Opportunity field report: December 18, 2014

03_3875_SummitApproachSol 3875 (December 18, 2014) Rover Field Report by Larry Crumpler, MER Science Team & New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science: “Opportunity is continuing its drives along the rim of the 22-km diameter impact crater Endeavour. In the next few drives it will be at or near the highest peak along the rim, Cape Tribulation summit. At that point Opportunity will be as high in elevation on Mars as it will ever be. The panoramic view from that summit should be awesome. Mid summer is only a few sols away.

Once the rocks there are characterized Opportunity will continue down slope and south to “Marathon Valley”. Marathon Valley is the site of some wild geology as detected from orbital remote sensing. We hope to arrive there early in 2015. [More at link]

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HiRISE: Possible opaline silica in Elorza Crater

ESP_033722_1710Elorza Crater is an approximately 40-kilometer diameter complex crater located at 304.8 degrees east, 8.76 degrees north, about 300 kilometers north of Coprates Chasma. This image centers on the southwestern portion of the central uplift, and is characterized by numerous bedrock exposures and coherent impact melt flows. The distinguishing feature of this central uplift is the various types of bedrock that are observable at the surface. This image shows uplifted massive fractured bedrock that is visible directly adjacent to dark-toned flow materials, which are interpreted to be impact melt flows. [More at link]

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Dust devil & the details: spinning up a storm

mars_dust_devilSpinning up a dust devil in the thin air of Mars requires a stronger updraft than is needed to create a similar vortex on Earth, according to research at The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH)… “To start a dust devil on Mars you need convection, a strong updraft,” said Bryce Williams, an atmospheric science graduate student at UAH. “We looked at the ratio between convection and surface turbulence to find the sweet spot where there is enough updraft to overcome the low level wind and turbulence. And on Mars, where we think the process that creates a vortex is more easily disrupted by frictional dissipation – turbulence and wind at the surface – you need twice as much convective updraft as you do on Earth.” [More at link]

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THEMIS: Daga Vallis false color

Daga Vallis false color (THEMIS_IOTD_20141219)THEMIS Image of the Day, December 19, 2014. The THEMIS VIS camera contains 5 filters. The data from different filters can be combined in multiple ways to create a false color image. These false color images may reveal subtle variations of the surface not easily identified in a single band image. Today’s false color image shows part of Daga Vallis on Eos Mensa.

More THEMIS Images of the Day by geological topic.

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Opportunity: Rolling on RAM

1R472196450EFFCJ__P1311R0M1Sol 3875, December 18, 2014. Because of problems with its flash memory (see here), mission controllers have directed Opportunity to drive using a more limited operating program stored in RAM. Currently driving in reverse, the rover is making good headway, sol by sol, up the slope of Cape Tribulation, as it aims for Marathon Valley. This view is from the right rear Hazcam.

Opportunity raw images, its latest mission status, a location map. and atmospheric opacity, known as tau.

 

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Meteoritic evidence of Mars water reservoir

14-337aNASA and an international team of planetary scientists have found evidence in meteorites on Earth that indicates Mars has a distinct and global reservoir of water or ice near its surface. Though controversy still surrounds the origin, abundance and history of water on Mars, this discovery helps resolve the question of where the “missing Martian water” may have gone. Scientists continue to study the planet’s historical record, trying to understand the apparent shift from an early wet and warm climate to today’s dry and cool surface conditions.

The reservoir’s existence also may be a key to understanding climate history and the potential for life on Mars. The team’s findings are reported in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters[More at links]

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Curiosity update: ‘Trying again’

NLB_472066025EDR_F0442414NCAM15000M_Sol 842, December 18, 2014, update from USGS Scientist Ken Herkenhoff: “Unfortunately, the Sol 841 command sequences could not be sent to MSL because of a transmitter problem at the Deep Space Network (DSN) antenna.  This reminded me not to take for granted communications between Earth and Mars, even though such problems are rare.  Bad weather over a DSN station can prevent transmission or receipt of radio signals.  Because of such risks, every bundle of command sequences sent to the Mars rovers includes…” [More at link]

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HiRISE: Clays exposed on Ladon Valles basin floor

tumblr_ngr0npnTrd1rlz4gso1_1280Clays exposed along Ladon Valles basin floor.Beautiful Mars series.

