HiRISE: Catena on Alba Mons

tumblr_ohdgvlwjzP1rlz4gso1_1280Catena on Alba Mons. Beautiful Mars series.

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Curiosity update: Drill fault

CR0_533227275PRC_F0592830CCAM02528L1Sol 1537, December 1, 2016, update by USGS scientist Ken Herkenhoff: Unfortunately, the much-anticipated rotary-only drilling experiment did not even start due to a drill fault that is currently being investigated.  This type of drill fault appears to be unrelated to the previous short circuits during percussion, but more study is needed.  So the tactical planning team had to scramble to put together a plan while the drill experts work to recover from this anomaly.  Luckily, the fault did not preclude non-drilling arm activities, so we picked the bright target “Thomas Bay” for contact science.  We were also able to fit a lot of… [More at link]

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Early Mars climate changes driven by carbonate – silicate cycle

1-s2.0-S0012821X16304794-gr001Dramatic climate cycles on early Mars, triggered by buildup of greenhouse gases, may be the key to understanding how liquid water left its mark on the planet’s surface, according to a team of planetary scientists.

Scientists have long debated how deep canyons and extensive valley networks — like the kinds carved by running water over millions of years on Earth — could form on Mars some 3.8 billion years ago, a time many believe the planet was frozen.

The researchers suggest a glacier-covered early Mars could have experienced long warm periods, lasting up to 10 million years at a time, caused by a thick atmosphere of carbon dioxide and hydrogen.

The team, which published its findings [December 1] in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters, found the warming cycles would have lasted long enough, and produced enough water, to create the features.

“With the cycling hypothesis, you get these long periods of warmth that give you sufficient time to form all the different Martian valley networks,” said Natasha Batalha, graduate student, astronomy and astrophysics, Penn State. [More at links]

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THEMIS: Pit crater in Noachis Terra

Noachis Terra pit crater (THEMIS_IOTD_20161202)THEMIS Image of the Day, December 2, 2016. Today’s VIS image is located in Noachis Terra. The unnamed crater at the bottom of the image contains a central pit. Central features such as pits and peaks can provide information about both the impacted surface and the size of the meteorite.

More THEMIS Images of the Day by geological topic.

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HiRISE: Third image of Schiaparelli crash site

ESP_048331_1780This is the third HiRISE image of the crash site of ESA’s Schiaparelli lander demonstration, and the second imaging capturing the lander site plus backshell and parachute in the central color stripe. [More at link]

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Curiosity update: Drilling Precipice

1532MR0078090010204906E01_DXXXSol 1536, November 30, 2016, update by USGS scientist Ken Herkenhoff: The The cross-contamination experiment and cleaning of CHIMRA went well, so we are ready to drill into the Precipice target!  Past drilling activities have made use of both rotation and percussion, but percussion has caused intermittent short circuits occasionally since Sol 911, so on Sol 1536 we will test the ability of the drill to acquire a sample using rotation only, without percussion.  We expect that the Precipice target is soft enough that the experiment will go well, but of course… [More at link]

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HiRISE: Inter-plate trough in Cerberus Palus

tumblr_ohdgcy2HTG1rlz4gso2_1280Inter-plate trough in Cerberus Palus. Beautiful Mars series.

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Geomorphology of potential tsunami deposits

image_3Planetary Geomorphology Image of the Month, December 1, 2016: Alexis Rodriguez (Planetary Science Institute). The Martian northern lowlands are thought to currently be extensively covered by an ice-rich deposit, interpreted by some researchers to be the residue of an ancient ocean that existed ~3.4 Ga (Kreslavsky and Head., 2002). However, evidence for this ocean has remained a subject of intense dispute and scientific scrutiny since it was first proposed (Parker et al., 1989, 1993) several decades [ago].

The controversy has largely stemmed in the fact that the proposed Martian paleo-shoreline features exhibit significant elevation ranges (Head et al., 1999), a lack of wave-cut paleoshoreline features (Malin and Edgett, 1999), and the presence of lobate margins (Tanaka et al., 1997, 2005).

