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16 April 2011

Dreaming of Easy-to-Use Data

Some thoughts on how difficult it is to use multiple different types of data in planetary science, how easy it could be, and two free programs that are important first steps in making easy-to-use data a reality.


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!


12 July 2010

Microsoft goes to Mars

Today, NASA and Microsoft announced a very cool new addition to Microsoft’s Worldwide Telescope (WWT) program: Mars images! Yep, now you can use WWT to cruise around Mars and to view the planet with a handful of datasets, including 13,000 mind-blowingly high-resolution HiRISE images, and even more almost-as-high-resolution MOC images. There is also the standard MOLA colorized topography and a low-resolution approximately true color map. It’s great to see all …


17 November 2009

Be a Martian!

Fact #1: As a Mars scientist, I am incredibly spoiled. There are so many missions to Mars right now sending back so much data, that even if they all went silent tomorrow, it would be decades before we managed to look at all the data and figure out what it’s telling us. Fact #2: There are lots of people out there (I’m looking at you, loyal readers!) who would love …


2 March 2009

The MOC "Book": Volcanic Landforms

More about the MOC paper! This is part six of a series of posts looking at the huge 2001 paper summarizing the results from the Mars Orbital Camera (MOC): the first high-resolution camera in orbit around Mars. Check out the previous posts if you want to get caught up: 1,2,3,4,5 Today’s topic is volcanism, something I’ve written a lot about before on the blog. Mars is essentially a volcanic planet, …


28 February 2009

The MOC Book: Polar Processes

I’m falling behind on my blogging of the MOC “book”! We read a lot this week, so I will just stick to the highlights. In other words: mostly pictures, less text. This paper is really all about the pictures anyway! (if you’re just tuning in to the MOC series, check out posts 1,2,3 and 4) The Martian poles are extremely fascinating but extremely bizarre places. The polar caps are made …


16 February 2009

The MOC "book": Dunes, Ripples and Streaks

This is the fourth in a series of posts about the huge paper by Malin and Edgett summarizing the results from the Mars Orbital Camera’s (MOC’s) primary mission. If you’re just tuning in, get caught up by reading the first three posts, and if you want to read along, download a pdf of the paper here. This week we’re looking at two sections: “Aeolian Processes and Landforms” and “Polar Processes …


15 February 2009

The MOC "Book": Subsurface Patterns and Properties

The MOC paper saga continues. If you’re just tuning in, I’ve been writing a series of posts detailing a slow and detailed reading of the classic 2001 paper summarizing the results from the Mars Orbital Camera (MOC), the first high-resolution camera in orbit around Mars. Check out the previous posts here and here. Also, a reader pointed out to me that the full PDF of the paper is freely available …


6 February 2009

Weird Outcrops in Schiaparelli Crater

Today while we were discussing the section of the MOC paper that I posted about yesterday, we decided to look more closely at one of the figures. In the paper, the authors suggest that the light-colored rocks are on top of the dunes, implying that the dunes are fossilized, were buried and are now being uncovered. We found a HiRISE image of the area and found out that the truth …


5 February 2009

The MOC "book": Surface Patterns and Properties

Welcome to part 2 of our attempt at tackling The Beast. If you missed Part 1, check it out here. We are working our way, slowly but surely, through the monstrous 2001 Mars Orbital Camera paper by Malin and Edgett. This paper summarizes the results from MOC, which revolutionized the scientific community’s view of Mars. This week we’re going to be looking at the section discussing surface patterns and properties. …


2 February 2009

New Google Mars

Google Earth’s latest edition was just released and guess what? It has a Mars setting! There was a way to overlay Mars data on the Earth globe in previous versions, but now that’s no longer necessary: just click a button and you’re on Mars. You can choose from a variety of global maps including topography, Viking images, Day and nighttime infrared, and visible color. It also has footprints for high …


30 January 2009

The MOC "Book": Introduction

When the Mars Global Surveyor arrived at Mars in 1997, it brought with it the most powerful camera ever placed in orbit around another planet, the Mars Orbital Camera (MOC). In 2001, the principal investigators of MOC, Mike Malin and Ken Edgett, published a massive 134 page paper, summarizing the results of the mission and revolutionizing the world’s view of Mars. Here in the MarsLab, the paper is fondly referred …


15 November 2008

Mars Art: Something Old, Something New

I love this image. It is a view from the Mars Orbital Camera (MOC) showing layered rocks and dunes in the bottom of an unnamed crater in Arabia Terra, Mars. The rocks are extremely ancient sediments, laid down billions of years ago when the planet was young. One of the most impressive things to me is how nice and regular the layers are. The black dunes and the granule ripples …


2 November 2008

Mars Art: Dust Devil Tracks

In this scene, taken by the Mars Orbital Camera (MOC) on Mars Global Surveyor, dust devils have swirled and gyrated back and forth, lifting the bright dust off of the surface and leaving complicated dark-toned streaks. There are many more examples of this, including some where the dust devils have been caught in the act! I’m posting this as Mars Art because it looks for all the world to me …


20 August 2008

How to Look at Mars

There is so much Mars data out there that it hard to keep track of all of it! Thankfully there are some useful tools that let anyone look easily look at orbital data of anywhere on the planet. The first is a program called “jmars“. This java-based program distributed by Arizona State University lets you overlay all sorts of global datasets, from MOLA topography to THEMIS nighttime infrared maps to …


15 March 2008

Mars is gorges? Gullies @ LPSC

A half session at LPSC was devoted to observations and analog work on Martian gullies. These apparently young, water carved features are one of the many big puzzles on Mars today. Credit: NASA / JPL/ U. Ariz. Gullies, like the one shown above, were discovered on Mars back in 2000 in images taken by the Mars Orbiter Camera, the first high-res camera in orbit around the red planet. They were …