Tag Archives: Mars

Opportunity is still Roving!

This visualization of the Opportunity rover on Mars was created using “Virtual Presence in Space” technology developed at JPL.

Opportunity, one of the two Mars Exploration Rovers launched in 2003, landed successfully on the Red Planet at 04:54 UTC on January 25, 2004. Its original mission parameters planned for 90 martian days (called sols) of operation during the mild summer on the Meridiani Planum near the planet’s equator. As of January 16, 2018, Opportunity has been operational for 4,970 sols and driven 28.02 miles (45.09 kilometers) on the martian surface.


Massive, deep deposits of ice found on Mars

Massive, deep deposits of ice found on Mars

By Jake Parks, Astronomy Magazine

Researchers studying the eroded edges of ridges on Mars have found that substantial deposits of water ice exist just a few feet below martian surface, reaching over 300 feet thick in some areas.
The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured this astonishing image showing an avalanche of dusty snow racing down the weakened side of an eroded slope on Mars. In this image, the snow is made up of dry ice (frozen carbon dioxide); however, researchers recently found similar slopes elsewhere on Mars with massive deposits of pure water ice. NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona
Despite the fact that Mars has an atmosphere just 1% as dense as Earth’s, the surface of the Red Planet still has to deal with plenty of weathering and erosion. In 2008, researchers even captured a full-scale avalanche on Mars as it plunged down a 2,300-foot slope into a valley. These types of geological events often expose the structures beneath the martian surface, revealing layers of rock, dry ice, and even water ice.

Elon Musk’s Mars colonization update

On Friday, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk will be giving a “major” update on his plans to colonize Mars during a presentation at the International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide, Australia. His talk is meant to add to the one he gave at last year’s IAC conference in Mexico, when he revealed the full architecture of his plans to send thousands of peoples to the Martian surface. This time around, it seems his speech may revolve around making the concept more feasible — mainly by scaling things down.

Musk has only dropped a few hints about what he’ll talk about this week, but we can probably expect the announcement of a smaller launch vehicle, as well as ideas for how to pay for the high costs of developing such a rocket. He’s also said there will be a few surprises regarding how the vehicle will be used.

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Source of Mars Trojans Might Be Mars Itself

Source of Mars Trojans Might Be Mars Itself

A new study proposes a source for the mysterious Mars Trojans: Mars itself.

Mars Trojan

An artist’s conception of a Mars Trojan, ejected from the Red Planet.
Polishook / Weizmann Institute of Science

It’s one of the major mysteries of the inner solar system: How did Mars — a tiny world only a tenth the mass of Earth — capture its cluster of orbit-sharing Trojan asteroids?

Trojans are asteroids that co-orbit either ahead of a planet, at the L4Lagrangian point, or behind it at the L5 point. These regions are stable because the gravitational pull of the planet balances that of the Sun. Trojan asteroids have been discovered around Jupiter, Uranus, Neptune, Venus, and Mars. (Only one Trojan (2010 TK7) has been discovered related to the Earth, though the Osiris-REX mission bound for 101955 Bennu is currently on the hunt for more.)

Many studies have suggested that the asteroid belt, which lies just outside the orbit of Mars, may have been the source of the Mars Trojans. Now, a study published in the July 17th Nature Astronomy points to a new possible source: Mars itself.


NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility

The study used observations from NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility, based at the Mauna Kea Observatory in Hawai’i, to look at the spectra of two Mars Trojans: 311999 (initially desgnated 2007 NS2) and 385250 (2001 DH47. The light reflected off these asteroids shows a characteristic broad absorption band around 1 micron, consistent with the presence of olivine — a mineral rare in asteroids but common in the crust of Mars.

“Asteroids like this are very rare in the main belt of asteroids (0.4%),” says David Polishook (Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel). “Therefore, the chances that the few asteroids captured by Mars are olivine-rich asteroids is extremely low.” But Martian rovers and orbiters, and even Martian meteorites recovered on Earth, have shown that Mars itself offers an ample supply of olivine.


Long Range Sensors Detect…

  • Cassini–Fabulous pictures of Saturn, rings, and moons.
  • Cassini’s final view of Earth from Saturn
  • Lego’s Saturn 5 kit
  • The largest SETI initiative ever
  • How does sound travel on Mars?
  • 27 best Hubble images on its 27th anniversary

Cassini–Fabulous pictures of Saturn, rings, and moons.



Cassini Survives First “Grand Finale” Dive

Cassini’s view of Earth from Saturn

Click on the image to see more resolution–Earth is a dot near centre, bottom.

And what Earth looks like from other planets


Lego’s Saturn 5 kit


The largest SETI initiative ever


How does sound travel on Mars?


27 best Hubble images on its 27th anniversary


Long Range Sensors Detect…

  • Mars Lost Atmosphere to Space
  • Rosetta Sees Changing Face of Comet
  • Observing the planets Mars, Jupiter, Saturn this week

NASA’s MAVEN mission has confirmed that the solar wind stripped the Red Planet of its atmosphere.  http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/mars-lost-atmosphere-to-space-3003201723/Based on the ratio of various elements’ isotopes planetary scientists suspect that the Red Planet has lost anywhere from 25% to 90% of its atmosphere over the last 4-ish billion years, with the estimates favoring at least 50%. READ THE ARTICLE

Researchers have used data from the Rosetta mission to link outbursts on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko with dramatic surface changes.  Changes seen on the comet’s surface provide researchers with the before and after “smoking gun” of seeing the possible triggering mechanism for a cometary outburst in action. READ THE ARTICLE


Jupiter (magnitude –2.5, in Virgo) comes to opposition on April 7th. It rises around sunset, shines low in the east-southeast after nightfall, high in the southeast by 11 p.m., and highest due south around 1 a.m. daylight saving time. Spica hangs 7° below it. In a telescope Jupiter is 44 arcseconds across its equator.

