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Posts tagged "Mars"


NASA preparing for comet encounter this weekend

Comet Siding Spring will be making its closest pass to Mars this Sunday, bringing with it a wealth of information about the formation of our solar system 4.6 billion years ago.

Siding Spring - named after the Australian observatory which first identified it - comes from the Oort Cloud, material left over from the formation of the solar system. It’s thought that the comet has come straight from the Oort cloud, making it the first time it has passed this close to the sun, giving scientists a unique opportunity to observe it and gather data as it passes only 87,000 miles (139,500km) from the surface of Mars. That’s less than half the distance between the Earth and the Moon, and close enough for NASA to decide to ‘hide’ satellites currently orbiting Mars to avoid the trail of debris. Their orbits have been altered just enough to ensure they will all be passing behind Mars at the time the worst of the comet dust is passing, while allowing them to still observe as much of the comet encounter as possible.

NASA has been hard at work repurposing a wide range of spacecraft for this comet encounter, with Mars satellites like the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) - which normally faces down towards Mars - being turned skywards to capture the event. Instruments on Martian soil are also being used to gather data, with cameras on the Opportunity and Curiosity rovers being adjusted to observe the comet.

Images of the comet will be posted in the days and weeks to come, at

(via afro-dominicano)


What You Need to Know About Mars Comet Siding Spring

  • On Sunday, October 19th, Comet C/2013 A1, aka Siding Spring, will pass within about 87,000 miles of the Red Planet.

  • The distance the comet will be from Mars is less than half the distance between Earth and our moon and less than one-tenth the distance of any known comet flyby of Earth.

  • Siding Spring, whose core is 0.5 to 5 miles wide, probably formed somewhere between Jupiter and Neptune about 4.6 billion years ago — just a few million years after the solar system began coming together. Scientists believe Siding Spring had a close encounter with one of these planets and was booted out into the Oort Cloud

  • A million years ago or so, a star passing by the Oort Cloud is thought to have jolted the comet’s orbit again, sending it on its first-ever trip into the inner solar system.

  • Comets from the Oort cloud are both ancient and rare. Since this is Comet Siding Spring’s first trip through the inner solar system, scientists are excited to learn more about its composition and the effects of its gas and dust on the Mars upper atmosphere.

  • NASA does not think the comet hit the Red Planet, but comets spew out a trail of dust and gas, and that could damage the fleet of spacecraft orbiting Mars. Just to be safe, NASA will move the Mars Odyssey orbiter, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), and the new Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) to the other side of the planet as the comet approaches.

  • The Mars orbiters will take pictures and collect data on the comet as it flys by. Several Earth-based and space telescopes, including the Hubble Space Telescope, also will take pictures. Here is the full list of NASA assets observing Siding Spring

  • The comet was first discovered in January 2013 by Robert McNaught at the Siding Spring Observatory in Australia.

  • Great article from on how to view the comet from Earth 

(via galaxyclusters)


The Loneliest Crater on All of Mars

From rim to rim, this crater measures approximately 68 m (225 ft).


Here and There in Aram Chaos

(via afro-dominicano)


Mars One Wants to Send Your Experiments to the Red Planet

The nonprofit organization that has raised eyebrows with its plans to send people on a one-way mission to Mars is now accepting proposals for scientific payloads that could fly aboard an unmanned mission to the Red Planet in 2018.

Image: The non-profit Mars One organization wants to send a lander to the Red Planet in 2018. The lander will have seven different science payloads, and people everywhere can submit their ideas to the organization now. Credit: Bryan Versteeg/Mars One Foundation

The Netherlands-based Mars One foundation aims to send a total of seven payloads: four demonstration payloads, one payload selected in a worldwide university competition and two payloads for sale to the highest bidder.

The unmanned 2018 mission will serve as preparation for a planned human mission to Mars in 2024, Mars One organizers said. As of May, the nonprofit had whittled down its pool of potential astronauts to 705 candidates. Mars One aims to send four people on a one-way trip to the Red Planet every two years, starting in 2024.

Mars One is asking for input from the scientific community in order to source the best ideas from around the world, Arno Wielders, co-founder and chief technical officer of Mars One, said in a statement.

"The ideas that are adopted will not only be used on the lander in 2018, but will quite possibly provide the foundation for the first human colony on Mars," Wielders said.

Mars One is expected to send these payloads aboard the lander that is scheduled to launch in August 2018 and will be built on the same platform used for NASA’s 2007 Phoenix mission. Mars One and Lockheed Martin are partnering to develop a mission concept for the lander.

The four demonstration payloads will test technologies needed for the permanent human settlement of Mars. These will include an experiment to collect Martian soil for water production, an experiment to extract water from the soil, a thin-film solar panel for energy generation and a camera system that will interface with a Mars-synchronous communications satellite that will relay live video to Earth, according to Mars One.


beth: Mars, photographed by Mars Express, 11th June 2014.
9 images taken with the Mars Webcam. I think we are looking down on the northern hemisphere, around noon on Arabia Terra, Ls 144.2° - northern midsummer. equivalent to terrestrial August..
Image credit: ESA. Animation: AgeOfDestruction.


beth: Mars, photographed by Mars Express, 11th June 2014.

9 images taken with the Mars Webcam. I think we are looking down on the northern hemisphere, around noon on Arabia Terra, Ls 144.2° - northern midsummer. equivalent to terrestrial August..

Image credit: ESA. Animation: AgeOfDestruction.


These Students Want to Send a Time Capsule to Mars

A student-led project aims to send a time capsule to Mars for future explorers to discover, its organizers announced today (June 23).

Time Capsule to Mars (TC2M), a project of the nonprofit organization Explore Mars, plans to land three small satellites, known as CubeSats, on the surface of the Red Planet within the next five years. The satellites will contain images, videos and other forms of expression from people around the globe, according to the project’s organizers.

If successful, the $25-million mission would be the first privately funded mission to Mars, the first student-led mission to another planet, the first trial of a new propulsion system and the first interplanetary CubeSat, the team said here today in a press briefing.

"We’ve got a lot of firsts, and it’s very exciting," said Emily Briere, a senior at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, and the mission’s founder and director.

Briere told reporters that "millions of people from around the world [will be able to] send in their photo, their picture of their dog, their handwritten poem, and feel that they themselves are going to Mars and making an impact."

"Mars’ 2014 retrograde colors, a look back to my images this apparition." - Michael A. Phillips


Two-Color Dunes in Mars Meridiani Terra

Why are these dunes different colors?

Sand on Mars is typically dark in tone, as it commonly derived from volcanic rocks like lava flows. In HiRISE enhanced color, which operates in long infrared wavelengths (beyond what the human eye can detect), surfaces like these dune crests are dark blue to purple.

Sand comes in sizes that are ideal for surface transport by the wind, where sand “hops” along forming bedforms, like these dunes after large amounts of time.


Hebes Chasma, Mars

Image Credit: ESA


(via afro-dominicano)


Dark-Toned Unit Exposed in Ejecta Blanket

(via afro-dominicano)


In May, You Won’t Have to Stay up Late to See Planets

This month’s sky will feature great views of Saturn and Mars all night long and a possible new meteor shower.

Mars dims and shrinks in diameter quite a bit this month, but it’s easy to spot high in the Southern sky. Saturn reaches opposition on May 10, rising at sunset and setting just before sunrise. This month the north side of the ring plane is tilted 21.7 degrees, providing a beautiful view of the planet’s north pole. Even through modest telescopes, you can see some detail on the pole.

Read more:


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.

(via afro-dominicano)


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.

(via afro-dominicano)