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HiRISE: Dune field with seasonal frost & channels

tumblr_ngnfa4xB7j1rlz4gso1_1280Dune field with seasonal frost and small channels. Beautiful Mars series.

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HRSC: Flight over Becquerel Crater

This latest releaseHRSC Becquerel flyover from the [High Resolution Stereo] camera on ESA’s Mars Express is a simulated flight over the Becquerel crater, showing large-scale deposits of sedimentary material. The 167 km-diameter Becquerel crater is located in the Arabia Terra region, straddling the transition between the rough southern highlands and the smoother northern lowlands on Mars. Like many other craters in the region, its floor plays host to a fine display of layered sedimentary deposits that have been studied in detail using images and spectral data from NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor and Mars Reconnaissance Observatory missions. This new movie from the high-resolution stereo camera on Mars Express provides an excellent overview of the wider context… [More at link, including video]

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THEMIS: Reull Vallis false color

Reull Vallis (THEMIS_IOTD_20141218)THEMIS Image of the Day, December 18, 2014. The THEMIS VIS camera contains 5 filters. The data from different filters can be combined in multiple ways to create a false color image. These false color images may reveal subtle variations of the surface not easily identified in a single band image. Today’s false color image shows part of Reull Vallis.

More THEMIS Images of the Day by geological topic.

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MARCI weather report: December 8-14, 2014

releaseimg_141208_141214Over the past week on Mars, small transient dust storms continued to develop along the seasonal south polar ice cap, generating an extensive, but diffuse dust cloud along the cap edge. Each afternoon, water-ice clouds were observed over the slopes of Arsia Mons, the southernmost volcano of the Tharsis Montes. A local scale dust event was observed advancing southward across Utopia… [More at link including video]

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Curiosity update: ‘ChemCam recovery’

CR0_472057192PRC_F0442414CCAM01840L1Sol 841, December 17, 2014, update from USGS Scientist Ken Herkenhoff: “I was happy to see that the Sol 840 MAHLI images we planned on Monday came out nicely.  There was no MSL tactical planning yesterday, because of the offset between Mars time and Pacific time, and planning started at 6 AM PST today.  We were hoping to be able to brush off one of the Sol 840 MAHLI targets, but there is still concern about the risk of slipping off the small rock under the right front wheel during brushing….” [More at link]

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THEMIS: Ares Vallis tributary

Ares Vallis tributary false color (THEMIS_IOTD_20141217)THEMIS Image of the Day, December 17, 2014. The THEMIS VIS camera contains 5 filters. The data from different filters can be combined in multiple ways to create a false color image. These false color images may reveal subtle variations of the surface not easily identified in a single band image. Today’s false color image shows part of a tributary channel that empties into Ares Vallis.

More THEMIS Images of the Day by geological topic.

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MAVEN finds links in chain of atmospheric Loss

MAVEN_Mars_atmosphereEarly discoveries by NASA’s newest Mars orbiter are starting to reveal key features about the loss of the planet’s atmosphere to space over time… The observations reveal a new process by which the solar wind can penetrate deep into a planetary atmosphere. They include the first comprehensive measurements of the composition of Mars’ upper atmosphere and electrically charged ionosphere. The results also offer an unprecedented view of ions as they gain the energy that will lead to their escape from the atmosphere.

“We are beginning to see the links in a chain that begins with solar-driven processes acting on gas in the upper atmosphere and leads to atmospheric loss,” said Bruce Jakosky, MAVEN principal investigator… [More at link]

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