Mars and Mercury in the twilight.

Saturn over Sagittarius at dawn, early April 2017

Saturn (magnitude +0.4, in Sagittarius upper right of the Teapot) rises in the early morning hours and glows in the south by early dawn. Redder Antares (magnitude +1.0) twinkles 19° to Saturn’s right. Saturn doesn’t reach opposition until June 14th.

The blue 10° scale is about the width of your fist at arm’s length.

Will potatoes grow on Mars?

Lab growing space potato

In a lab in the Peruvian capital of Lima, a simulator mimicking the harsh conditions found on Mars now contains a hint of life: a nascent potato plant.

After experimenting in the Andean nation’s dry, desert soil, scientists have successfully grown a potato in frigid, high carbon-dioxide surroundings.

Though still in early stages, investigators at the International Potato Centre believe the initial results are a promising indicator that potatoes might one day be harvested under conditions as hostile as those on Mars.

The findings could benefit not only future Mars exploration, but also arid regions already feeling the impact of climate change.

“It’s not only about bringing potatoes to Mars, but also finding a potato that can resist non-cultivable areas on Earth,” said Julio Valdivia, an astrobiologist with Peru’s University of Engineering and Technology who is working with NASA on the project.

The experiment began in 2016 — a year after the Hollywood film The Martian showed a stranded astronaut surviving by figuring out how to grow potatoes on the red planet.

Peruvian scientists built a simulator akin to a Marsin-a-box: Frosty below-zero temperatures, high carbon monoxide concentrations, the air pressure found at 6,000 metres altitude and a system of lights imitating the Martian day and night.

Though thousands of miles away from colleagues at NASA’s Ames Research Centre in California providing designs and advice, Peru was in many ways an apt location to experiment with growing potatoes on Mars.

The birthplace of the domesticated potato lies high in the Andes near Lake Titicaca, where it was first grown about 7,000 years ago. More than 4,000 varieties are grown in Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador, where potatoes have sprouted even in cold, barren lands.

The Peruvian scientists didn’t have to go far to find high-salinity soil similar to that found on Mars, though with some of the organic material Mars lacks: Pampas de la Joya along the country’s southern coast receives less than a millimetre of rain a year, making its terrain somewhat comparable to the Red Planet’s parched ground.

International Potato Center researchers transported 700 kilos of the soil to Lima, planted 65 varieties and waited. In the end, just four sprouted from the soil.

In a second stage, scientists planted one of the most robust varieties in the even more extreme conditions of the simulator, with the soil — Mars has no organic soil — replaced by crushed rock and a nutrient solution.

Live-streaming cameras caught every tiny movement as a bud sprouted and grew several leaves while sensors provided round-the-clock monitoring of simulator conditions.

The winning potato: A variety called “Unique.”

“It’s a ‘super potato’ that resists very high carbon dioxide conditions and temperatures that get to freezing,” Valdivia said.

Long Range Sensors Detect….

Two stars will merge in 2022 and explode into red fury  In 2022, there will be a spectacular sky show. Two stars will merge into one, pushing out excess gas into an explosion known as a red nova. At magnitude 2, it will be as bright as Polaris in the sky, and just behind Sirius and Vega in brightness. The collision in the constellation of Cygnus will be visible for up to six months.

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Mars might once have had rings, and might have rings again in the far future.

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Is it time to restore Pluto’s planetary status?  Redefining the world “planet” yet again could raise the number of planets in our solar system to over 100.

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New study finds martian volcano’s last eruption  It was around the time the dinosaurs went extinct.

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Two stories from File 770: Mars, Dr Seus

(1) LITIGATION. File 770 reported in September about the Kickstarter appeal raising funds for Oh, The Places You’ll Boldly Go!, featuring the writing of David Gerrold, the art of Ty Templeton, and the editorial skills of ComicMix’s Glenn Hauman.

The holders of the Dr. Seuss rights have objected and sued for damages reports TMZ.com in “Oh, The Lawsuits You’ll See”.

Dr. Seuss‘ stories should NOT be rehashed with Vulcans or Klingons in the mix — at least not without permission … according to a new lawsuit.

The Doc’s camp just filed suit against ComicMix, which thought it’d be neat to make a ‘Star Trek‘ version of “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” In the docs, obtained by TMZ, the Seuss’ co. says ComicMix fused elements of the classic book with their own story, and even jacked actual prose from the original … all without asking.

They say ComicMix knew damn well it was doing the Doc dirty because its Kickstarter page for the project mentioned they might have to go to court to prove their work was parody and not a violation of copyright. They acknowledged, “we may even lose.”

Team Seuss is suing for damages. A lawyer for ComicMix tells us they love Dr. Seuss and hope to resolve the suit amicably.


And in case you missed Mars last night:

(2) NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MARS SERIES. Don’t wait until the November 14 premiere. Stream the Mars premiere now.

The year is 2033, and humanity’s first crewed mission to Mars is about to become a reality. As a clock counts down the final 90 seconds to landing, an expert crew of astronauts endures the final harrowing moments before touching down on the red planet. Even with the best training and resources available, the maiden crew of the Daedalus spacecraft must push itself to the brink of human capability in order to successfully establish the first sustainable colony on Mars. Set both in the future and in the present day, the global miniseries event MARS blends feature film-caliber scripted elements set in the future with documentary vérité interviews with today’s best and brightest minds in modern science and innovation, illuminating how research and development is creating the space technology that will enable our first attempt at a mission to Mars.