Deep, buried glaciers spotted on Mars

This NASA file handout image obtained August 24, 2017, created on May 21, 2017 at 13:21 local Mars time by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, shows snow and ice accumulated during Winter covering dunes in the planet's Northern hemisphere. (NASA via AFP)
Updated 12 January 2018
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Deep, buried glaciers spotted on Mars

MIAMI, USA: Buried glaciers have been spotted on Mars, offering new hints about how much water may be accessible on the Red Planet and where it is located, researchers said Thursday.
Although ice has long been known to exist on Mars, a better understanding of its depth and location could be vital to future human explorers, said the report in the US journal Science.
“Astronauts could essentially just go there with a bucket and a shovel and get all the water they need,” said co-author Shane Byrne of the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory in Tucson.
A total of eight ice sites, some as shallow as a few feet (one meter) below the surface, and going as deep as 100 meters or more, have been exposed by erosion.
These underground cliffs, or scarps, appear “to be nearly pure ice,” said the report.
The discovery was possible due to images and data sent by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), launched in 2005.
The probe’s first find of water on Mars was published in Science in 2010.
But now, scientists realize that ice is more widespread than previously thought, said lead author Colin Dundas, a geologist at the US Geological Survey in Flagstaff, Arizona.
“There is shallow ground ice under roughly a third of the Martian surface, which records the recent history of Mars,” he said.
“What we’ve seen here are cross-sections through the ice that give us a 3-D view with more detail than ever before.”
The ice contains bands and color variations that suggest it was formed layer by layer, perhaps as snow accumulated over time, leading to ice sheets.
Researchers believe the ice formed relatively recently, because the sites appear smooth on the surface, unpocked by craters that would be formed by celestial debris smashing into the planet over time.
But just how and when they formed remains unclear.
The cliffs are located in the northern and southern hemispheres of Mars, at a latitude of 55 to 58 degrees, which on Earth would be similar to Scotland or the tip of South America.
These regions slip into a frigid darkness during the Martian winter and would not be a suitable site for a long-term human camp.
However, they are not as treacherous as the poles, and if a sample could be drilled from one of the glaciers, researchers could learn plenty about Mars’ climate and the potential for life on Earth’s neighboring planet.
“If you had a mission at one of these sites, sampling the layers going down the scarp, you could get a detailed climate history of Mars,” said MRO deputy project scientist Leslie Tamppari of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
“It’s part of the whole story of what happens to water on Mars over time: Where does it go? When does ice accumulate? When does it recede?“
NASA plans to send the first human explorers to Mars by the 2030s.


Japan to trial ‘world’s first urine test’ to spot cancer

Updated 17 April 2018
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Japan to trial ‘world’s first urine test’ to spot cancer

  • Previous research has shown a new blood test has potential to detect eight different kinds of tumors before they spread
  • The research starts in April and will run until September

TOKYO: A Japanese firm is poised to carry out what it hailed as the world’s first experiment to test for cancer using urine samples, which would greatly facilitate screening for the deadly disease.
Engineering and IT conglomerate Hitachi developed the basic technology to detect breast or colon cancer from urine samples two years ago.
It will now begin testing the method using some 250 urine samples, to see if samples at room temperature are suitable for analysis, Hitachi spokesman Chiharu Odaira told AFP.
“If this method is put to practical use, it will be a lot easier for people to get a cancer test, as there will be no need to go to a medical organization for a blood test,” he said.
It is also intended to be used to detect paediatric cancers.
“That will be especially beneficial in testing for small children” who are often afraid of needles, added Odaira.
Research published earlier this year demonstrated that a new blood test has shown promise toward detecting eight different kinds of tumors before they spread elsewhere in the body.
Usual diagnostic methods for breast cancer consist of a mammogram followed by a biopsy if a risk is detected.
For colon cancer, screening is generally conducted via a stool test and a colonoscopy for patients at high risk.
The Hitachi technology centers around detecting waste materials inside urine samples that act as a “biomarker” — a naturally occurring substance by which a particular disease can be identified, the company said in a statement.
The procedure aims to improve the early detection of cancer, saving lives and reducing the medical and social cost to the country, Odaira explained.
The experiment will start this month until through September in cooperation with Nagoya University in central Japan.
“We aim to put the technology in use in the 2020s, although this depends on various things such as getting approval from the authorities,” Odaira said.