Curiosity: Around the butte, and through the gap…

1446-navcam2Sol 1446, August 30, 2016. Three Navcam frames show the rover’s route forward, as it rounds the wide east-west butte (left) that has stood blocking views of Mt. Sharp. The butte on the right flank of the gap is the last Murray Butte that Curiosity will drive past at close range. (Click image to enlarge.)

The view from the gap will reveal Mt. Sharp from its base to the summit, which should be spectacular. The rover’s next waypoint of note will be the Bagnold Dune Field, roughly one kilometer ahead after Curiosity rolls through the gap.

Sol 1446 raw images (from all cameras), and Curiosity’s latest location.

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Opportunity: Wharton Ridge

4480-pancamSol 4480, August 31, 2016. The Pancam shot a five-frame composite of Wharton Ridge, through which the Lewis and Clark Gap passes. (The gap is the smooth rock-free area at the upslope end of the ridge.) Click image to enlarge (3 MB).

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

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Anomalous Phobos grooves caused by impacts

ncomms12591-f6Some of the mysterious grooves on the surface of Mars’ moon Phobos are the result of debris ejected by impacts eventually falling back onto the surface to form linear chains of craters, according to a new study.

One set of grooves on Phobos are thought to be stress fractures resulting from the tidal pull of Mars. The new study, published August 30 in Nature Communications, addresses another set of grooves that do not fit that explanation.

“These grooves cut across the tidal fields, so they require another mechanism. If we put the two together, we can explain most if not all of the grooves on Phobos,” said first author Michael Nayak, a graduate student in Earth and planetary sciences at UC Santa Cruz. [More at links]

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MARCI weather report, August 22-28, 2016

releaseimg_160822_160828Continued large-scale dust activity over the Acidalia storm-track and northern plains of Mars this past week. The dust storm over Chryse, mentioned in the previous week still had some momentum as it lofted clouds of dust over eastern Valles Marineris and western Arabia / Meridiani. To the east, dust lifting over the northern plains dipped southward over Utopia making for murky conditions over the plains of Isidis. Focusing on the southern hemisphere, several small transient dust storms were observed near the edge of the defrosting seasonal south polar ice cap. A number of small dust storms… [More at link, including video]

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HiRISE: Landforms north of Allegheny Vallis

tumblr_ocozpzTIJc1rlz4gso2_1280Landforms in a crater north of Allegheny Vallis. Beautiful Mars series.

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THEMIS: Juventae Chasma – false color

Canyon rubble in Juventae Chasma (THEMIS_IOTD_20160831)THEMIS Image of the Day, August 31, 2016. Today’s false color images shows part of Juventae Chasma. The THEMIS 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.

More THEMIS Images of the Day by geological topic.

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Opportunity: Driving to the Gap

4479-navcamSol 4479, August 30, 2016. Three Navcam shots show the way ahead after Opportunity’s 15-meter (50-foot) drive toward Lewis and Clark Gap (arrowed).  The Gap will be the rover’s pathway through Knudsen Ridge and out of Marathon Valley, as Opportunity continues its exploration southward along the Cape Tribulation segment of Endeavour Crater’s rim. Click to enlarge (1.7 MB).

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

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Curiosity update: Back on the road

1441MR0071280310702898E01_DXXXSol 1446-47, August 29, 2016, update by USGS scientist Ken Herkenhoff: The MSL activities planned for last weekend went well, and the rover’s batteries have enough energy to proceed with another drive on Sol 1446.  We started the day looking at the beautiful new Mastcam images of the nearby buttes, then got down to planning the details of the 2-sol plan.  On Sol 1446, Mastcam will extend coverage of previously-planned mosaics, and ChemCam will use its laser to measure the chemistry of “Muchinda” on a large outcrop block. After the drive, ChemCam will autonomously make another observation using the AEGIS software. Overnight, CheMin will prepare…   [More at link]

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THEMIS: Noachis Terra – false color

Geo-swirls in Noachis Terra (THEMIS_IOTD_20160830)THEMIS Image of the Day, August 30, 2016. Today’s false color image shows part of the plains of Noachis Terra. The THEMIS 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.

More THEMIS Images of the Day by geological topic.

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Fossil rivers suggest warm, wet ancient Mars

figure_1Extensive systems of fossilised riverbeds have been discovered on an ancient region of the Martian surface, supporting the idea that the now cold and dry Red Planet had a warm and wet climate about 4 billion years ago, according to UCL-led research.

The study, published in Geology and funded by the Science & Technology Facilities Council and the UK Space Agency, identified over 17,000km of former river channels on a northern plain called Arabia Terra, providing further evidence of water once flowing on Mars.

“Climate models of early Mars predict rain in Arabia Terra and until now there was little geological evidence on the surface to support this theory. This led some to believe that Mars was never warm and wet but was a largely frozen planet, covered in ice-sheets and glaciers. We’ve now found evidence of extensive river systems in the area which supports the idea that Mars was warm and wet, providing a more favourable environment for life than a cold, dry planet,” explained lead author, Joel Davis (UCL Earth Sciences). [More at links]

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Opportunity: Lewis and Clark Gap

4476-pancamSol 4476, August 27, 2016. The rover’s next destination is an area called Lewis and Clark Gap, which lies toward the south side of Marathon Valley. This trio of Pancam images shows part of the area. The left frame is grayscale, the other two are false-color versions by Holger Isenberg. Click to enlarge (2.9 MB).

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

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THEMIS: Terra Sirenum – false color

Geo-diversity in Terra Sirenum (THEMIS_IOTD_20160829)THEMIS Image of the Day, August 29, 2016. Today’s false color image shows part of the plains of Terra Sirenum. The THEMIS camera contains 5 filters. The data from different filters can be combined in multiple ways to create a false color image.l These false color images may reveal subtle variations of the surface not easily identified in a single band image.

More THEMIS Images of the Day by geological topic.

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Curiosity update: A SAM-filled weekend plan

FRB_525427785EDR_F0571020FHAZ00302M_-br2Sol 1443-45, August 26, 2016, update by USGS scientist Lauren Edgar: The drive planned on Wednesday did not execute due to an unanticipated flight software interaction.  However, the problem is now understood and we will attempt the drive again next week. Today’s three-sol weekend plan is focused on SAM activities and contact science.  On the first sol we’ll do a SAM pre-conditioning activity to prepare the sample cup prior to delivery of the Marimba2 drill sample.  We’ll also acquire a ChemCam observation of the target “Viana 2” to assess the chemistry of the local bedrock and nodules.  Then we’ll take a Mastcam mosaic to document several light-toned ridges and possible channel features, followed by several environmental monitoring activities.  In the afternoon we’ll drop off the Marimba2 sample to SAM, and the evolved gas analysis will occur overnight. [More at link]

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HiRISE: Ancient streamlined islands of the Palos outflow channel

ESP_045782_1820This image shows the northern terminus of an outflow channel located in the volcanic terrains of Amenthes Planum.

The channel sources from the Palos impact crater to the south, where water flowed into the crater from Tinto Vallis and eventually formed a paleo lake. As rising lake levels breached through the crater’s rim and inundated the plains to the north, the resulting high velocity, large discharge floods plucked out and eroded the volcanic plains scouring out the “Palos Outflow Channel” and the streamlined mesa-islands on its floor. [More at link]

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Curiosity: Wide butte

Sol 1441, August 25, 2016. The Navcam shoots the view ahead. So which way around that looming butte will Curiosity go, to the left or the right? Click to enlarge (3.2 MB).

Sol 1441 raw images (from all cameras), and Curiosity’s latest location.

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