Thursday, February 28, 2019

Ground Water On Mars.

Monday, February 25, 2019

A Brilliant Chinese Sci-Fi Film

Friday, February 22, 2019

Ancient Mars Rivers Revealed By Satellite

Ancient Martian rivers revealed in satellite images

ESA's Mars Express orbiter has captured some stunning images of dry riverbeds on Mars
ESA's Mars Express orbiter has captured some stunning images of dry riverbeds on Mars
The Red Planet is notoriously dry and dusty, but its scarred surface shows that that wasn't always the case. A new set of photos from the European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter demonstrates some pretty clear evidence of an ancient river network that once wound across the Martian landscape.
While modern day Mars is drier than any Earthly desert, it's believed that roughly 4 billion years ago the Red Planet was much bluer, with a northern ocean bigger than the Atlantic. Over the years, the many eyes on Mars have spotted signs of ancient shorelines, lakes, flood plains, rivers and glaciers. That makes the newest European Space Agency (ESA) shots not particularly surprising, but no less beautiful.
These images were snapped on the southern highlands of Mars, a region pockmarked with craters and rich with evidence of old waterways. In this case, that takes the form of a branching network of valleys, snaking across the landscape to form shapes that are instantly recognizable as the handiwork of water.
Judging by the topography, water seems to have flowed downhill from north to south, which is right to left in these shots. The valleys left behind are up to 2 km wide and as deep as 200 m in places. That's particularly clear in the topographic view, where red is the highest ground, and it turns yellow, then green and blue the lower you go.
The structures resemble drainage systems seen here on Earth, suggesting they were formed as excess water ran off from stronger rivers and made its own way downhill.
While the bulk of that water has likely been lost to space, there are indications that some of it is still locked away underground, in the form of ice sheets or even liquid lakes. These stashes could be vital resources for eventual human colonists.
Source: ESA

Now You Can Get Daily Weather Reports From Mars

If you've ever wondered what the weather is on Mars, wonder no more. Today, NASA published an online tool that will allow the public to get daily Martian weather reports based on data gathered by the space agency's unmanned InSight lander and includes a 24-hr breakdown of the Red Planet's temperature, wind, and air pressure.
Getting weather reports from Mars isn't anything new. Astronomers have been trying to puzzle out Martian meteorology for centuries using Earthbound telescopes and on-the-spot measurements have been available since the Viking landers successfully touched down in 1976.
However, the InSight mission has upped the game because its objective of studying the interior structure and dynamics of the planet requires keeping things as quiet as possible in the vicinity of the instruments to cut out interference. That isn't possible with a small robotic lander, so mission scientists compensate by measuring vibrations caused by wind and pressure changes as well as temperature fluctuations, then cancelling them out mathematically.
Artist's concept shows NASA's InSight lander with its instruments deployed on the Martian surface
It's for this reason that InSight is equipped with the Auxiliary Payload Subsystem (APSS) instrument package that monitors the weather 24 hours a day – or 24 hours, 39 minutes, since we're talking about Mars. This helps keep the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) accurate by not only looking at standard weather parameters, but also the local magnetic field thanks to a UCLA-made magnetometer found under the edge of the lander's deck.

Air temperature and wind sensors known as the Temperature and Wind for InSight (TWINS) sit on booms located on the lander's deck. Built by Spain's Centro de Astrobiología, TWINS detects strong winds that could mess with seismic monitoring and works in conjunction with the lander's cameras to help better understand how the wind picks up the dust on the Martian surface.
The online Mars weather tool was made by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, Cornell University, and Centro de Astrobiología in Madrid. Oh, and if you're interested, the weather on February 17 was a high of 2⁰ F (-17º C), a low of -138º F (-95º C), and SW winds of 37.8 mph (60.8).
The daily Martian weather reports are available here.
Source: NASA

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

What Are Those Mysterious "Slope Streaks: On Mars?

Ron Clatworthy

5:31 AM (4 hours ago)
to me

What Are these Mysterious "Slope Streaks" on Mars?

