Science is the poetry of Nature.

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Posts tagged "Mars"


Beauty From Chaos

Beautiful streamlined islands and narrow gorges were carved by fast-flowing water pounding through a small, plateau region near the southeastern margin of the vast Vallis Marineris canyon system.

Osuga Valles is an outflow channel that emanates from a region of chaotic terrain at the edge of Eos Chaos to the west (top in the main images). Such landscape is dominated by randomly oriented and heavily eroded blocks of terrain. Another example is seen at the bottom of this scene, filling the 2.5 km-deep depression into which Osuga Valles empties.


Mars Red and Spica Blue by P-M Heden

A bright pair of celestial objects, Mars and Spica appear paired in the sky during spring of 2014.

Mars will shine brightly in its familiar rusty hue as it reaches its brightest of 2014 about a week after this image. The reason that Mars appears so bright is that Earth and Mars are close to each other in their long orbits around the Sun.

Spica, on the other hand, shines constantly as one of the brightest blue stars in the night sky. The blue-hued star has been visible throughout human history and the sounds that identify it today date back to ancient times. Pictured above, the planet and the star were photographed rising together toward the southeast after sunset through old oak trees in Sweden.


Science At NASA: The Opposition of Mars

Opposition date: April, 8th, 2014

By the time you finish reading this story, you’ll be about 1,000 km closer to the planet Mars.

Earth and Mars are converging for a close encounter. As March gives way to April, the distance between the two planets is shrinking by about 300 km every minute. When the convergence ends in mid-April, the gulf between Earth and Mars will have narrowed to only 92 million km—a small number on the vast scale of the solar system.

Astronomers call this event an “opposition of Mars” because Mars and the Sun are on opposite sides of the sky. Mars rises in the east at sunset, and soars almost overhead at midnight, shining burnt-orange almost 10 times brighter than a 1st magnitude star.

Oppositions of Mars happen every 26 months. Of a similar encounter in the 19th century, astronomer Percival Lowell wrote that “[Mars] blazes forth against the dark background of space with a splendor that outshines Sirius and rivals the giant Jupiter himself.”

In other words, it’s really easy to see.

There are two dates of special significance:

April 8th is the date of opposition, when Mars, Earth, and the sun are arranged in a nearly-straight line.

If the orbits of Mars and Earth were perfectly circular, April 8th would also be the date of closest approach. However, planetary orbits are elliptical—that is, slightly egg-shaped—so the actual date of closest approach doesn’t come until almost a week later.

On April 14th, Earth and Mars are at their minimum distance: 92 million km, a 6+ month flight for NASA’s speediest rockets. You won’t have any trouble finding Mars on this night. The full Moon will be gliding by the Red Planet in the constellation Virgo, providing a can’t-miss “landmark” in the midnight sky.

Remarkably, on the same night that Mars is closest to Earth, there will be a total lunar eclipse. The full Moon of April 14-15 will turn as red as the Red Planet itself.

Although these dates are special, any clear night in April is a good time to look at Mars. It will be easy to see with the unaided eye even from brightly-lit cities. With a modest backyard telescope, you can view the rusty disk of Mars as well as the planet’s evaporating north polar cap, which has been tipped toward the sun since Martian summer began in February.

Experienced astro-photographers using state-of-the-art digital cameras can tease out even more—for example, dust storms, orographic clouds over Martian volcanoes, and icy fogs in the great Hellas impact basin. The view has been described by some observers as “Hubblesque.”

Update: You’re now 1000 km closer to Mars.


Mars-Bound Comet Siding Spring Sprouts Multiple Jets

Comet Siding Spring, on its way to a close brush with Mars on October 19, has been kicking up a storm lately. New images from Hubble Space Telescope taken on March 11, when the comet was just this side of Jupiter, reveal multiple jets of gas and dust.  (source


Earthgazing: Bright ‘Evening Stars’ Seen from Mars are No Stars, But Earth and the Moon

This view of the twilight sky and Martian horizon taken by NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover includes Earth as the brightest point of light in the night sky. Earth is a little left of center in the image, and our moon is just below Earth.

Image credit: [NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/TAMU](Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/TAMU )

Researchers used the left eye camera of Curiosity’s Mast Camera (Mastcam) to capture this scene about 80 minutes after sunset on the 529th Martian day, or sol, of the rover’s work on Mars (Jan. 31, 2014). The image has been processed to remove effects of cosmic rays.

A human observer with normal vision, if standing on Mars, could easily see Earth and the moon as two distinct, bright “evening stars.”

The distance between Earth and Mars when Curiosity took the photo was about 99 million miles (160 million kilometers).

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages the Mars Science Laboratory Project for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. JPL designed and built the project’s Curiosity rover. Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego, built and operates the rover’s Mastcam.

That’s it, that’s us.


HiRISE Updates

Dramatic Dune Destination

This image of a sand dune field in a Southern highlands crater was acquired when the Sun was just 5 degrees above the horizon. As a result, the image is mostly shadows, with sharply-delineated dune crests sticking up into the sunlight.

The especially bright patches—bluish in enhanced color—are due to seasonal frost that is accumulating as this hemisphere approaches winter.

A Complex Valley Network Near Idaeus Fossae

Many valleys occur all over Mars that reveal an extensive ancient history of liquid water erosion. While these valley systems are typically now covered with fine soils and sand dunes, the overall scale and shape of the valleys reveals much about the ancient climate.

Ejecta in Excess

When impact craters are formed, the material that once resided in the subsurface is blown upward and outward.

This material falls back and settles around the newly formed crater into what is called an “ejecta blanket.” It often appears as a layer on top of the original surface extending radially outward from the crater.

