Mars lander Phoenix stops sending

Phoenix, a Mars lander in the Arctic regions of Mars, has stopped transmitting. It depends on solar cells for power. Very likely, declining light levels have let its battery run down.

Before long the deep winter cold of Mars will enshroud Phoenix in ice, turning it into an immobile frozen artifact. In a year’s time, when summer returns, it’s just possible that the warming sun could thaw the outspread solar panels and feed renewed energy to awaken the silent spacecraft. It’s a possibility, the Phoenix scientists and engineers say, but a remote one.

The engineers last heard a signal from Phoenix on Nov. 2. They will keep trying to pick up some faint evidence of the lander’s life for a few weeks more, but they believe it’s unlikely because the weather up north on Mars is worsening day by day, said Project Manager Barry Goldstein at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.

–David Perlman, Science Editor, San Francisco Chronicle

The Phoenix mission was planned for three months; the lander has been operating for five. It gathered more data than scientists expected it to.

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On writing: Trying to find the words

Ian Wylie tells of struggles to find the right words to write essays that mean what you say: Trying to find the words.

He also lists some online resources for writing:

Octopus had Antarctic ancestors

Genetic analysis of octopodes indicates that they developed in the ocean around Antarctica. They spread out from that continent when an ice sheet covered it and created cold water currents in all directions to the north.

By Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent

OSLO (Reuters) – Many octopuses evolved from a common ancestor that lived off Antarctica more than 30 million years ago, according to a “Census of Marine Life” that is seeking to map the oceans from microbes to whales.

The $650 million census is on track for completion in 2010, assessing about 230,000 known marine species, a statement said. It has identified 5,300 likely new species, of everything from fish or corals. So far, 110 have been confirmed as new.

Among the findings, genetic evidence showed that the tentacles of the octopus family pointed to an Antarctic ancestor for many deep sea species. A modern octopus called Adelieledone in Antarctica seemed the closest relative of the original.

Octopuses apparently spread around the world after Antarctica became covered with a continent-wide ice sheet more than 30 million years ago, a shift that helped create oxygen-rich ocean currents flowing north, a report said.

“Isolated in new habitat conditions, many different species evolved; some octopuses, for example, losing their defensive ink sacs — pointless at perpetually dark depths,” the census said.

Classification: Biota > Animalia (Kingdom) > Mollusca (Phylum) > Conchifera (Subphylum) > Cephalopoda (Class) > Coleoidea (Subclass) > Octopodiformes (Superorder) > Octopoda (Order) > Incirrata (Suborder) > Octopodoidea (Superfamily) > Octopodidae (Family) > Adelieledone Allcock et al., 20

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