Curiosity update: Studying a bedrock transition

NRB_569627657EDR_F0672478NCAM00280M_-br2Sol 1940-42, January 19, 2017, update by MSL scientist Ken Herkenhoff: The Sol 1939 drive went well, placing MSL next to the bright/dark transition seen at the right side of this image. In order to better understand the textural and chemical changes across this transition, the tactical team planned ChemCam and Right Mastcam observations of targets “Mallaig” and “Criffel” on either side of it. Mastcam will also acquire multispectral mosaics of the transition and of the material toward the south that shows evidence for clays in orbital data, smaller mosaics of nearby bedrock target “Fetlar” and the more distant “Hallival” target, and images of the Sun and the crater rim to measure the amount of dust in the atmosphere. But that’s just the beginning! Later on Sol 1940 the arm will be deployed to acquire full suites of MAHLI images of “Knoydart,” a block on the darker side of the transition, and of Mallaig. The APXS will be placed on Mallaig for a short integration, then on Knoydart for a longer, overnight… [More at link]

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HiRISE: Horse playing the flute

tumblr_p2218vgBac1rlz4gso1_1280Horse playing the flute. Maybe you can see a horse playing a flute here, but really this is a portion of the floor of Eberswalde Crater, at one time candidate landing site for the Mars Science Laboratory.  The light-toned bedrock (i.e., the horse and flute) may be ancient lake sediments. The dark ridged areas are windblown materials.

Beautiful Mars series.

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Opportunity gets dust cleaning and passes 45 kilometers of driving

Opportunity Status Report: Opportunity is continuing her winter exploration of “Perseverance Valley” on the west rim of Endeavour Crater.

The rover has moved along the north fork of the local flow channel. However, before moving, the rover spent several sols completing stereo, color panoramas and performing some targeted 13-filter imaging. On Sol 4968 (Jan. 14, 2018), Opportunity drove about 23 feet (7 meters) to the north with the intent of reaching some surface targets for closer investigation.

The sol after the drive, the rover spent recharging the batteries, as it is still winter on Mars. On Sol 4970 (Jan. 16, 2018), Opportunity benefited from a significant dust cleaning of the solar arrays, which happens this time of year.

As of Sol 4970 (Jan. 16, 2018), the solar array energy production was an increased 525 watt-hours with an atmospheric opacity (Tau) of 0.460 and an improved solar array dust factor of 0.760.

Total odometry is 28.02 miles (45.09 kilometers). [More at link]

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THEMIS: Rubble piles in Candor Chasma

Rubble piles in Candor Chasma (THEMIS_IOTD_20180119)THEMIS Image of the Day, January 19, 2018. This image shows part of eastern Candor Chasma. At the top of the image is the steep cliff between the upper surface elevation and the depths of Candor Chasma.

The bottom of the image is the cliff side of a large mesa. The two cliff faces have very different appearances. The cliff face between the top of the canyon and the bottom is likely layers of volcanic flows from the nearby Tharsis volcanoes. The mesa, however, is probably layers of sediments deposited in the canyon from wind, water and gravity driven erosion and deposition. These layered materials are much more easily eroded than the solid rock of the canyon sides.

There is a landslide that originate from the northern cliff face and ran out into the canyon floor, visible as the lobate “tongue” at the right near the center of the image.

Candor Chasma is one of the largest canyons that make up Valles Marineris. It is approximately 810 km long (503 miles) and has is divided into two regions – eastern and western Candor. Candor is located south of Ophir Chasma and north of Melas Chasma. The border with Melas Chasma contains many large landslide deposits. The floor of Candor Chasma includes a variety of landforms, including layered deposits, dunes, landslide deposits and steep sided cliffs and mesas. Many forms of erosion have shaped Chandor Chasma. There is evidence of wind and water erosion, as well as significant gravity driven mass wasting (landslides).

NASA’s Mars Odyssey spacecraft has spent over 15 years in orbit around Mars, circling the planet more than 69,000 times. It holds the record for longest working spacecraft at Mars. THEMIS, the IR/VIS camera system, has collected data for the entire mission and provides images covering all seasons and lighting conditions.

Over the years many features of interest have received repeated imaging, building up a suite of images covering the entire feature. From the deepest chasma to the tallest volcano, individual dunes inside craters and dune fields that encircle the north pole, channels carved by water and lava, and a variety of other feature, THEMIS has imaged them all.

For the next several months the Image of the Day will focus on the Tharsis volcanoes, the various chasmata of Valles Marineris, and the major dunes fields. We hope you enjoy these images!

More THEMIS Images of the Day by geological topic.

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Curiosity update: It’s all about the details

CR0_569450821PRC_F0672420CCAM01937L1-br2Sol 1938-39, January 18, 2017, update by MSL scientist Lauren Edgar: Today’s two-sol plan will wrap up activities at Vera Rubin Ridge location “e.” When we assessed the downlink data this morning, we were excited to see that ChemCam did a great job with some very precise pointing in the previous plan. At location “e” we have been focused on understanding small-scale features, like the tiny crystals and veins seen in the above ChemCam RMI image. Today’s plan will complete the detailed work on this outcrop, and then we’ll bump to a new location to assess a transition from gray to red bedrock.

