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29 April 2011

Gale Crater Videos

Yesterday I participated in a telecon about Gale Crater, one of the potential landing sites for MSL. It’s a fascinating place to talk about and would make for a spectacular mission. Ok, this is true for all four finalist landing sites, but the scenery at Gale, with its 5km tall mountain of layered rocks would be particularly great. One of the presenters at yesterday’s telecon, Dawn Sumner, posted two very nice videos on YouTube covering much of what she talked about. The videos also serve to show off a very-cool new open-source 3D visualization and GIS tool called Crusta being developed by a student at UC Davis.

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4 April 2011

The Science of Red Mars

Have you read the book Red Mars yet? If not, you can download a pdf of it here. It’s a classic hard sci-fi epic about the colonization of Mars, and for my latest post over at Science in my Fiction, I took a look at how the highly accurate depiction of Mars in the book has held up with all the new discoveries in the last 20 years. Head on over and check it out!

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3 January 2011

AGU 2010 – Days 3 and 4: Exoplanets, Impact Basins and Alteration

Now that it’s a New Year, it’s time I wrapped up my AGU 2010 recaps. This post covers Wednesday and Thursday, with lots of good stuff about super-earth exoplanets, impacts on the Moon and Mars, and lasers on Venus!

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16 December 2009

AGU 2009 – Day 1

For those not familiar with the conference, the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union is a terrifyingly, overwhelmingly large conference. Each year, something like 16,000 geoscientists descend on San Francisco to share their work. It is also one of the major planetary science conferences, so a lot of new results are first presented here. This year, the first talks that I checked out on Monday were about radar observations …

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22 March 2009

The Painted Desert and Petrified Forest

(This is the final day of a week-long field trip in Arizona. Get caught up with days 1,2,3,4,5, 6) Friday was the last day of the field trip, and we spent it at the Petrified Forest national park. We were there to study the colorful clays and river deposits, but we began the day with an unexpected bonus: our guide, Bill Parker, is a paleontologist at the park, and he …

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17 September 2008

MSL Workshop Presentations!

For those of you playing along at home, I thought I should point out that most of the presentations so far are posted at the “marsoweb” landing site website, so I encourage you to go check them out. Also, in case you were wondering, I have no idea which sites I want to survive this process. I have one or two that I am skeptical of, but I am really …

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Potential MSL Site: Gale Crater

I am sort of breaking my own protocol here by posting about Gale crater before I hear the presentations today, but since we will immediately go into discussion and decision making after it is presented this morning, I figured that it would be good to familiarize you with it now. Gale is a ~100 km diameter crater on Mars with a huge 5 km tall mound of sediments in the …

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Potential MSL Site: Mawrth Vallis

The Mawrth Vallis landing site is actually a set of four possible landing ellipses in an area with huge clay mineral signatures that is cut by a meandering outflow channel. There was some grumbling in the past about the fact that Mawrth advocates proposed four ellipses when everyone else followed the rules and only submitted one, but in the end I think it hurt them. They ran way over time …

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Potential MSL Site: Eberswalde

The Eberswalde site is interesting because it is unarguably the best example of a delta on Mars. It is in a small crater that was partially obscured by the Holden impact and forms an enclosed basin with clear inflowing channels. (we know the source and the sink!) The hypothesis is that it was a long-lived lake with a large delta. A delta environment is great because it is a location …

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Potential MSL Site: Holden Crater

The next landing site that we heard about was Holden Crater. Holden is a 154 km diameter crater formed early in martian history that happened to fall smack in the path of an extensive fluvial system. There was a long chain of craters connected by water-carved channels¬† and then the Holden impact occurred and interrupted that flow. It looks like Uzboi vallis, one of the channels, then breached the rim …

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16 September 2008

Potential MSL Site: Nili Fossae Trough

This morning we hit the ground running and heard about a very interesting site: the Nili Fossae Trough. This site would land in a big canyon formed when a block of crust dropped down. To the southeast of the site is the giant Isidis impact basin, and to the south is the Syrtis Major volcano and associated lava flows. Just east of the trough is a somewhat fresher crater whose …

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Potential MSL Site: South Meridiani

The south Meridiani landing site is a newcomer to the bunch. It was added earlier this summer as a replacement for the north meridiani site. The south Meridiani site is about 100 km due south of the Opportunity rover landing site and about 100 km due east of the Miyamoto site. What makes the south Meridiani site interesting is that, just south of the landing ellipse, you transition from Meridiani …

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Potential MSL Site: Miyamoto Crater

Miyamoto crater is an ancient crater about 150 km southwest of where the Opportunity rover is right now. It probably formed in the earliest stage of Mars history, and was then subject to lots of erosion by water, followed by being partially or completely buried by the same material that make up the Meridiani plains. Then, erosion exposed it again. The potential landing site has some interesting mineralogy, particularly evidence …

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3rd MSL Landing Site Workshop – Engineering and Geobiology

We covered a LOT today, so I have decided to split things up. This post will cover the talks in the morning and then I will give each site its own post. Today started off with presentations from some of the engineers and managers on the mission. They updated us on the rover’s status (it it making lots of progress, but still has a long way to go!), and informed …

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9 September 2008

Last Year's MSL Landing Site Workshop: Day 1

Coming up next week is the 3rd Mars Science Laboratory Landing Site Workshop, where the Mars science community will come together to narrow down the possible landing site choices for MSL. There have been two similar meeting before this one, and I was lucky enough to attend the one last year. In fact, some of my first blogging experience was summarizing the three days of that meeting. I will be …

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17 July 2008

New insights into ancient water on Mars

The evidence for a warmer, wetter ancient Mars just keeps piling up! In 2 new papers, the team for the CRISM spectrometer onboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has reported new evidence for water on the surface of ancient Mars, based on the ubiquitous presence of water-bearing minerals. Universe Today has a great post up on the findings, so I won’t repeat too much of Nancy’s explanation. In brief, the CRISM …

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21 June 2008

The Great Canadian Adventure – Part 2: Gypsumville and Salt Springs

After our trip to the mine tailings, we headed to the remains of an ancient 40 km impact crater. The crater is totally invisible, but the rocks tell the story plain as day. Our first stop was just outside the town of Gypsumville. We drove through swampy, bumpy back roads into the middle of nowhere and stopped next to an unassuming patch of rock and gravel. At first it didn’t …

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27 February 2008

Mapping Meridiani: Part 2

Last time, I gave some of the background information about my research. Now, armed with that knowledge, we can press forward and talk about what I do. I look for hydrated minerals. A hydrated mineral is a mineral with water trapped in its crystal structure. The crystal acts as a protective cage, keeping the water bound within it even when the atmospheric pressure is too low for liquid water to …

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