April 04, 2013
Mars missions scaled back in April because of sun
It's the Martian version of spring break: Curiosity and Opportunity, along with their spacecraft friends circling overhead, will take it easy this month because of the sun's interference.
For much of April, the sun blocks the line of sight between Earth and Mars. This celestial alignment — called a Mars solar conjunction — makes it difficult for engineers to send instructions or hear from the flotilla in orbit and on the surface.
Such communication blackouts occur every two years when the red planet disappears behind the sun. No new commands are sent since flares and charged particles spewing from the sun can scramble transmission signals and put spacecraft in danger.
April 03, 2013
Used Parachute on Mars Flaps in the Wind
Photos from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter show how the parachute that helped NASA's Curiosity rover land on Mars last summer has subsequently changed its shape on the ground.
The images were obtained by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
Seven images taken by HiRISE between Aug. 12, 2012, and Jan. 13, 2013, show the used parachute shifting its shape at least twice in response to wind.
March 28, 2013
Why a Mars Comet Impact Would be Awesome
When Jupiter’s tides ripped Comet Shoemaker–Levy 9 to shreds, only for the icy chunks to succumb to the intense Jovian gravity, ultimately slamming into the gas giant’s atmosphere, mankind was treated to a rare cosmic spectacle (in human timescales at least). That was the first time in modern history that we saw a comet do battle with a planet… and lose.
But next year, astronomers think there’s a chance — albeit a small one — of a neighboring planet getting punched by an icy interplanetary interloper. However, this planet doesn’t have a generously thick atmosphere to soften the blow. Rather than causing bruises in a dense, molecular hydrogen atmosphere, this comet will pass through the atmosphere like it wasn’t even there and hit the planetary surface like a cosmic pile-driver, ripping into the crust.
What’s more, we’d have robotic eyes on the ground and in orbit should the worst happen.
January 21, 2013
Scientists need you to analyze unseen images of Mars
With the creation of new citizen science website Planet Four, planetary scientists are turning to the general public for help in analyzing images of the surface of Mars, many of which have never been seen before. It's hoped that the public's input will help develop a detailed picture of winds on the planet. The images were captured by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and are limited to Mars' southern polar region (an effort to keep the workload manageable).
November 06, 2012
New Google Mars Has More Coverage, More Detail and More Awesome
Google Mars has been available since 2009 as part of the free downloadable Google Earth. It allows viewers to zoom around the Red Planet in much higher resolution than the simpler browser version and will even render certain locations in 3-D. You can reach it by clicking the little orange Saturn-shaped button at the top of the screen in Google Earth. Google has now updated their Mars coverage by including large swaths from the Context Camera (CTX) on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. CTX offers great details with around 20 feet per pixel. Each of the gray bands in the picture above represents one of CTX’s imaged areas, showing the extent of the coverage.
October 31, 2012
Mars rover gets instructions daily from NASA via a network of antennae
The Washington Post
We live in a chaos of electromagnetic energy. Visible, infrared and ultraviolet light courses omnidirectionally from the sun. A fraction of it bathes our planet, while some bounces off other planets, moons, comets and meteoroids. The visible light from stars up to 4,000 light-years away can be seen from Earth with the naked eye. With instruments, astronomers can detect gamma rays from stars 13 billion light-years away. Radio waves from remote galaxies help Earth’s official timekeepers monitor our planet’s path around the sun.
Once per day, a minuscule stream of radio waves joins this cacophony, making the 13.8-minute trip from an antenna on Earth to an SUV-size machine parked on the surface of Mars. Those short-lived waves represent our way — our only way — of communicating with Curiosity, the rover that NASA landed on Mars in August.
October 09, 2012
Cosmic Old Faithful: Are There Geysers on Mars?
Dramatic images going wide for the first time tell a surprising tale of Martian eruptions. The pictures doing the dazzling today were shot by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) in 2010 and show the predictable — if beautiful — rusty dunes of the Martian surface, sculpted like snowdrifts from the planet’s tenuous but persistent wind. The scene is broken up, however, buy strange, black, spidery blemishes scattered randomly about. From orbit they look tiny, but on the ground they’d be huge — surely larger than a football field. It’s partly their very ugliness that makes them eye-catching and partly the mystery of what causes them. Actually, however, that last part is likely no mystery at all — and the source of the features is one more indication of how complex a planet Mars is turning out to be.
August 31, 2012
Orbiter View of Curiosity From Nearly Straight Overhead
Details such as the shadow of the mast on NASA's Mars rover Curiosity appear in an image taken Aug. 17, 2012, by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, from more directly overhead than previous HiRISE images of Curiosity.
In this product, cutouts showing the rover and other hardware or ground markings from the landing of the Mars Science Laboratory spacecraft are presented across the top of a larger, quarter-resolution overview keyed to the full-resolution cutouts. North is up. The scale bar is 200 meters (one-eighth of a mile).
