Curiosity update: ‘Approaching Alexander Hills’

NRB_467371144EDR_F0440190NCAM00290M_Sol 789-791, October 24, 2014, update from USGS Scientist Lauren Edgar: “It was another fun day of operations as we planned Curiosity’s continued investigation of the Pahrump Hills… The drive on Sol 787 placed Curiosity approximately 18 m from the Gilbert Peak outcrop, and 8 m from what is now named the “Alexander Hills” outcrop.  This Navcam image from Sol 787 shows the Alexander Hills as a small cliff in the middle of the frame, and the Gilbert Peak outcrop as the thin dark beds a little higher up on the hill…. [More at link]

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Curiosity: Approaching Gilbert Peak

787-pan2Sol 787, October 23, 2014. With the rover on the exposed rocky pavement, scientists are planning their approach to the next targets at Gilbert Peak, at right in the panorama.

Sol 787 raw images (from all cameras), and Curiosity’s latest location map.

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CRISM: Comet nucleus in infrared

pia15291-16The Compact Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) observed comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring as the comet sped close to Mars on Oct. 19. CRISM recorded imaging data in 107 different wavelengths, showing the inner part of the cloud of dust, called the coma, surrounding the comet’s nucleus…. The appearance of color variations in the CRISM observations of the inner coma could be due to the properties of the comet’s dust, possibly dust grain size or composition. The full spectra will be analyzed to better understand the reason for the color variations… [More at link]

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Opportunity: Dusty days at Endeavour

1N467319070EFFCH0UP1957R0M1Sol 3820, October 22, 2014. Dust in the air turns sunlight hazy over Endeavour Crater.  This afternoon view (3:30 p.m. local time) looks northeast, down Wdowiak Ridge. The crater’s far rim, 22 kilometers away, is difficult to distinguish from the crater floor and the sky.

Based on daily Sun images, the atmosphere’s tau, or opacity, has climbed steadily over the past several sols.

Opportunity raw images, its latest mission status, and a location map.

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THEMIS: Mangala Fossa

Mangala Fossa (THEMIS_IOTD_20141024)THEMIS Image of the Day, October 24, 2014. The depression in the center of this VIS image is a graben (fault bounded block of material). This graben is called Mangala Fossa.

More THEMIS Images of the Day by geological topic.

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HiRISE: Landforms in eastern Elysium Planitia

ESP_037300_1825This image shows a great deal of geologic diversity in a rather small area. In the northern section of the image, we see flat terrain that is probably an ancient lava field. This field runs up against a mesa, with slopes that show several dark streaks, possibly freshly disturbed material that is darker than the surrounding area and hasn’t had time to fade. These dust avalanches are common in dust-covered regions on Mars…. [More at link]

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MAVEN: Comet’s atomic hydrogen coma in UV

Siding-Spring-HLyA_redThe MAVEN spacecraft obtained an ultraviolet image of hydrogen surrounding comet Siding Spring on Friday, October 17th, two days before the comet’s closest approach to Mars. The Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph (IUVS) instrument imaged the comet at a distance of 5.3 million miles (8.5 million kilometers). The image shows sunlight that has been scattered by atomic hydrogen, and is shown as blue in this false-color representation. Comets are surrounded by a huge cloud of atomic hydrogen because water (H2O) vaporizes from the icy nucleus, and solar ultraviolet light breaks it apart into hydrogen and oxygen. Hydrogen atoms scatter solar ultraviolet light, and it was this light that was imaged by the IUVS. Two observations were combined to create this image, after removing the foreground signal that results from sunlight being scattered from hydrogen surrounding Mars… [More at link]

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THEMIS: Candor Chasma

Dropping into Candor Chasma (THEMIS_IOTD_20141023)THEMIS Image of the Day, October 23, 2014. This VIS image shows eroded materials on the floor of Candor Chasma.

More THEMIS Images of the Day by geological topic.

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Curiosity update: ‘Drive to Gilbert Peak’

NRB_467190672EDR_F0440036NCAM00289M_Sol 787-788, October 22, 2014, update from USGS Scientist Lauren Edgar: “It was a busy day of rover operations here at the USGS…. Today we planned two sols and the goal was to characterize the Book Cliffs outcrop and drive toward the Gilbert Peak outcrop. This Navcam image [right] from Sol 785 shows our current location at Book Cliffs in the lower right part of the frame, and some beautiful ripples in the valley to the west…” [More at link]

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HiRISE: Light-toned deposit in Arsinoes Chaos

ESP_037545_1730The objective of this observation is to examine a light-toned deposit in a region of what is called “chaotic terrain” at the base of the Valles Marineris canyon system. The deposit displays a rough surface, in contrast to the smoothness of the surrounding area. Some parts of the surface appear as if they were eroded by a fluid flowing north and south, or perhaps sculpted by the wind… [More at link]

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MARCI weather report: October 13-19, 2014

releaseimg_141013_141019This week Mars experienced an uptick in regional storm activity, with widespread dust-lifting observed in both hemispheres. Storms travelled down the Acidalia storm-track throughout the week, passing through Chryse into eastern Valles Marineris, and contributing dust-haze past the equator into north-central Noachis… [More at link, including video]

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Opportunity: Crimson Tide at Birmingham rock

1F467225619EFFCH0UP1110L0M1Sol 3819, October 21, 2014. Exploring in the Ulysses Crater ejecta field on Wdowiak Ridge, the rover team is currently studying a roundish rock dubbed Birmingham and a target area on it named Crimson Tide. Birmingham, about half a meter wide, appears to be igneous with layering or planes within the rock. (Planetary scientist Tom Wdowiak, for whom the ridge is named, was at the University of Alabama.)

1P467040912ESFCH0UP2508L5M1_L2L5L5L7L7At right a closeup on the Crimson Tide target area on Birmingham, in a false-color image by Holger Isenberg using filtered Pancam frames.

Opportunity raw images, its latest mission status, and a location map.

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THEMIS: Crater dunes

Dune field in crater (THEMIS_IOTD_20141022)THEMIS Image of the Day, October 22, 2014. A field of sand dunes is located on the floor of this unnamed crater in Terra Cimmeria. Several gullies dissect the northern rim of the crater.

More THEMIS Images of the Day by geological topic.

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Curiosity update: ‘Comet Siding Spring’

0780ML0034040010400300E01_DXXX-br2Sol 785-786, October 20, 2014, update from USGS Scientist Lauren Edgar: “Over the weekend, a number of Mars spacecraft observed a rare encounter with Comet Siding Spring. Curiosity successfully observed the comet with Mastcam, Navcam and ChemCam RMI.  Today we’re planning two sols during which Curiosity will drive closer to the rock outcrop “Book Cliffs,” and perform some remote sensing… [More at link]

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HiRISE: Comet nucleus smaller than 500 meters

PIA18618_ipThese images were taken of comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on Oct. 19, 2014, during the comet’s close flyby of Mars and the spacecraft. Comet Siding Spring is on its first trip this close to the Sun from the Oort Cloud at the outer fringe of the solar system. This is the first resolved imaging of the nucleus of a long-period comet.

The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter acquired images of this comet from a minimum distance of about 86,000 miles (138,000 kilometers), yielding a scale of about 150 yards (138 meters) per pixel. Telescopic observers had modeled the size of the nucleus as about half a mile, or one kilometer, wide. However, the best HiRISE images show only two to three pixels across the brightest feature, probably the nucleus, suggesting a size less than half that estimate. [More at link]

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