Opportunity: Imaging the valley

4736-navcam1P548547088EFFCZFQP2432L5M1_L2L5L5L7L7Sol 4736, May 21, 2017. Three Navcam frames look southeast from the head of Perserverance Valley. At right, a false-color Pancam image from Sol 4735 (Holger Isenberg) shows the ground near the rover, with rocks displaying what is likely fluting eroded by wind-blown sand. Click either image to enlarge it.

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

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HiRISE: Sinuous ridge with a meander

tumblr_oq1w8y3CI51rlz4gso1_1280Sinuous ridge with a meander east of Meridiani Planum. Beautiful Mars series.

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THEMIS: False color dunes in Noachis Terra

False color dunes in a Noachis crater (THEMIS_IOTD_20170522)THEMIS Image of the Day, May 22, 2017. Today’s false color image shows dunes on the floor of an unnamed crater in Noachis Terra. The blue false-color tint suggests the dunes are made of basaltic sand.

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.

More THEMIS Images of the Day by geological topic.

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HiRISE: Ganges Chasma landslide

tumblr_oq0256xtKN1rlz4gso1_1280Ganges Chasma landslide. Beautiful Mars series.

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Opportunity field report: May 18, 2017

03_sol4730-33_Navpan_progressSol 4734, May 18, 2017; Rover Field Report by Larry Crumpler, MER Science Team & New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science: Opportunity has arrived at the head of Perseverance Valley, a possible water-cut valley here at a low spot along the rim of the 22-km diameter Endeavour impact crater. Investigations in the coming weeks will “endeavor”  to determine whether this valley was eroded by water or some other dry process like debris flows. It certainly looks like a water cut valley. But looks aren’t good enough. We need additional evidence to test that idea.

A short drive to the highest local point was done immediately after arrival and Opportunity has been working on a panorama from the overlook for the past couple of sols. The idea is to get a good overview of the valley from a high point before driving down it. But before we drive… [More at link]

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THEMIS: Lava tube skylights in Daedalia Planum

Lava tube skylights in Daedalia (THEMIS_IOTD_20170519)THEMIS Image of the Day, May 19, 2017. Today’s VIS image show lava flows in Daedalia Planum that originated from Arsia Mons. At lower right, note the three circular “skylights” — places where the roof of an underground lava tube has collapsed.

More THEMIS Images of the Day by geological topic.

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Curiosity update: Optical depth measurements

1670ML0086610000700648E01_DXXX-br2Sol 1700-01, May 17, 2017, update by MSL scientist Michael Battalio: Curiosity continues towards Vera Rubin Ridge with a 48 m drive. GEO decided for the touch-and-go option (instead of lengthening the drive like on Sol 1684) using APXS and MAHLI on “Ripple Pond,” a typical member of the Murray formation. Mastcam and ChemCam will follow up with observations of Ripple Pond. Mastcam will next target “Rhodes Cliff,” which is especially interesting as it is tilted to show the Murray formation layers. Following these observations, Curiosity will drive and capture standard imaging for targeting in the weekend plan. After the drive, ChemCam will perform an automated AEGIS activity to measure bright… [More at link]

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Opportunity: At the valley’s head

4733-navcam-southSol 4733, May 18, 2017. With Opportunity perched at the top of the slope leading down into Perseverance Valley, mission scientists and rover drivers are imaging the terrain all around the rover. Above, the view toward the south with Winnemucca mesa standing high, while below is a view back toward the north showing the heights of Cape Tribulation. (Click either image to enlarge it.)

In places, small deposits of loose material have collected into dune-forms. Some of them appear bright in these Navcam views, matching the bright areas atop Winnemucca mesa. While the rover won’t get a chance to explore Winnemucca at close range, these nearby deposits may be similar to those up on the mesa.

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

4733-navcam-north

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HiRISE: Hebes Chasma bedrock

tumblr_oq01zk9fTb1rlz4gso1_1280Hebes Chasma bedrock. Beautiful Mars series.

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Tornado-like winds from impacts scoured surface

Santa Fe InfraredPlumes of vapor generated by ancient impacts on Mars created tornado-like winds possibly swirling at more than 500 miles per hour, which explain mysterious streaks seen near large impact craters on the Martian surface.

In looking at NASA images of Mars a few years ago, Brown University geologist Peter Schultz noticed sets of strange bright streaks emanating from a few large-impact craters on the planet’s surface. The streaks are odd in that they extend much farther from the craters than normal ejecta patterns, and they are only visible in thermal infrared images taken during the Martian night.

Using geological observation, laboratory impact experiments and computer modeling of impact processes, Schultz and Brown graduate student Stephanie Quintana have offered a new explanation for how those streaks were formed. The researchers show that tornado-like wind vortices — generated by crater-forming impacts and swirling at 500 miles per hour or more — scoured the surface and blasted away dust and small rocks to expose the blockier surfaces beneath.

“This would be like an F8 tornado sweeping across the surface,” Schultz said. “These are winds on Mars that will never be seen again unless another impact.”

The research is published online in the journal Icarus.

Schultz says he first saw the streaks during one of his “tours of Mars.” In his downtime between projects, he pulls up random images from NASA’s orbital spacecraft just to see if he might spot something interesting. In this case, he was looking at infrared images taken during the Martian nighttime by the THEMIS instrument, which flies aboard the Mars Odyssey orbiter. [More at links]

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