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15 April 2015

Sol 957: Fine Views and Limited Downlink

  by Ken Herkenhoff MSL drove about 65 meters on Sol 956, then took some nice images of the path ahead.  As we continue to drive each sol, acquiring images of the terrain around us is important to the science team.  We don’t want to miss anything!  So the Sol 957 plan includes ChemCam RMI and Mastcam images of outcrops to the south and a Mastcam image of the windblown …


3 April 2015

Sols 946-947: Mars Hand Lens Imager mosaic

  by Ken Herkenhoff The MAHLI operations team did a lot of good work preparing for Sol 946, so I expected that it would be an easy day for me as uplink lead. Unfortunately, a problem on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) prevented some of the data we expected to receive in time for planning from being relayed to Earth.  MRO has been very reliable in the past and we have gotten used to …


22 April 2011

New CO2 Reservoir Discovered on Mars

If you’ve followed Mars science for long, you know that the question of where the atmosphere went is a major one. Evidence points to liquid water on the surface of Mars, and that’s only possible if the atmospheric pressure is high enough and the surface temperature is warm enough. Adding CO2 to the atmosphere would increase both temperature and pressure, so a lot of scientists have been looking for carbonate rocks that might be trapping the CO2 that used to be in the atmosphere.

Well, this week a new article in Science reveals that there is a huge amount of CO2 trapped as dry ice near the South Pole!


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!


26 May 2010

Mars Polar Cap Mystery Solved

If you’ve ever seen a picture of the north polar cap of Mars, you’ve probably wondered why it has those spiral troughs in it. Until recently, you would be in good company: it’s a question that has been plaguing scientists for 40 years. But it has finally been solved! Go check out my new article at Universe Today to find out more!


27 January 2010

Awesome new Mars flyovers

Check out these awesome flyovers of Mars, generated by Doug Ellison of UnmannedSpaceflight! These are based on digital elevation models from HiRISE, draped with the HiRISE images, so it’s about as close as we can get to actually flying above the surface of Mars. I particularly like the Gale crater one, but I may be slightly biased, having stared at Gale for the past year or so…


5 January 2010

Putative "recent" lakes on Mars

I have a new article up at Universe Today about the discovery of possible lakes on Mars as recently as 3 billion years ago. I’m skeptical of the conclusion because there are a lot of uncertainties in crater age-dating on Mars, and the whole argument hangs on the discovery of small channels between pits that are supposedly due to flowing water, but it’s interesting nonetheless. Stay tuned, I have more …


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 …


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 …


6 November 2009

Mars Art: Mind-blowing Swiss Cheese

First of all, a reminder to go vote on my article about MSL, which is a finalist in the science writing competition. Ok, done? Good. I wanted you to do that before I showed you this image because it may very well break your brain. This is a HiRISE image of the so-called “swiss cheese” terrain at the south pole of mars. The terrain is formed by the sublimation …


27 April 2009

Pretty Dunes in Gale Crater

This is a tiny subframe from the HiRISE image PSP_009294_1750.


15 April 2009

Watching out for Dust Storms

NASA just sent out this press release discussing the various ways that we watch out for dust storms that might be dangerous to the rovers. I have actually used data from the Mars Color Imager (MARCI) that they mention in the release, but I used it for the exact opposite task! I wrote programs that search through the images taken by that camera (there are a lot of them, it …


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 …


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 …


18 December 2008

AGU Day 3: MRO

A long walk to Circuit City and a few dollars later, I am now the proud owner of a new AC adaptor! Luckily today is all posters so I have some time to post a summary of yesterday’s events. Yesterday was a day chock full of Martian goodness, and it started off bright and early with a summary of the results from the Mars Reconaissance Orbiter’s primary mission. MRO has …


24 November 2008

Mars Art: Dunes in Abalos Undae

This week’s Mars Art is a HiRISE view of Dunes in Abalos Undae. Pictures of sand dunes taken by HiRISE never get old for me. There is something about the undulating, regular shapes of dunes that is fascinating and beautiful and peaceful. There is a great quote about dunes in the book “Physics of Blown Sand and Desert Dunes” by R.A. Bagnold that goes on quite poetically about them, but …


23 November 2008

More About Mars Glaciers

I posted previously about the announcement that buried glaciers had been discovered on Mars, but now I’ve had time to actually take a look at the article in Science. The important point of the article is not that these formations were discovered (we’ve actually known about them for some time) but that, using radar on the Mars Reconaissance Orbiter, scientists were able to penetrate the surface of these mysterious glacier-looking …


21 November 2008

Buried Glaciers on Mars!

Gosh, why are there so many news articles about Mars when I’m busy? Here’s the press release, and Bad Astronomy and Universe Today have both weighed in, so I’ll let you read them. Here’s a picture of a Martian glacier:


26 September 2008

Plumbing on Mars: HiRISE Reveals Groundwater Cracks

This image from the HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconaissance Orbiter, shows cracks in the rocks on Mars that once formed the underground plumbing through which groundwater traveled. Groundwater flow on Mars has been speculated for a long time, but it takes powerful cameras like HiRISE to actually find the evidence. These cracks resisted erosion because they were filled with minerals deposited by groundwater, so now we can see them …