Curiosity update: Science is baaaack!

FLA_592704037EDR_F0722464FHAZ00350M_Sol 2204, October 19, 2018, update by MSL scientist Sarah Lamm: Contrary to the “frightening” title, the Curiosity team is excited that science operations are starting to resume!

The real fright was when Curiosity had an anomaly on Sol 2172 which affected its memory. Since then, the engineering team has continued to diagnose the anomaly and plan the recovery, including taking the first images with the A-side engineering cameras that haven’t been used since 2013! Thanks to our hard-working engineers, Curiosity is ready for limited science operations while the anomaly work continues.

Curiosity has been at the (sadly) unsuccessful “Inverness” drill site since the anomaly. Curiosity is still exploring the gray Jura member on Vera Rubin Ridge. The uplink plan for Sol 2204 includes the use of RAD, REMS, and DAN (active and passive).

RAD detects high-energy radiation on the Martian surface. RAD’s data will help shape future human mission to Mars by letting us know how much shielding from radiation future Mars astronauts will need to… [More at link]

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THEMIS: Soft-featured craters in Arcadia Planitia

Soft-featured craters in Arcadia Planitia (THEMIS_IOTD_20181019)THEMIS Image of the Day, October 19, 2018. This false-color VIS image shows some of the plains and craters located in Arcadia Planitia.

The soft-looking features in the impact craters indicate ground ice at shallow depths below the surface. In such cases, the heat of impact melts the ice, causing surface features to slump and flow.

Additionally, the two craters at the bottom of the image formed at the same moment by a double (binary) impact, and their surrounding debris aprons raised a low ridge where they collided between the two craters.

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.

See more THEMIS Images of the Day by geological subject.

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HiRISE: Dramatic changes over the south polar residual cap

ESP_056205_0935The South Polar residual cap is composed of carbon dioxide ice that persists through each Martian summer. However, it is constantly changing shape.

The slopes get more direct illumination at this polar location, so they warm up and sublimate, going directly from a solid state to a gaseous state. The gas then re-condenses as frost over flat areas, building new layers as the older layers are destroyed. This animation compares a small subarea to the same locale imaged in 2009. [More at link]

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Early Mars: Arid, with occasional snow or rain

figure-1[Editor’s note: From a paper by Yo Matsubara, Alan Howard, and Ross Irwin recently published in the Journal of Geophysical Research.]

Constraints on the Noachian paleoclimate of the martian highlands from landscape evolution modeling

Evidences show that Mars was once wetter with liquid water flowing long enough on the surface to form valley networks. Previous studies indicate climate responsible for valley formation was short lived, although older craters are much more degraded than can be explained by short‐term climate change.

A landform evolution model was used to recreate the landforms we see at two locations on Mars, Noachis Terra and Terra Cimmeria, to estimate the possible climatic conditions responsible for shaping the topography of early Mars before the formation of valley networks (~4.0‐3.7 Ga). We controlled parameters such as aridity, weathering rate of the surface material, and how much of precipitation contributes to surface runoff.

Our model runs indicate conditions similar to those of arid to semi‐arid environment on Earth with a very low erosion rate and inefficient runoff during the Middle and Late Noachian Epochs. Our results also showed that crater impacts and aqueous weathering produced abundant loose material that are transportable by surface flow.

A major portion of early Mars was more arid than around the time of intense valley formation, but supported occasional precipitation (snow or rain) that weathered and transported surface sediments. [More at link]

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THEMIS: Floor of Antoniadi Crater in false color

Antoniadi Crater floor (THEMIS_IOTD_20181018)THEMIS Image of the Day, October 18, 2018. This false-color VIS image shows part of the floor of Antoniadi Crater, a very large crater located north of Syrtis Major Planum.

The various colors indicate differences in composition across the crater floor, which points to a geologically complex history. This is also supported by the various details, such as wrinkle ridges and pits.

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.

See more THEMIS Images of the Day by geological subject.

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Curiosity: Trio of new images using Side-A

FRA_592704037EDR_F0722464FHAZ00350M_Sol 2199, October 13, 2018. After nearly a month’s hiatus and switching to the Side-A computer, unused since Sol 200, Curiosity took front and rear Hazcam images, plus a Navcam image of the ground in front of the rover.  Click any image to enlarge it.

RRA_592704071EDR_F0722464RHAZ00350M_Sol 2199 raw images (from all cameras).

NRA_592704011EDR_F0722464NCAM00229M_

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HiRISE: The pits of Elysium Mons

ESP_056026_2050During the 2018 Mars dust storm, we obtained a clear view of the summit of the giant volcano Elysium Mons. We see the western rim and floor of the caldera, and a chain of pits (called a “catena”) extending from the caldera towards the north. The chain of pits likely formed by volcanic processes, such as the collapse of a lava tube after it drained. Or by a tectonic process, such as a rift in the rocks below that drained loose material from the surface.

An unexpected feature of this catena is the presence of avalanches in two of the pits (marked A and B in the cutout, with the uphill direction towards the top of the image.) The flows in both pits could be ancient, produced during the formation of the catena, but they are not found in the other pits in the chain. They might have formed more recently by the collapse of steep dust deposits like those in a degraded crater to the left of the catena (marked C). [More at link]

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MARCI weather report, October 8-14, 2018

MARCI-October-11-2018Dust clouds and hazes continued along the seasonal south polar ice cap edge of Mars this past week. Dust storms were observed from Aonia Terra to northern Noachis Terra to northern Amazonis. The Amazonis storm was advected southwest over the next sol before quickly subsiding. In the southern tropics, afternoon water ice clouds were observed above Arsia Mons, while mesospheric cloud streaks… [More at link, including video]

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THEMIS: Mawrth Vallis craters in false color

Mawrth Vallis in false color (THEMIS_IOTD_20181017)THEMIS Image of the Day, October 17, 2018. This VIS image shows a small section of Mawrth Valles and several surrounding craters located in Arabia Terra.

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.

See more THEMIS Images of the Day by geological subject.

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HiRISE: Colorful impact

ESP_055541_1815Some regions of Mars are not very colorful, but we can be surprised by local features. This image of an impact crater in the south Syrtis Major region was acquired as a “ride-along” with a CRISM observation, which targeted this location because that instrument’s team expected a distinct composition.

Our enhanced image reveals colors ranging from red to green to blue. These are infra-red shifted colors (infrared-red-blue) so it’s different than what we would see with our eyes. [More at link]

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