The discovery of potential tsunami deposits as discussed in a recent article by Rodriguez et al. (2016) brings in a new perspective in which coastal margins shaped by enormous tsunami waves likely characterized early Mars oceans (Fig. 1)…

The features that Rodriguez et al. (2016) interpreted as tsunami deposits consist of lobate deposits reaching several hundred kilometers in lengths over a few hundred meters of relief gains (Figs. 2 and 3). [More at link and at an earlier RPR item]

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THEMIS: Channels winding through Noachis Terra

Channels in Noachis Terra (THEMIS_IOTD_20161201)THEMIS Image of the Day, December 1, 2016. Numerous channels dissect the higher elevation material at the top of this image. This image is located in Noachis Terra.

More THEMIS Images of the Day by geological topic.

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MARCI weather report, November 21-27, 2016

marci-nov22-2016Afternoon dust storm activity was sparse across most of Mars during the past week. Exceptions were a local-scale dust storm observed over northern Amazonis Planitia, as well as, a dust haze that continued over Aonia and latitudes south of 60°S latitude. Equatorward, condensate clouds were observed northeast of Hellas, south of Solis Planum, and near Valles Marineris. Orographic condensate (water-ice) clouds… [More at link, including video]

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HiRISE: Knobs with lobate flows

tumblr_ohdgn83RJg1rlz4gso1_1280Knobs with lobate flows around their margins. Beautiful Mars series.

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Curiosity: Long view to a small hill

1534-rmiSol 1534, November 29, 2016. Five Remote Micro-Imager (RMI) frames shot a composite image of a small hill far off to the southeast of Curiosity’s position. Click to enlarge it.

Sol 1534 raw images (from all cameras), and Curiosity’s latest location.

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Curiosity update: Cross-contamination experiment

NLB_532962849EDR_F0592830NCAM00654M_Sol 1535, November 29, 2016, update by USGS scientist Ken Herkenhoff: The current drill campaign continues to go smoothly, and the Sol 1535 plan is dominated by an experiment to see if any Sebina sample material is left inside the drill bit chamber from the previous drilling.  This is motivated by the fact that we only used vibration to transfer that sample from the drill bit assembly into CHIMRA, rather than also using percussion.  So it’s a “cross-contamination experiment” designed to see if the vibration didn’t do a complete job back when we first drilled Sebina.  Lots of images of the sieve and other parts of CHIMRA will be… [More at link]

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THEMIS: Snow & ice fill crater in martian Arctic

North polar cap ice-filled crater (THEMIS_IOTD_20161130)THEMIS Image of the Day, November 30, 2016. This VIS image shows part of the north polar cap. This image is along the cap margin. The buried remnants of an impact crater are visible in the bottom half of the frame.

More THEMIS Images of the Day by geological topic.

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NASA radio on Trace Gas Orbiter aces relay test

PIA21139_hiresData from each of the two rovers active on Mars reached Earth last week in the successful first relay test of a NASA radio aboard Europe’s new Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO).

The transmissions from NASA rovers Opportunity and Curiosity, received by one of the twin Electra radios on the orbiter on Nov. 22, mark a strengthening of the international telecommunications network supporting Mars exploration. The orbiter’s main radio for communications with Earth subsequently relayed onward to Earth the data received by Electra. (…)

Frequent use of TGO’s relay capability to support Mars rover operations is planned to begin more than a year from now. That’s after the orbiter finishes adjusting its orbit to a near-circular path about 250 miles (400 kilometers) above Mars’ surface. Meanwhile, four other active Mars orbiters also carry radios that can provide relay service for missions on the surface of Mars. The two active rovers routinely send data homeward via NASA orbiters Mars Odyssey and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).

“The arrival of ESA’s Trace Gas Orbiter at Mars, with its NASA-provided Electra relay payload on board, represents a significant step forward in our Mars relay capabilities,” said Chad Edwards, manager of the Mars Relay Network Office within the Mars Exploration Program at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. “In concert with our three existing NASA orbiters and ESA’s earlier Mars Express orbiter, we now have a truly international Mars relay network that will greatly increase the amount of data that future Mars landers and rovers can return from the surface of the Red Planet.” [More at link]

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