Since they were first observed in the 1970s by the Viking missions, the slope streaks that periodically appear along slopes on Mars have continued to intrigue scientists. After years of study, scientists still aren't sure exactly what causes them. While some believe that "wet" mechanisms are the culprit, others think they are the result of "dry" mechanisms.
Luckily, improvements in high-resolution sensors and imaging capabilities — as well as improved understanding of Mars' seasonal cycles — is bringing us closer to an answer. Using a terrestrial analog from Bolivia, a research team from Sweden recently conducted a studythat explored the mechanisms for streak formation and suggests that wet mechanisms appear to account for more, which could have serious implications for future missions to Mars.
The study, titled "Are Slope Streaks Indicative of Global?Scale Aqueous Processes on Contemporary Mars?", recently appeared in the Reviews of Geophysics, a publication maintained by the American Geological Union (AGU). The study was conducted by Anshuman Bhardwaj and his colleagues, all of whom hail from the Luleå University of Technology in Sweden.
As the team stated in a recent interview with the AGU's Earth and Space Science News:
"What we know from observations is the following: Slope streaks range from about a few meters to several kilometers long. They usually have a starting point upslope with gradual widening towards the downslope termini, thus indicating the possible involvement of some flow or mass movement. They are capable of following very gentle slopes and are reportedly able to climb even a few meters of obstacles in their flow paths. Slope streaks can appear anytime of the year in the equatorial and subequatorial regions of Mars. They appear to be singular events formed within a short temporal span, and their recurrence, or lengthening, is extremely rarely observed. They gradually fade over decadal timescales."
Despite the progress that has been made in studying these features, the scientific community remains divided into two camps when it comes to what causes Martian slope streaks. Those who belong to the "wet" mechanism school of thought believe that liquid water could be responsible for their creation, possibly as a result of groundwater springs, melting surface ice, or the formation of brines (salt solutions).
In contrast, those who fall into the "dry" mechanism school theorize that dust avalanches are responsible. These, in turn, could be caused by air fall deposits, subsurface melting, or localized disturbances — ranging by rockfalls, meteorite impacts, or tectonic activity ("Marsquakes"). Both of these explanations have limitations when it comes to explaining observed slope streaks.
For example, the main issue with the wet mechanism explanation is that observations have shown a lack of consistency when it comes to seasonal change. If liquid water or brines were the mechanism, then such slopes should only appear in areas that are experiencing warmer seasonal temperatures, which has not always been the case.
What's more, slope streaks have been found to climb over obstacles in many instances, which is not consistent with liquid-driven displacement. Similarly, the dry mechanism explanation also suffers from a number of inconsistencies and challenges when considered on its own.
For starters, if slope streaks were caused by the displacement of dry mass, scientists would have observed disturbances alongside them, not to mention a buildup of debris at their lowest point downslope. In the majority of cases, neither of these have been observed. At the same time, dry mechanisms cannot explain why some streak formations extend for kilometers.
To shed further light on this, the team investigated a "wet analog" site in Salar de Uyuni, an Andean region in southwest Bolivia. This region, which is the largest salt flat in the world, experiences similar atmospheric and surface conditions as the equatorial region of Mars. This results in seasonal brine flows where chloride and sulphate salts become liquefied and create slope streaks.
After conducting drone-based observations of the region, the team determined that these streaks are a sufficient analog for a wet mechanism on Mars. They also recommend further studies, which could provide important clues about Martian brines and other surface features that have been linked to the transient occurrence of liquid water on Mars. As they conclude:
"While available remote sensing data has vastly improved, as well as our knowledge of Martian mineralogy, climate, and atmosphere, we still need further investigations to advance our understanding. In this regard, targeting slope streak regions during future robotic or manned Mars missions would be advantageous."
Essentially, salt water or liquid flows could explain many of Mars' slope streaks, but certain inconsistencies demand further research. Over time, we may learn that other mechanisms are involved, which could range from subsurface features to specific seasonal changes.
The subject of what causes these streaks and other transient surface features is important for many reasons, not the least of which has to do with planetary protection. In Sept. 2016, the Curiosity roverencountered dark streaks while driving along the sloping terrain of Mount Sharp, which required that it alter its path to avoid contact and possible contamination of the site.
A dark, narrow, 100 meter-long streak called lowing downhill on Mars.
This decision was based on the possibility that subsurface water was responsible for the streak, and could be an indication of subsurface life. If slope streaks are indeed linked to seasonal water flows, then proper measures will need to be put in place for future missions, especially crewed ones.
Before we can send astronauts to the surface of Mars, or contemplate creating a permanent human presence there, we need to know where to step and what to avoid!

