THEMIS: Tectonic traces in Amenthes Fossae

Amenthes Fossae (THEMIS_IOTD_20190613)THEMIS Image of the Day, June 13, 2019. The two linear depressions crossing this VIS image are graben created by tectonic activity.

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MARCI weather report, June 3-9, 2019

MARCI-June-8-2019Last week on Mars, dust storm activity continued along the edge of the receding seasonal north polar ice cap. Near the beginning of the week, a regional-scale dust storm occurred over the eastern Arcadia region and spread both southward to Amazonis and eastward towards the plains of Acidalia. As the storm slowly subsided during the second half of the week, dust haze pushed south towards the flanks of Olympus Mons. Focusing our… [More at link, including video]

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Curiosity update: Ridge rage

NRB_613396375EDR_F0760274NCAM00279M_-br2Sol 2434, June 10, 2019, update by MSL scientist Mariah Baker: It’s a good thing that Curiosity doesn’t have any competition on the road as she drives fervently across undulating terrain towards a large geologic ridge of unknown origin (informally named “Waypoint 4″). The weekend plan included a long 44-meter drive to put her in her current location (on a similar, but smaller ridge), and two more 25-meter drives were planned for this week to put her at a good vantage point for imaging the side of the ridge. But the team decided to put the pedal to the metal and try to make it to this ridgeline in just one drive. Ridge features are common throughout the Glen Torridon unit, so characterizing the morphology and chemical composition of these ridges can place important constraints on their formation and on the overarching geologic history of this region. This will be the goal of our investigation at Waypoint 4…. [More at link]

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Mars 2020 rover to blaze trail for humans

PIA23302_hiresWhen a female astronaut first sets foot on the Moon in 2024, the historic moment will represent a step toward another NASA first: eventually putting humans on Mars. NASA’s latest robotic mission to the Red Planet, Mars 2020, aims to help future astronauts brave that inhospitable landscape.

While the science goal of the Mars 2020 rover is to look for signs of ancient life – it will be the first spacecraft to collect samples of the Martian surface, caching them in tubes that could be returned to Earth on a future mission – the vehicle also includes technology that paves the way for human exploration of Mars.

The atmosphere on Mars is mostly carbon dioxide and extremely thin (about 100 times less dense than Earth’s), with no breathable oxygen. There’s no water on the surface to drink, either. The landscape is freezing, with no protection from the Sun’s radiation or from passing dust storms. The keys to survival will be technology, research and testing.

Mars 2020 will help on all those fronts. When it launches in July of 2020, the spacecraft will carry the latest scientific and engineering tools, which are coming together as the rover is built at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. Here’s a closer look… [More at link]

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Latest weather at Gale Crater and Elysium Planitia

Daily Elysium charts and data (temperature, wind speed, atmospheric pressure) here.

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HiRISE: Dune footprints in Hellas Planitia

ESP_059708_1305These curious chevron shapes in southeast Hellas Planitia are the result of a complex story of dunes, lava, and wind.

Long ago, there were large crescent-shaped (barchan) dunes that moved across this area, and at some point, there was an eruption. The lava flowed out over the plain and around the dunes, but not over them. The lava solidified, but these dunes still stuck up like islands. However, they were still just dunes, and the wind continued to blow. Eventually, the sand piles that were the dunes migrated away, leaving these “footprints” in the lava plain. These are also called “dune casts” and record the presence of dunes that were surrounded by lava.

Enterprising viewers will make the discovery that these features look conspicuously like a famous logo: and you’d be right, but it’s only a coincidence. [More at link]

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THEMIS: The graben of Ceraunius Fossae

Ceraunius Fossae graben (THEMIS_IOTD_20190612)THEMIS Image of the Day, June 12, 2019. This VIS image shows part of Cerunius Fossae. The linear depressions are fault bounded features called graben.

These features form from tectonic forces that are pulling apart the surface, created space for material to “slide down” along the fault. Here the tectonic stress comes from a large, but low, volcanic feature named Alba Mons.

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Curiosity: Roving the clay-enriched plains

2432-navcamSol 2432, June 10, 2019. After a lengthy drive across the pebbled surface, Curiosity is parked near low outcroppings of bedrock. Click either image to enlarge it.

Sol 2432 raw images (from all cameras).



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HiRISE: Rhythmic layers east of Medusae Fossae

ESP_057092_1770The surface of this image looks wavy, like that of the sea. These wave shapes are the result of erosion: the removal of material, which has been ongoing for millions, if not billions, of years. This erosion is likely performed by the action of wind and has revealed layered rock that was deposited in this area in the ancient past.

The layers were deposited very regularly one on top of another and the erosion has cut across them—sometimes shallowly, sometimes more deeply—to create these giant undulations. More resistant layers protrude further, making them the visible crests of the waves. [More at link]

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THEMIS: Rough ground in Nilosyrtis

Rough ground in Nilosyrtis (THEMIS_IOTD_20190611)THEMIS Image of the Day, June 11, 2019. Today’s VIS image is located on the margin of the Terra Sabaea highlands and the Nilosyrtis Mensae lowlands. The drop off is very steep – about 18,000 ft.

This “edge” circles the northern hemisphere of Mars and is called the crustal dichotomy. The process that created this dichotomy is unknown. In the transition region, the highlands break up into mesas and valleys, like those seen in this image.

The striations in the valley floors suggest that they are filled with glacier ice that flowed at one time.

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