Time to seek out a car wash. And some water would be good.

August 21st, 2014

No doubt about it, the Curiosity Rover has totally lost that showroom shine.

[Via Extenuating Circumstances]

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Mars 3 Nil, Mars 1

April 13th, 2013

Emily Lakdawalla has posted a fascinating account, translated from the Russian original, of how a group of space enthusiasts combed images of the surface of Mars. Their aim: to find the Mars 3 lander that managed to transmit radio signals for 14 seconds back on 2 December 1971 before falling silent.

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A Different Angle on Mars

March 25th, 2013

Posting at The Planetary Society, Bill Dunford found A Different Angle on Mars by looking back at images from the Mars Global Surveyor:

Like all Mars Global Surveyor shots, these are views of the Red Planet from orbit. What's different here is the highly oblique angle of these images. In each, the powerful Mars Observer Camera is not oriented straight down for maximum resolution, but off toward the horizon.

The result is a set of views that make me think of what it might be like to be at Mars, flying over the planet in person, looking out the window. Be sure to enlarge them, and see if you enjoy them as much as I did.

I reckon the image of Olympus Mons is my favourite, just because it emphasises the sheer scale of the thing.

I know the various space agencies have to choose the sites where they land their probes so as to maximise both the chances of a successful landing and the amount of useful science they can do in their limited lifespan, but it'd be nice if at some point in the future someone could contrive to bring down a lander somewhere near the peak of Olympus Mons. The view from up there across the planet's surface would be a sight to see.

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Mars Attacked!

March 2nd, 2013

Is it wrong of me to hope that Comet C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring) does turn out to be on course to crash into Mars in October 2014?

The last time we had a ringside seat for that sort of impact it was a lot further away and nobody but scientists got to watch it live.1 This time, just think of the pictures we'd get, live on the web, from the array of spacecraft we have in orbit and on the surface of Mars.2

Joking aside, I wonder how the sight of a comet impact on that scale, that close to home would affect our views of living in the solar system. Would NASA suddenly find itself with as much funding as it wanted to design and build a comet deflector, just in case, not to mention greatly expanding existing tracking systems aimed at spotting comets while they're still way out there where there's time to nudge them away from Earth? Or would the remote chance of there being two such large-scale cometary impacts on the inner solar system in our lifetimes persuade us that we'd dodged that particular bullet and could leave the problem alone for a generation or two?

  1. Or as close to 'live' as the speed of light would allow.
  2. Alternatively, the Martian Defence Force is going to provide us with unequivocal proof that there is life on Mars, as we watch the Martian Robert Duvall and his crew set out on a mission to blow Comet Siding Spring into two pieces that will pass neatly on either side of their planet. Alternatively, it'll be the Martians from Mars Attacks! who'll step in and deflect a chunk of the comet. Of course, they'd probably do so in such a way that the comet would pass by Mars, only to cannon off Phobos at an angle that left it heading right for Earth. Ack! Ack! Ack!

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Phobos eclipse

September 15th, 2012

A partial eclipse of the Sun by Phobos, as seen by the Mars Curiosity rover.

Not the most spectacular astronomical image you'll ever see, and not even all that rare an event,1 but even so it's pretty cool that we have a one ton, nuclear powered robot present on the Martian surface to beam the picture back to Earth.

  1. Phobos orbits Mars every 7 hours and 39 minutes, so there are frequent opportunities for it to get between the Sun and some point on the Martian surface.

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1 minute to go…

August 6th, 2012

It turns out that as Curiosity was coming in for a landing this morning, NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter was watching.

[Via Nicholas, commenting at this Making Light thread]

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Let's see where Curiosity takes us…

August 6th, 2012

Stages of Guilt.

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June 22nd, 2012

I've seen CGI simulations of Curiosity's Seven Minutes of Terror before, but it does no harm to be reminded of just how insane a ride the Curiosity rover is going to have on the 5th of August when it lands on Mars.

I know there's no way NASA could afford to do it, but it's a shame that they couldn't have landed a smaller, simpler lander in the vicinity of the landing site just before Curiosity is due to descend from orbit. A lander with just one job: providing us with real-time moving pictures of Curiosity coming in to land. Fail or succeed, it's going to be quite some spectacle, and it's a damned shame that we're never going to get to get a proper look at what happened.

[Via MetaFilter]


Barchan dunes

April 23rd, 2012

APOD: 2012 April 22 – Flowing Barchan Sand Dunes on Mars.

Be sure to click on the image to see it at full size – it is so worth it, I promise you.

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A Martian monster

April 11th, 2012

A Martian dust devil. That's a 20 kilometre high Martian dust devil.

If Andrew Stanton & co ever get to make a sequel to John Carter I trust they'll have one of these make a cameo appearance.

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Spectacular shadows at sunset

February 26th, 2012

Sunset on Mars.

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APOD: 2011 September 26

October 9th, 2011

Dry Ice Pits on Mars.

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Goodbye, Spirit

May 28th, 2011

In the light of the news that NASA is declaring the Spirit Mars Rover mission completed it seems only fitting to post a link to one of my favourite xkcd webcomics.

[NASA press release via MetaFilter]

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November 26th, 2010

ESA's latest batch of photos from Mars Express includes some really nice shots of Phobos. This one is particularly neat.

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January 29th, 2010

xkcd's Spirit is too sweet for words.

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December 12th, 2009

Martian sand dunes are surprisingly colourful. (See Phil Plait's post if you're wondering why the this bit of the Red Planet has all those bluish-gray streaks.)

[Via Bad Astronomy]

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May 25th, 2009

Stuff You Wouldn't Believe If It Showed Up In A Film Script (part 53 in an ongoing series): the first TV image of Mars ever was made with crayons.

The people at the JPL were so excited to receive the images that they couldn't wait for them to be processed by the lab's imager. As the first picture was beamed down as a stream of 8-bit numbers—each point indicating a brightness point—they thought of a quick way to get an image straight away: Print the numbers indicating brightness in paper strips, put them together, and color them with pastel crayons.

[Via Kevan Davis]

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Martian saltwater

March 25th, 2009

After careful study of images taken by the Mars Phoenix lander, some of the mission's science team have authored a paper suggesting that there's evidence of the presence of liquid water in the vicinity of the lander:

First off, get rid of the image in your head of pools of pretty blue water that you could swim in sitting on the surface. If you must think of an Earth analogy, you'll get pretty close with the Great Salt Lake in Utah, except much saltier, in much less quantities, and not on the surface. Specifically, the liquid water suggested in the paper is not pure liquid water, but instead a brine. Brine is liquid water that has a very high salt concentration, either approaching or at saturation. […]

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Descent of the Phoenix

June 1st, 2008

Here's a different perspective on this image.

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May 28th, 2008

Springtime on Mars in 2020.

[Via anzhalyumitethe, posting a comment at James Nicoll's LiveJournal]

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