accomplish alot.

    Martha Gould-lehe - Teacher at Muldoon from Anchorage, Alaska asks:
    do you believe that aliens on ufos exist?

    not any that have been claimed so far.

    John Bock - Teacher at Chignik Bay from Chignik, Alaska asks:
    What/who inspired you to do the work you love so much in science?

    a few critical teachers (in 8th grade and high school)...and Carl Sagan (with his tv show Cosmos...which is quite fun to watch, beside making fun of the clothes from the 1970s).

    Quavyana - Chat Guest at Mccutcheon from Chicago, IL asks:
    Will we ever live on Mars?

    i believe so.

    Jeffrey - Chat Guest at McCutcheon from Chicago, IL asks:
    can you see the great wall of China from space?

    i am told that you can and there are books out the should have this picture. but i don't think i have ever seen it...though when i take my children to Barnes and Noble on Friday, i will look!

    Demo Account - Guest Teacher at Space Explorers, Inc. from De Pere, Wisconsin asks:
    Is the atmosphere of Mars heavy?

    it would weigh less than 1% of the earth's (actually, less than 0.5%)

    Elizabeth Schmeisser - Moderator at Space Explorers, Inc. from De Pere, Wisconsin comments:
    The chat room will be closing in approximately five minutes. At this time, we would like to thank everyone for joining us for this special event. We would especially like to thank Dr. Wolff for hosting our chat today.

    Quavyana - Chat Guest at Mccutcheon from Chicago, IL asks:
    When will the galaxies come together

    galaxies are colliding all the time in space...just very slowly. if you mean the opposite of the "big bang", that may never happen if the universe does not have enough matter to stop the expansion and actually start to collapse. i have not kept up with Cosmology, but i think that the answer is not year definitive.

    Jennifer - Chat Guest at McCutcheon from Chicago, IL asks:
    How many gaxies are there?

    i would have to make up a number, but they have identified many billions of them using telescopes. ...certainly there many that were to faint to be seen with current technology.

    John Bock - Teacher at Chignik Bay from Chignik, Alaska asks:
    We are planning a Mars colonization project simulation for our class; is there a current plan out there that you believe would be a good model for us?

    a good book to use would be "A Case for Mars" by Robert Zubrin. This book is 15 years old, but the basic concepts are the same...and you could then assign projects to look for updates to the various components!

    John Bock - Teacher at Chignik Bay from Chignik, Alaska asks:
    Will we be able to establish a sustainable permanent presence on Mars?

    yes. it's a question of whether people will want to do so. i think that we should...if we are going to go, we should go to stay.

    Demo Account - Guest Teacher at Space Explorers, Inc. from De Pere, Wisconsin asks:
    Why do you think we had such an explosion of maned exploration in the late 60's and early 70's and nothing since?

    politics...and the bad economy in the early 1970s. if it hadn't been for the USSR and the "space race" it would have taken a lot longer. certainly, the way we went to the moon was not particularly smart from an exploration point of view. we went mainly to go...and perhaps did a little science along the way.

    Quavyana - Chat Guest at Mccutcheon from Chicago, IL asks:
    What if Mars not safe to live on?

    without any extra work, it is not safe. but there are things that we can do to make it safe (or safer anyway. one could claim that the earth is not all that safe to live on either).

    Dr. Ali Fant - Guest Teacher at John Fredson School from Venetie, Alaska asks:
    How many planets are there outside our solar system?

    i have lost track. i believe the number of detections is above 50. i will be excited about this again when they start finding smaller planets like earth and mars...and/or when they start to see the planets directly (now that would be super cool).

    Jeffrey - Chat Guest at McCutcheon from Chicago, IL asks:
    when will a gammaray happen

    a gamma ray is a type of light...just one with a lot of energy. gamma rays can be given off my material on the earth or by processes that we do (like nuclear energy). they are not safe. the sun (and other stars) also generate these things.

    Kevin Koski - Teacher at Solar Ambassador from Cascade, Wisconsin asks:
    Will the next rover going to mars on 2009 ,will you beinvolved with it.

    not directly at the moment. but the data are always made available to the public, so i will be able to study mars with it also.

    John Bock - Teacher at Chignik Bay from Chignik, Alaska asks:
    We were planning on using the Zubrin material, that is encouraging! What parting words would you wish to leave for our students all over the country?

    it's up to you and your generation whether we go to Mars. you are the age to be astronauts on mars and you are the age to have to pay for all the mistakes that have been made. however, exploring is part of being human...and Mars offers the easiest place for us (at the moment) to go and live ... that is not on earth.

    Tori Rocole - Teacher at Peake from Arkadelphia, Arkansas asks:
    Will people ever discover why Mars does have ice caps?-Dorian -Peake Elememtary -Arkadelphia

    they know why...they wonder where the rest of the water went.

    Tori Rocole - Teacher at Peake from Arkadelphia, Arkansas asks:
    How many planets have you traveled?

    1

    Demo Account - Guest Teacher at Space Explorers, Inc. from De Pere, Wisconsin asks:
    How big is Olympus Mons compared to the biggest volcano on earth? from the 5th grade at Smallwood

    it is like twice as big...it depends if you measure from sea level of the bottom of the ocean.

    Martha Gould-lehe - Teacher at Muldoon from Anchorage, Alaska asks:
    We want to know if you ever went on a mission into space, like on the Shuttle?

    no. my eyes are not too good.

    Maureen Gibbons - Teacher at Mies from Marlborough, Massachusetts asks:
    How old were you when you first started studyin the planets?here any thing in the atmosphere of Mars that is like the atmosphere around Earth?Do you know anything new about the possibility that there could have beenlife on Mars?

    i was in my 20s. yes, there are some similarities... early mars may have been very much like early earth.

    Maureen Gibbons - Teacher at Mies from Marlborough, Massachusetts asks:
    How could Spirit and Opportunity go through the atmosphere of Mars ?

    with a lot of protection...like the space shuttle or the russian space capsules.

    Martha Gould-lehe - Teacher at Muldoon from Anchorage, Alaska asks:
    Have you ever gone into space or do you just study about what happens in space?

    i have never gone there...yet.

    Maureen Gibbons - Teacher at Mies from Marlborough, Massachusetts asks:
    Do you think we will ever be able to live on Mars? Could we change orbits with Mars? Could we come up with a man made dome to create an atmosphere to warm the planet?

    yes. but changing the orbit of Mars would be much harder for us than to just change the atmosphere. terraforming is something scientists have studied. in fact, we are changing the earth's atmosphere all the time...sometimes in ways that we don't like.

    Kevin Koski - Teacher at Solar Ambassador from Cascade, Wisconsin asks:
    Thanyou Doctor Wolff

    you're welcome. i enjoyed it.

    Lillian Harper - Teacher at Peake from Arkadelphia, Arkansas asks:
    Thank you for answering our questions. The students have enjoyed it!

    excellent. you are welcome.

    Demo Account - Guest Teacher at Space Explorers, Inc. from De Pere, Wisconsin asks:
    thank you for your time my class loved it!

    it was my pleasure...and a great typing working out (if not including the shift key).

    Elizabeth Schmeisser - Moderator at Space Explorers, Inc. from De Pere, Wisconsin comments:
    For the most up-to-date and complete listing of future chat events, please check out http://www.space-explorers.com/internal/events/chats.html. We look forward to chatting with you again!

    Elizabeth Schmeisser - Moderator at Space Explorers, Inc. from De Pere, Wisconsin comments:
    1/17/2008 2:10:52 PM - Room closed by Moderator. Thank you for your participation.

     
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