Tonight you might go out and see an extra bright orange dot in the sky. Well, that’s not a star you’re seeing, that’s Mars.
It seems that just about every week or so scientists are discovering something weird out there in space. Some of these discoveries are more exciting than others, i.e., finally discovering water ice on Mars or discovering a star that’s potentially the size of the orbit of Saturn. But then sometimes new discoveries come and go and few people pay attention to them. I would like to talk about one such discovery: the discovery of possible ocean waves on Saturn’s largest moon, Titan. Could these possible waves be caused by Titan’s winds or something else that lies beneath?
It’s a happy Valentines Day on the surface of Mars. Thanks to the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) team we can check out a collection of heart-shaped surface features.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona
A dramatic, fresh impact crater dominates this image taken by the High
Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars
Reconnaissance Orbiter on Nov. 19, 2013. Researchers used HiRISE to examine
this site because the orbiter’s Context Camera had revealed a change in
appearance here between observations in July 2010 and May 2012, bracketing the
formation of the crater between those observations.(NASA)
NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona
A little while ago I blogged about the mysterious donut-like object that suddenly appeared on the surface of Mars at the base of the Opportunity rover. NASA concluded that it was only a rock and probably got there by being kicked up from one of Opportunity’s wheels while it moved from point A to point B. Well, now NASA has a lawsuit brought against them by someone that thinks the object is more than meets the eye and he wants the investigation to go further.
Burrr… Feeling the chill of this week’s arctic blast? Much of the country is expecting historic, record breaking low temperatures.
These temperatures, unusual for us here on Earth, are normal for daytime on the planet Mars: minus 13-degrees Fahrenheit (-25 in Celsius). If you think that’s chilly, the Martian nighttime temperature drops precipitously to a minus 125-degrees F.
Baton Rouge is expecting a balmy 15 degree Fahrenheit for a low, so enjoy while it lasts.
MAVEN taking off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station
today at 1:28 p.m. ET for a 10 month journey to the Red Planet.
It will then begin orbiting Mars.
MAVEN is scheduled to launch in approximately 1 hour. If you are in Florida or South Georgia today you may be able to catch a glimpse of the liftoff. There are some thick clouds over Cape Canaveral Air Force base but the forecast is 60% favorable for launch during a two hour window. .
MAVEN, NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution spacecraft, will study the upper Martian atmosphere to find out how the air on the red planet has changed over time. This discovery may help us understand when and how long Mars might have had an environment that could have supported microbial life in its ancient past.
An exception from the federal government shutdown has been granted to NASA’s MAVEN mission “in order to protect U.S. property”. The property or properties we are talking about are on the planet Mars; the rovers Curiosity and Opportunity. If MAVEN’s launch window, which is only from November 18th through December 19th or 20th, is missed the next opportunity won’t come along until 2016. This delay would cause major problems since MAVEN’s communication equipment will take over the jobs that Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Odyssey have been doing and will allow us to continue to communicate with both rovers. Both MRO and Odyssey have passed their planned lifetimes. Preparation for the launch of NASA’s MAVEN mission has resumed and will continue on an emergency basis.
Besides being equipped to communicate, MAVEN will also probe the Martin upper atmosphere for clues to how the atmosphere has thinned and where its water has gone. MAVEN stands for Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution mission.
Mars Express will take photos of Comet ISON’s coma, the atmosphere that surrounds ISON’s nucleus. Also, NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been tracking ISON and may be able to get a look as well through October 2nd.
These cameras were designed to shoot high-resolution photos of Mars but scientists are going to attempt to use them to catch a glimpse of ISON as it passes. A lot depends on how bright ISON is as it gets closer to the sun. Keep your fingers crossed….
instruments for NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
This illustration shows comet ISON closely passing Mars on October 1, 2013. Credit: NASA