Craters within Craters

Sandwiched between a crater nearly 4 kilometer across and a much larger and older crater over 15-kilometers in diameter is this small impact crater with light-toned material exposed in its ejecta.


Wall of the Pavonis Mons Caldera

(via kenobi-wan-obi)


Mars Maze

A bright ice cap of frozen water covers the North Pole of Mars. In the winter, thin coverings of carbon dioxide and water frost covers this area and these frosts finally disappear at the end of the Martian spring season.

Caption: Shane Byrne/HiRISE

In this image, the winter frosts are about to disappear and we can begin to see the surface features of the ice. The ice cap would be a bad place to get lost: it’s one of the smoothest, flattest places on Mars so there are no landmarks visible. The surface features are gently rolling hummocks (or small mounds) and hollows about a meter (3 feet) in height and about 20 meters (60 feet) across. This monotonous landscape continues for hundreds of kilometers in every direction with this same repeating pattern.

Scientists do not know what makes this pattern so uniform over such large distances; we acquire HiRISE images like this one to look for small differences in these icy features from one place to another. Understanding this surface can help us understand the current climate and meteorological conditions at the North Pole of the Red Planet.


Far End of an Alluvial Fan on the Floor of a Crater in Xanthe Terra



Dark Rimless Pits in the Tharsis Region

Because they seemingly provide refuge and safety from the extreme sand storms on Mars (as speculated by NASA scientists who have studied these pits), decades from now we’ll be able to establish bases and outposts (perhaps even 3D printed) within the pits.



Des barkhanes

(Des dunes de la forme d’un croissant)

Croissant shaped dunes on Mars.


Dune Monitoring in Xainza Crater

(via kenobi-wan-obi)



Left Navcam, Sol 494 — navcam pointed down at wheel in motion

The Curiosity Rover just passed its 500th sol (martian day) of action since landing. May as well give NASA some props for this remarkable monster today



Left Navcam, Sol 494 — navcam pointed down at wheel in motion

The Curiosity Rover just passed its 500th sol (martian day) of action since landing. May as well give NASA some props for this remarkable monster today


Curiosity y las cinco revelaciones más significativas en el último año

A unos días de que se termine el 2013, traemos para ustedes los cinco hallazgos que ha hecho Curiosity, el robot explorador que desde el año pasado se encuentra en tierras marcianas.

1.- Un hogar adecuado para la vida. El Marte antiguo pudo haber tenido la química correcta para mantener microbios vivos. Al estudiar rocas que se han formado en agua, Curiosity ha hallado carbón, hidrógeno, oxígeno, fósforo y sulfuro, elementos esenciales para la vida. La primera muestra del interior de una roca reveló la existencia de arcilla y no mucha sal, lo que da evidencia de la posibilidad de agua fresca, probablemente bebible.

2.- Evidencia de un arroyo antiguo. Las rocas redondeadas halladas por Curiosity descendieron algunas millas cuesta abajo. Si las observamos, lucen como una acera rota, pero en realidad son capas de roca expuesta, constituida de pequeños fragmentos que se cementaron juntos. Dichas muestras cuentan la historia de un arroyo calmo de agua corriente en el que, si hubiéramos metido las piernas, nos hubiera cubierto hasta las rodillas.

3.- La radiación pudo haber puesto en riesgo a los humanos. Durante su viaje a Marte, Curiosity experimentó niveles de radiación que excedieron con los que la NASA ha lidiado. Gracias a estos datos, dicha administración espacial utilizará los datos del explorador robótico para diseñar misiones que sean seguras para los exploradores humanos.

4.- La falta de metano. El curiosity ha estado examinando el aire marciano y no ha encontrado la presencia de metano. Debido a que los organismos vivos producen este compuesto químico, los científicos estaban entusiasmados por saber si podrían encontrarlo en Marte. Hasta ahora, la búsqueda continúa.

5.- La mayor diversidad de ambientes cerca de la zona de aterrizaje. Los investigadores no esperaban riqueza y diversidad de tipos de suelo y rocas en el cráter Gale, donde este robot explorador aterrizó. Curiosity ha observado gravas, depósitos de cauces de agua, un tipo inusual de lo que es posiblemente roca volcánica, dunas de arena transportadas por agua, lutitas (rocas sedimentarias constituidas por partículas del tamaño de la arcilla y del limo) y grietas llenas con minerales en sus venas. Todas estas rocas dan pistas sobre las características acuosas de Marte en el pasado.

¿Qué datos nos seguirá dando Curiosity sobre Marte? Estaremos atentos a lo que nos espere para el próximo año.



Datos tomados de la infografía que lanzó la NASA cuando se cumplió un año de que el Curiosity estuviera en Marte.

Si quieren saber más sobre Curiosity, aquí está la página de la NASA.

Foto que Curiosity se tomó a si mismo. En este sitio.

(via kenobi-wan-obi)


NASA Mars Spacecraft Reveals a More Dynamic Red Planet

NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has revealed to scientists slender dark markings—possibly due to salty water - that advance seasonally down slopes surprisingly close to the Martian equator.

"The equatorial surface region of Mars has been regarded as dry, free of liquid or frozen water, but we may need to rethink that," said Alfred McEwen of the University of Arizona in Tucson, principal investigator for the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera.

Tracking how these features recur each year is one example of how the longevity of NASA orbiters observing Mars is providing insight about changes on many time scales. Researchers at the American Geophysical Union meeting Tuesday in San Francisco discussed a range of current Martian activity, from fresh craters offering glimpses of subsurface ice to multi-year patterns in the occurrence of large, regional dust storms.

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