About three billion years ago, rushing water on Mars carried mud and boulders down a steep slope and deposited them into a vast fan-shaped debris pile. NASA’s Curiosity Rover has been trying to reach a ridge overlooking the region, and now finally, the rover has reached this vantage point after three years of climbing. NASA released a 360-degree view image of the region, showing the jumble of rocks strewn about by the rushing water. Now, Curiosity is reaching out to touch and study them.Continue reading “Curiosity Has Spent Three Years Trying to Reach This Spot on Mars”
NASA’s Curiosity Rover usually looks down at the ground, studying nearby rocks and craters. But sometimes, it looks up and sees something wonderful.
A new image released by Curiosity shows beautiful sun rays, called crepuscular rays, streaming through a bank of clouds on Mars at sunset. While relatively common here on Earth, they have never been seen on Mars. Crepuscular comes from crepusculum, the Latin word for twilight.
Another image from the rover shows a feather-shaped iridescent cloud in the high atmosphere on Mars.Continue reading “Curiosity Sees Spectacular Crepuscular Rays in Martian Clouds”
NASA’s rolling geology robot shared a great image of sandstone that it found on Mars in Jezero Crater. It’s in a region called “Yori Pass”, which is part of an ancient river delta. Perseverance will take rock samples there for the upcoming Sample Return Mission. They should tell more about what happened with water in this region. And maybe they’ll show evidence of life.Continue reading “Perseverance has Found a Nice Patch of Sandstone on Mars”
The Curiosity rover has now reached its primary target on Mount Sharp on Mars, the mountain in the middle of Gale Crater the rover has been climbing since 2014. This target is not the summit, but a region over 600 meters (2,000 feet) up the mountain that planetary geologists have long anticipated reaching.
Known as the “sulfate-bearing unit,” the region is a boundary between the rocks that saw a lot of water in their history and those that didn’t; a possible shoreline, if you will. That boundary is already providing insights into Mars’ transition from a wet planet to dry, filling in a key gap in the understanding of the planet’s history.Continue reading “Curiosity Arrives in a Salty Region of Mars. Was it Left Over From a Dying Sea?”
On Earth, we all know what changes our landscapes: water and wind erosion, tectonic activity, and volcanism. Today on Mars, wind-driven erosion is hard at work. Wind is an inexorable sculptor everywhere. And, it might have created places where planetary scientists and astrobiologists hunt for traces of primordial Martian life today.Continue reading “Without Water and Life, Geology on Mars is Driven by the Wind”
We are carbon-based life forms. That means the basis for the chemical compounds that forms our life is the element carbon. It’s crucial because it bonds with other elements such as hydrogen and oxygen to create the complex molecules that are part of life. So, when we look for evidence of life elsewhere in the solar system, we look for carbon. That includes Mars.Continue reading “Curiosity Finds Life-Crucial Carbon in Mars Rocks”
Remember all the fuss about the “doorway on Mars” from just last week? Well, this week, NASA issued some more information about the rock mound where the Curiosity rover snapped a pic showing a fracture hole in the rock. It looks like a door, but it’s not.Continue reading “The “Doorway on Mars” is More Like a Dog Door”
The planet Mars has a lot of intriguing geological features, but a doorway in the side of some sedimentary rock on the flank of Mount Sharp (Aeolis Mons) isn’t one of them. In fact, no such doorway on Mars (supposedly created by aliens) exists. But, there is a break in the rock that really, really does look like one. The fact that it isn’t a real doorway hasn’t stopped a lot of speculation over its appearance in an image snapped by the MastCam on the Curiosity rover on Sol 3466 (May 7, 2022). The plain truth is that the odd-looking feature is really a fracture in ancient layers of sand that have hardened into rock over millions of years. A combination of light, shadow and viewing angle makes it look like a door. But, it’s not.Continue reading “No, This Isn’t a Doorway on Mars”
NASA has granted mission extensions to eight different planetary missions, citing the continued excellent operations of the spacecraft, but more importantly, the sustained scientific productivity of these missions, “and the potential to deepen our knowledge and understanding of the solar system and beyond.” Each mission will be extended for three more years.
One of the most exciting extensions gives a new mission to the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, sending it to one of the most infamous asteroids of them all, the potentially hazardous asteroid Apophis.Continue reading “Eight Missions are Getting Extensions, Most Exciting: OSIRIS-REx is Going to Asteroid Apophis”
The Curiosity rover took a picture of something pretty enticing this week on the surface of Mars. While the object in question looks like a tiny little flower or maybe even some type of organic feature, the rover team confirmed this object is a mineral formation, with delicate structures that formed by mineral precipitating from water. The size of this tiny object is just 1 centimeter.Continue reading “Curiosity Finds a Bizarre Rock on Mars that Looks Like a Flower”