Curiosity update: Patch Mountain

NLB_540429401EDR_F0610456NCAM00653M_Sol 1611, February 15, 2017, update by USGS scientist Ken Herkenhoff: MSL drove almost 27 meters on Sol 1610 to a location with several potential targets, so the planning team spent some time discussing priorities.  A dark patch of bedrock, appropriately named “Patch Mountain” was chosen for ChemCam, Right Mastcam, and MAHLI observations.  The MAHLI imaging was moved after the ChemCam observation so that the LIBS impact spots would be visible.  An additional MAHLI image was added to the standard full suite, to provide a 3-image mosaic from 5 cm.  Then the rover will drive again, and take images… [More at link]

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THEMIS: Coprates Chasma in false color

Coprates Chasma false color (THEMIS_IOTD_20170216)THEMIS Image of the Day, February 16, 2017. Today’s false color image shows part of Coprates Chasma.

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: A dust devil on hilly terrain

PSP_009819_2130There are many dust devils on Mars — little twisters that raise dust from the surface. They have also cleaned dust off of the solar panels of the rovers Opportunity and Spirit, improving the solar power production. (Spirit became stuck in 2009 and ceased communication a year later.)

HiRISE sees many dust-devil tracks on Mars, but rarely captures an active feature because the images cover such small areas and because the typical time of day near 3 p.m. is past the peak heating and dust-devil activity. In this 2008 image in the Amazonis region, we got lucky, although not lucky enough… [More at link]

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Curiosity update: Finishing up at Ireson Hill

1608ML0082200050505577E01_DXXXSol 1610, February 14, 2017, update by USGS scientist Ken Herkenhoff: The activities planned for Sol 1609 went well, and MAHLI focus data indicate that high-resolution images of Perry were successfully acquired.  So we’re ready to drive away from Ireson Hill after some more remote sensing of the rocks in front of the rover.  The Sol 1610 plan starts with some more drill diagnostic tests, then the arm will be moved out of the way for remote sensing.  ChemCam and Right Mastcam will observe a bedrock exposure named “Fogelin” that shows subtle… [More at link]

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Researchers pinpoint watery past on Mars

1487159819_Striations exposed on the surface between dunes indicate fluctuating levels of salty groundwater.Researchers from Trinity College Dublin have discovered a patch of land in an ancient valley on Mars that appears to have held water in the not-too-distant past. In doing so, they have pinpointed a prime target to begin searching for past life forms on the Red Planet.

The findings have just been published in Geophysical Research Letters, by Dr Mary Bourke from Trinity, and her colleague, Professor Heather Viles, from the University of Oxford.

Dr Bourke said: “On Earth, desert dunefields are periodically flooded by water in areas of fluctuating groundwater, and where lakes, rivers and coasts are found in proximity. These periodic floods leave tell-tale patterns behind them. You can imagine our excitement when we scanned satellite images of an area on Mars and saw this same patterned calling card, suggesting that water had been present in the relatively recent past.” [More at links]

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THEMIS: Sands of Gale Crater

Northern Gale Crater (THEMIS_IOTD_20170215)THEMIS Image of the Day, February 15, 2017. Today’s false color image shows part of Gale Crater. Basaltic sands are dark blue in this type of false color combination. The Curiosity Rover is located in another portion of Gale Crater, far southwest of this image.

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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Curiosity: Hematite Ridge in view ahead

1608-mastcam34Sol 1608, February 13, 2017. A composite of five Mastcam frames taken with the 34mm lens traces the Hematite Ridge (arrows), which lies beyond part of the Bagnold Dunes. The ridge, identified from orbit as containing the water-altered iron mineral hematite, is the next major waypoint of scientific interest for the rover. Click image (6.5 MB) to enlarge it.

Sol 1608 raw images (from all cameras), and Curiosity’s latest location.

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HiRISE: Old features and new

ESP_021699_1405This image covers a portion of a typical impact crater in Terra Sirenum at about 40 degrees south latitude on Mars.

At the top of the image, outside the crater rim, there is a mid-latitude mantle, rough in places where ice may have sublimated. Below the crater rim, on the steep, south-facing slope, are gullies. These are erosional features with depositional fans. Some of the gully fans have a bluish color: these are probably quite recent deposits, less than a few tens of years old. [More at link]

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Curiosity update: Passagassawakeag and other challenges

NRB_540251172EDR_F0610252NCAM00353M_Sol 1609, February 13, 2017, update by USGS scientist Ken Herkenhoff: MSL drove a little over 9 meters on Sol 1608, to get the vehicle closer to Ireson Hill and the dark blocks that have rolled down from the top of the hill.  Two of these blocks are within reach of the arm, but both are challenging targets.  Even the name chosen for the dark block at the left side of the image above is difficult: “Passagassawakeag.”  It’s pointier that we would like for contact science, and the other dark block, dubbed “Perry” (at lower right in the image above), is close enough to the rover that there is a risk of collision with the arm.  Complicating the plan further, the best time to take MAHLI images of these targets is late in the afternoon, when they won’t be shadowed by the arm.  But the last chance to send… [More at link]

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HiRISE: Craters on a crater’s floor

tumblr_ol9wzk2vVB1rlz4gso1_1280Craters on a crater’s floor. Beautiful Mars series.

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