August 14, 2012
UCLA scientist discovers plate tectonics on Mars
For years, many scientists had thought that plate tectonics existed nowhere in our solar system but on Earth. Now, a UCLA scientist has discovered that the geological phenomenon, which involves the movement of huge crustal plates beneath a planet's surface, also exists on Mars.
"Mars is at a primitive stage of plate tectonics. It gives us a glimpse of how the early Earth may have looked and may help us understand how plate tectonics began on Earth," said An Yin, a UCLA professor of Earth and space sciences and the sole author of the new research.
Yin made the discovery during his analysis of satellite images from THEMIS (Thermal Emission Imaging System), an instrument on board the Mars Odyssey spacecraft, and from the HIRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. He analyzed about 100 satellite images — approximately a dozen were revealing of plate tectonics.
March 10, 2012
NASA Mars Orbiter Catches Twister in Action
An afternoon whirlwind on Mars lofts a twisting column of dust more than half a mile (800 meters) high in an image from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
HiRISE captured the image on Feb. 16, 2012, while the orbiter passed over the Amazonis Planitia region of northern Mars. In the area observed, paths of many previous whirlwinds, or dust devils, are visible as streaks on the dusty surface.
The active dust devil displays a delicate arc produced by a westerly breeze partway up its height. The dust plume is about 30 yards or meters in diameter.
December 09, 2011
Mars Orbiters Will Attempt to Take Pictures of the Curiosity Rover as It Lands
Remember this amazing image from 2008? The HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured the Phoenix lander descending on a parachute to land on Mars’ north polar region. MRO will attempt a repeat performance in August of 2012 when the Mars Science Laboratory rover “Curiosity” will be landing in Gale Crater on Mars. Capturing this event would be epic, especially with MSL’s unique “skycrane” landing system.
“Yes, MRO is planning to image the descent of MSL with both HiRISE and CTX (Context Camera),” Alfred McEwen, HiRISE principal investigator told Universe Today. “For Phoenix we got a bit lucky with HiRISE in terms of the geometry, giving us a high probability of success. It may not work out so well for MSL. What I’d really like is to capture the rover hanging from the skycrane, but the timing may be difficult.”
October 17, 2011
Colorful Planet Mars -A barren but still exciting landscape [43 Pics]
The following photos of Planet Mars shatters the idea of an all “red” planet. Mars also has many many hidden, very colorful treasures. The landscape shown is like a post apocalyptic Earth. Or perhaps more what our own planet would look like if we removed almost all life. Nevertheless the Mars landscape is breathtaking and make me daydream of what it would be to build a new civilisation on Mars – starting from scratch. That would be something…
August 04, 2011
NASA Spacecraft Data Suggest Water Flowing on Mars
Observations from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have revealed possible flowing water during the warmest months on Mars.
"NASA's Mars Exploration Program keeps bringing us closer to determining whether the Red Planet could harbor life in some form,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said, “and it reaffirms Mars as an important future destination for human exploration."
Dark, finger-like features appear and extend down some Martian slopes during late spring through summer, fade in winter, and return during the next spring. Repeated observations have tracked the seasonal changes in these recurring features on several steep slopes in the middle latitudes of Mars' southern hemisphere.
"The best explanation for these observations so far is the flow of briny water," said Alfred McEwen of the University of Arizona, Tucson. McEwen is the principal investigator for the orbiter's High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) and lead author of a report about the recurring flows published in Thursday's edition of the journal Science.
Orbiter spots possible water seepage on surface of Mars
Over the last several decades, evidence has piled up that Mars once played host to liquid water on its surface. But in its current geological era, the red planet is too cold and has too little atmosphere to allow liquid to survive for long. Even at the peak of Martian summer, water would evaporate off quickly during the day, or freeze solid as soon as night hit. But that doesn't mean it couldn't exist beneath the surface, where pressures and temperatures might be quite different, so researchers have been looking for signs that some subterranean liquid might bubble to the surface. Now, scientists are reporting some changes on the Martian surface that seem to be best explained by a watery seep.
February 06, 2011
Seasonal Changes in Northern Mars Dune Field
Three images of the same location taken at different times on Mars show seasonal activity causing sand avalanches and ripple changes on a Martian dune. Time sequence of the images progresses from top to bottom. Each image covers an area 285 meters (312 yards) by 140 meters (153 yards). The crest of a dune curves across the upper and left portions of the image.
The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter took these images. The site is at 84 degrees north latitude, 233 degrees east longitude, in a vast region of dunes at the edge of Mars' north polar ice cap. The area is covered by carbon-dioxide ice in winter but is ice-free in summer. The top and bottom images show part of one dune about one Mars year apart, at a time of year when all the seasonal ice has disappeared: in late spring of one year (top) and early summer of the following year (bottom). The middle image is from the second year's mid-spring, when the region was still covered by seasonal carbon-dioxide ice.
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