I was the SOWG Chair today, and we had a fairly straightforward planning day. On the first sol, Curiosity will acquire 4 more carefully pointed ChemCam observations to assess compositional variations in bedrock, a vein, and dark nodules, along with supporting Mastcam documentation. Then we’ll acquire MAHLI images of the target “Funzie,” and one more MAHLI image on “Rona” to assess small textural differences in the bedrock and veins that are present here. Just for “Funzie,” we’ll do an overnight APXS analysis. On the second sol, we’ll acquire a Mastcam multispectral mosaic of the area that we’re bumping… [More at link]

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Opportunity: Going north across Perseverance Valley

4970-navcamSol 4970, January 16, 2018. The rover’s Navcam looked back over its recent track on the slope of Perseverance Valley, and shot a composite that shows valley outcrops and even a bit of the next rim segment to the south (top left). Click the image (3.9 MB) to enlarge it.

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

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HRSC: Crater named for Gerhard Neukum, Mars Express founder

Neukum_Crater_perspective_viewA fascinating martian crater has been chosen to honour the German physicist and planetary scientist, Gerhard Neukum, one of the founders of ESA’s Mars Express mission.

The International Astronomical Union named the 102 km-wide crater in the Noachis Terra region “Neukum” in September last year after the camera’s leader, who died in 2014. Professor Neukum inspired and led the development of the high-resolution stereo camera on Mars Express, which helped to establish the regional geology and topography of Mars.

Observations by the camera in December 2005 and May 2007 were used to create the image mosaic of Neukum Crater presented here.

Neukum Crater sits in the Noachis Terra region in the densely cratered southern highlands of Mars, some 800 km to the west of the planet’s largest impact basin, Hellas. Noachis Terra is one of the oldest known regions on the Red Planet, dating back at least 3.9 billion years – the earliest martian era, the Noachian epoch, is named after it.

It is representative of the ancient surface of Mars, which is characteristically peppered with craters that have been preserved for billions of years, although many have degraded over time. [More at link]

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HiRISE: Small field of eroding dunes

tumblr_p2rgzsMFKu1rlz4gso1_1280Small field of eroding dunes. Just drifting away into oblivion… Beautiful Mars series.

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New, low-cost life detection instruments tested at Canadian Arctic Mars analog sites

180118100822_1_900x600Researchers demonstrate for the first time the potential of existing technology to directly detect and characterize life on Mars and other planets. The study, published in Frontiers in Microbiology, used miniaturized scientific instruments and new microbiology techniques to identify and examine microorganisms in the Canadian high Arctic — one of the closest analogs to Mars on Earth. By avoiding delays that come with having to return samples to a laboratory for analysis, the methodology could also be used on Earth to detect and identify pathogens during epidemics in remote areas.

“The search for life is a major focus of planetary exploration, but there hasn’t been direct life detection instrumentation on a mission since the 70s, during the Viking missions to Mars,” explains Dr Jacqueline Goordial, one of the study’s authors. “We wanted to show a proof-of-concept that microbial life can be directly detected and identified using very portable, low-weight, and low-energy tools.” [More at links]

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THEMIS: Mesas of chaos in Candor Chasma

Mesas of chaos in Candor Chasma (THEMIS_IOTD_20180118)THEMIS Image of the Day, January 18, 2018. This image of central Candor Chasma shows a surface topography called chaos. Chaos is a region of small to medium sized mesas surrounded by valleys that are usually the same elevation. In this image sand and sand dunes have accumulated in the valleys near the top of the image, but are not as prevalent towards the bottom of the image.

Candor Chasma is one of the largest canyons that make up Valles Marineris. It is approximately 810 km long (503 miles) and has is divided into two regions – eastern and western Candor. Candor is located south of Ophir Chasma and north of Melas Chasma. The border with Melas Chasma contains many large landslide deposits. The floor of Candor Chasma includes a variety of landforms, including layered deposits, dunes, landslide deposits and steep sided cliffs and mesas. Many forms of erosion have shaped Chandor Chasma. There is evidence of wind and water erosion, as well as significant gravity driven mass wasting (landslides).

NASA’s Mars Odyssey spacecraft has spent over 15 years in orbit around Mars, circling the planet more than 69,000 times. It holds the record for longest working spacecraft at Mars. THEMIS, the IR/VIS camera system, has collected data for the entire mission and provides images covering all seasons and lighting conditions.

Over the years many features of interest have received repeated imaging, building up a suite of images covering the entire feature. From the deepest chasma to the tallest volcano, individual dunes inside craters and dune fields that encircle the north pole, channels carved by water and lava, and a variety of other feature, THEMIS has imaged them all.

For the next several months the Image of the Day will focus on the Tharsis volcanoes, the various chasmata of Valles Marineris, and the major dunes fields. We hope you enjoy these images!

More THEMIS Images of the Day by geological topic.

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