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Check out @martiansoil’s Tweet:

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

NASA's MAVEN Shrinking Its Orbit for Mars 2020 Rover

NASA's MAVEN Shrinking Its Orbit for Mars 2020 Rover: The atmosphere-sniffing spacecraft is embarking on a new campaign to take on additional responsibility as a data-relay satellite for NASA's Mars 2020 rover.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

360 Video: Curiosity Rover Departs Vera Rubin Ridge

360 Video: Curiosity Rover Departs Vera Rubin Ridge: A new immersive video lets viewers explore Curiosity's last drill site on a Martian ridge. Scientists are eager to study the data it collected there.

Monday, February 4, 2019

The Mysterious Hypathia Stone Doesn't Match Ingredients Of Our Solar System

Ron Clatworthy

5:44 AM (7 hours ago)

The Mysterious Hypatia Stone Doesn't Match the Ingredients of Our Solar System

It's rare to find a meteorite on Earth. It's even rarer to find what was the core of a comet. Rarer still? A rock that didn't even come from our solar system. New research says that's just what geologist Aly Barakat found in 1996 when he was searching for Libyan desert glass in southwest Egypt.

Stone as Old as Time

The rock has since named the Hypatia stone after the earliest known female mathematician and astronomer, but even before that, Bakarat knew the stone he found was special. The object was covered in the kinds of microscopic diamonds that are a telltale sign of an extraterrestrial impact. In 2013, analysis by researchers at the University of Johannesburg did his hunch one better: Not only was the Hypatia stone from beyond our world, but it was also likely the core of a comet — the first one we've ever found.
But by 2015, other researchers were scratching their heads. It wasn't a meteorite, sure, but it also didn't contain the ingredients of any known comet. So for a paper published Dec. 28, 2017, the original Johannesburg team took a second crack at analyzing the Hypatia stone using sophisticated electron microscopy techniques.

Fruitcake of Mystery

They found that the stone is made up of three main components. Professor Jan Kramers, the lead researcher on the paper, likened it to a fruitcake that had fallen into a pile of flour and cracked on impact. "We can think of the badly mixed dough of a fruit cake representing the bulk of the Hypatia pebble, what we called two mixed 'matrices' in geology terms. The glace cherries and nuts in the cake represent the mineral grains found in Hypatia 'inclusions'. And the flour dusting the cracks of the fallen cake represent the 'secondary materials' we found in the fractures in Hypatia, which are from Earth," he said in a press release.
Seeing as the "flour" is from our own planet, it's the "dough" and "fruit" that are of real interest. The dough, or mineral matrix, is all wrong for an object from our solar system. "If it were possible to grind up the entire planet Earth to dust in a huge mortar and pestle, we would get dust with on average a similar chemical composition as chondritic meteorites," said Kramers. What's more, the matrix also contains the kinds of carbon compounds you generally see in interstellar dust — not something you typically find in our neck of the woods.
But the Hypatia stone's real claim to fame is the "fruit," or mineral grains. They're made up of nickel, phosphorus, and iron, but not in any ratio we're familiar with. And that, say the researchers, could mean the stone formed before our sun did. "We think the nickel-phosphorus-iron grains formed pre-solar, because they are inside the matrix, and are unlikely to have been modified by shock such as collision with the Earth's atmosphere or surface, and also because their composition is so alien to our solar system," said Kramers.
If it didn't form before our solar system, however, that means something much stranger. The reigning theory is that the bodies in our solar system formed from a huge, uniform cloud of dust. That's why you find the same compounds in all of the rocky stuff: planets, moons, meteors. If the Hypatia stone formed around the same time as everything else, that means the cloud wasn't uniform.
Either way, we know that the Hypatia stone formed in the kind of cold environment you find way, way beyond Neptune. "We know very little about the chemical compositions of space objects out there," Kramers said. "So our next question will dig further into where Hypatia came from."

Friday, February 1, 2019

A Fascinating Private Space Company

The Hulu Series The First "Bites The Dust"

Beau Wilimon came up with a great series about the first manned mission to Mars. He put his heart and soul into the project. I was priviled to have sat in two meetings with him. I was  impressed with his research and preparation. He created a series that did not emphasize spaceships but the characters involved. I thought that it was brilliant. Hulu did not agree with me. No season 2 coming.

'Mars Buggy' Curiosity Measures a Mountain's Gravity

'Mars Buggy' Curiosity Measures a Mountain's Gravity: Smartphone-like sensors on the NASA rover were used to calculate the density of Mount Sharp, offering new clues to its formation.