Posts tagged martian

Posted 1 year ago

Tardigrade in Moss 
Image Credit & Copyright: Nicole Ottawa & Oliver Meckes / Eye of Science / Science Source Images

Explanation: Is this an alien? Probably not, but of all the animals on Earth, the tardigrade might be the best candidate. That’s becausetardigrades are known to be able to go for decades without food or water, to survive temperatures from near absolute zero to well above the boiling point of water, to survive pressures from near zero to well above that on ocean floors, and to survive direct exposure to dangerous radiations. The far-ranging survivability of these extremophiles was tested in 2011 outside an orbiting space shuttle. Tardigrades are so durable partly because they can repair their own DNA and reduce their body water content to a few percent. Some of these miniature water-bears almost became extraterrestrials recently when they were launched toward to the Martian moon Phobos on board the Russian mission Fobos-Grunt, but stayed terrestrial when a rocket failed and the capsule remained in Earth orbit. Tardigrades are more common than humans across most of the Earth. Pictured above in a color-enhanced electron micrograph, a millimeter-long tardigrade crawls on moss.

Posted 1 year ago

Stickney Crater 
Image Credit: HiRISEMROLPL (U. Arizona)NASA

Explanation: Stickney Crater, the largest crater on the martian moon Phobos, is named for Chloe Angeline Stickney Hall, mathematician and wife of astronomer Asaph Hall. Asaph Hall discovered both the Red Planet’s moons in 1877. Over 9 kilometers across, Stickney is nearly half the diameter of Phobos itself, so large that the impact that blasted out the crater likely came close to shattering the tiny moon. This stunning, enhanced-color image of Stickney and surroundings was recorded by the HiRISE camera onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter as it passed within some six thousand kilometersof Phobos in March of 2008. Even though the surface gravity of asteroid-like Phobos is less than 1/1000th Earth’s gravity, streaks suggest loose material slid down inside the crater walls over time. Light bluish regions near the crater’s rim could indicate a relatively freshly exposed surface. The origin of thecurious grooves along the surface is mysterious but may be related to the crater-forming impact.

Posted 1 year ago

Dark Sand Cascades on Mars 
Image Credit: HiRISEMROLPL (U. Arizona)NASA

Explanation: They might look like trees on Mars, but they’re not. Groups of dark brown streaks have been photographed by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on melting pinkish sand dunes covered with light frost. The above image was taken in 2008 April near the North Pole of Mars. At that time, dark sand on the interior of Martian sand dunesbecame more and more visible as the spring Sun melted the lighter carbon dioxide ice. When occurring near the top of a dune, dark sand may cascade down the dune leavingdark surface streaks — streaks that might appear at first to be trees standing in front of the lighter regions, but cast no shadows. Objects about 25 centimeters across are resolved on this image spanning about one kilometer. Close ups of some parts of this image show billowing plumes indicating that the sand slides were occurring even when the image was being taken.

Posted 1 year ago

Curiosity on Mars: A Wall of Gale Crater 
Image Credit: NASAJPL-CaltechMSSS

Explanation: If you could stand on Mars, what would you see? The above image is a digitally re-colored approximation of what you might see if the above Martian landscape had occurred on Earth. Images from Mars false-colored in this way are called white balanced and useful for planetary scientists to identify rocks and landforms similar to Earth. The image is a high resolution version of a distant wall of Gale Crater captured by the Curiosity rover that landed on Mars last week. A corresponding true color image exists showing how this scene actually appears on Mars. The robotic Curiosity rover continues to check itself over and accept new programming from Earth before it begins to roll across Mars and explore a landscape that has the appearance of being an unusually layered dried river bed.

Posted 1 year ago

A Wheel on Mars 
Credit: NASAJPL-Caltech/Mars Science Laboratory

Explanation: A wheel attached to NASA’s Curiosity rover is firmly on the martian surface in this early picture from the Mars Science Laboratory mission, captured after a successful landing on August 5, 2012 at 10:32pm (PDT). Seen at the lower right of a Hazard Avoidance Camera fisheye wide-angle image, the rover’s left rear wheel is 50 centimeters (about 20 inches) in diameter. Part of a spring hinge for the camera’s dust cover is just visible in the right corner, while at the upper left is part of the rover’s RTG power source. Lookinginto the Sun across the rock stewn surface of Mars, distant hills on the right are the rim of Gale Crater, about 20 kilometers from the compact car-sized rover’s current resting place.

Posted 1 year ago

A Hole in Mars
Image Credit: NASA, JPL, U. Arizona

Explanation: What created this unusual hole in Mars? The hole was discovered by chance on images of the dusty slopes of Mars’ Pavonis Mons volcano taken by the HiRISE instrument aboard the robotic Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter currently circling Mars. The hole appears to be an opening to an underground cavern, partly illuminated on the image right. Analysis of this and follow-up images revealed the opening to be about 35 meters across, while the interior shadow angle indicates that the underlying cavern is roughly 20 meters deep. Why there is a circular crater surrounding this hole remains a topic of speculation, as is the full extent of the underlying cavern. Holes such as this are of particular interest because their interior caves are relatively protected from the harsh surface of Mars, making them relatively good candidates to contain Martian life. These pits are therefore prime targets for possible future spacecraft, robots, and even human interplanetary explorers.

Posted 1 year ago

Greeley Panorama on Mars
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Arizona State U.

Explanation: What did you do over your winter vacation? If you were the Opportunity rover on Mars, you spent four months of it stationary and perched on the northern slope of Greeley Haven — and tilted so that your solar panels could absorb as much sunlight as possible. During its winter stopover, the usually rolling robot undertook several science activities including snapping over 800 images of its surroundings, many of which have been combined into this 360-degree digitally-compressed panorama and shown in exaggerated colors to highlight different surface features. Past tracks of Opportunity can be seen toward the left, while Opportunity’s dust covered solar panels cross the image bottom. Just below the horizon and right of center, an interior wall of 20-kilometer Endeavour Crater can be seen. Now that the northern Martian winter is over, Opportunity is rolling again, this time straight ahead (north). The rover is set to investigate unusual light-colored soil patches as it begins again to further explore the inside of Endeavour, a crater that may hold some of the oldest features yet visited.

Posted 2 years ago
Deep Orion Over the Canary Islands
Image Credit & Copyright: Juan Carlos Casado (TWAN)

Explanation: Which attracts your eye more — the sky or the ground? On the ground are rocky peaks in Teide National Park on Tenerife Island of the Spanish Canary Islands off the northwestern coast of Africa. The volcanic landscape features old island summits and is sometimes used as a testbed for instruments on future Martian rovers. The lights of a nearby hotel shine on the far left. Storm clouds are visible on the horizon, artificially strutted from multiple exposures. Dividing the sky, across the middle of the above deep image, is the vertical band of the Milky Way Galaxy. The red circle on the right is Barnard’s Loop, near the center of which are the famous belt stars of the constellation Orion. Soon after the above image was taken, during an evening earlier this year, storm clouds rolled across, and indoor locations began to attract eyes the most.