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16 October 2013

Making Martian clouds on Earth

If you want to understand the atmosphere of a planet, it helps to think big. That’s just what scientists did recently when they created conditions in the world’s largest cloud chamber mimicking those in the thin veil of gases that surrounds Mars. Experiments by the researchers within the three-story shell of a former nuclear reactor confirmed earlier runs in tabletop setups that have shown how the most common clouds on Mars form.


5 April 2013

A last hurrah of flowing water on Mars

This is not so much a review of a recent paper as a review of a significant paper. “An intense terminal epoch of widespread fluvial activity on early Mars:1. Valley network incision and associated deposits” by Alan Howard, Jeff Moore, and Ross Irwin is the first of a pair of papers published in 2005 that make the case that instead of a gradual transition from warm and wet to cold …


18 February 2013

Remote Sensing and Planetary Processes: An Interview with Dr. Alex Hayes

Dr. Alex Hayes is Assistant Professor of Astronomy at Cornell University. Hayes uses spacecraft-based remote sensing to study the properties of planetary surfaces, their interactions with the interior, and if present, atmosphere. Recently, he has focused on studying the coupling of surface, subsurface, and atmospheric processes on Titan and Mars.


7 February 2013

The Mysterious Moving Rocks of Mars

How did the boulders in the picture above end up in clumps and arcs instead of randomly distributed across the surface? That’s the focus of the paper “Possible Mechanism of Boulder Clustering on Mars” by Travis Orloff, Mikhail Kreslavsky, and Eric Asphaug that is currently In Press in the journal Icarus.


18 January 2013

Using a very strong light to study rock number four

To jump on the bandwagon, here is my research, described using only the 1000 most common English words. It would have been nice if “Mars” and “Laser” and “Robot” were available:


17 January 2013

The two-faced crust of Mars

I am always a sucker for research that uses very simple observations to come to profound conclusions, and that is definitely the case with “The dual nature of the martian crust: Young lavas and old clastic materials” by Josh Bandfield, Chris Edwards, David Montgomery, and Brittany Brand. This paper suggests that the martian crust has a dual nature, where the oldest rocks are actually softer and easier to erode, while more recently lava flows have led to much more durable terrain.


21 December 2012

Fire or Ice? Options for the Apocalypse

Well folks, this is it. As of tomorrow, December 21, 2012, we will reach the end of the current b’aktun of the Mayan Long Count calendar. And then, well, you know what will happen.


5 December 2012

AGU 2012: Days 1 and 2 Highlights

Greetings! It’s been a busy first two days of AGU, and it’s impossible to convey it all, but here are a few highlights: Monday morning was my poster presentation, so that prevented me from seeing very many talks. I did stop by the Mars talks long enough to hear ChemCam team member Darby Dyar give a talk summarizing the many challenges involved in getting quantitative numbers out of LIBS data, …


6 November 2012

Updated Google Mars!

You guys! Google Mars has been updated!

You did know that Google Earth comes with a Google Mars mode, right?


28 August 2012

Danny Krysak: An out-of-this-world geologist (Accretionary Wedge #49)

For this month’s Accretionary Wedge, Dana Hunter over at En Tequila Es Veridad suggests that, in honor of the Mars Science Laboratory (and the rover Curiosity) making a successful landing on the Red Planet, we should talk about exogeology! Well, exogeologists, I’ve got a real treat for you. You know those photos that we all tweet and blog and comment on and drool over when they come down from Curiosity’s cameras? Well, I’ve got an interview with one of the camera team who is, quite literally, the first person on Earth to see some of those photos – Danny Krysak!


12 August 2012

First Super High Res Images From Curiosity

The whole image is here:  


11 August 2012

Sols 4 to 5: New Flight Software, MSL memes

After my uplink shift yesterday, I managed to catch a few hours of sleep before coming in at 3am. Today was my day off, you see. You may be wondering why one would come in to work at 3am on one’s day off. Answer: because that’s when the science happens! Actually, I mis-read the schedule. The science theme group meetings were more like 1am, but I got in in time …


8 August 2012

Sol 1 to 2: MAHLI landscape, HiRISE Crime Scene

So, remember the awesome new data that I was geeking out about at the end of my previous post, but which I couldn’t share? Well, it has now been discussed at a press conference, so I’m free to share it. First up, here’s the image that made the ChemCam team shout out loud because of its sheer awesomeness…


6 August 2012

As Curiosity’s wheels touch down, science gets rolling

As viewing parties celebrating the successful landing of the Mars Science Laboratory wound down early Monday morning, 400 scientists – many of them AGU members – were already using their newest tool for investigating the red planet.



We made it! Curiosity is safely on the surface of Mars and is returning some spectacular data!


The MRO Grabs A Pic Of Curiosity Descending to Mars!

This is one amazing picture. Imagine the technology to look at just the right moment from high above Mars, 250 million miles from Earth and grab an image of Curiosity on it’s parachute just about to land. INCREDIBLE!


Dare Mighty Things

“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”


5 August 2012

Good luck to Curiosity and the MSL teams!

You’ve probably been reading exciting things about tonight’s landing from my fellow AGU Geolblogger, Ryan Anderson of the Martian Chronicles. He’s been doing a fantastic job of covering the upcoming landing (at 1:31 AM EDT tomorrow morning, or 10:31 PM tonight for the folks at JPL), and I’ve been following his posts with fascination. But I’ve also got another reason to be interested: Danny Krysak, a former UB grad student and one of my good friends, is now working at Malin Space Science Systems and is part of the camera team for Curiosity! He’s every bit as excited about tonight, and I wanted to take the chance to wish both Danny and Ryan a fantastic (and successful) landing!


Good Luck Curiosity!

“The surface of the Earth is the shore of the cosmic ocean. From it we have learned most of what we know. Recently, we have waded a little out to sea, enough to dampen our toes or, at most, wet our ankles. The water seems inviting. The ocean calls.” – Carl Sagan They’ve planned for every conceivable eventuality. Let’s just hope the do not run into a space demodulator and …


3 August 2012

Two Mars scientists prepare for Curiosity’s descent to the red planet

Two young AGU member-scientists balance nervousness with excitement over the imminent arrival of the Mars Science Laboratory, a.k.a. “Curiosity,” on the planet’s surface. For Ryan Anderson the journey beginning next week in Mars’ Gale Crater dates back several years when his graduate school advisor asked him, “Hey, you want to look at [Mars] landing sites? Here’s a cool one!” Building on other researchers’ previous studies, Anderson’s subsequent work at Cornell …