A Geologic map of the Entire Moon has Been Released at 1:2,500,000-Scale

Chinese scientists took 10 years to create the most detailed map yet of the Moon. Image Credit: Jinzhu Ji et al. 2022.

Chinese scientists have created the most detailed map of the Moon yet. It took them 10 years and involved hundreds of researchers. The new map will be a boon to lunar exploration and for anyone who just wants to study our natural satellite in more detail.

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Pluto’s Surface was Shaped by Ice Volcanoes

New Horizons mission scientists have determined that cryovolcanic activity most likely created unique structures on Pluto not yet seen anywhere else in the solar system. Image Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute/Isaac Herrera/Kelsi Singer

For all of Earth’s geological diversity and its long history, the planet has never had ice volcanoes. But Pluto has. And that cryovolcanism has shaped some of the ice dwarf’s surface features.

The resulting structures are unique in the Solar System.

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This is Where the Mars Sample Return Mission Could be Landing

This image was acquired based on a hopeful scenario in which the Perseverance rover has an extended mission or two and travels outside of Jezero Crater to explore terrains to the west. In this scenario, the decision could be made to land the Mars Sample Return (MSR) mission here to pick up samples collected by Perseverance. MSR will probably not land here, but acquisition of a HiRISE stereo pair provides the data needed to assess the risk of landing. The cutout shows that there are diverse colors and textures, so this would be an interesting region to explore. Image Credit: NASA/JPL/UArizona

NASA’s Perseverance Rover is busy exploring Jezero Crater on Mars. Part of its mission is to collect samples for retrieval by a future mission. NASA and the ESA haven’t determined where the sample return mission will land yet.

That depends on the Perseverance mission and how it spends the rest of its time on Mars. But we know of one possible—albeit ambitious—landing spot: just west of Jezero Crater.

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These are Star Dunes on Mars, Formed When the Wind Comes From Many Different Directions

An amazing aspect of Mars that is captured in many HiRISE images is geologic diversity within a small area. This image, of a crater in the Tyrrhena Terra region, was targeted to look at the geologic aspects of possible clays detected with the CRISM instrument. Image Credit: NASA/JPL/UArizona

Missions to Mars are expensive, even orbiters. They’re there to do science, not take pretty pictures. But sometimes Mars’ beauty is captured inadvertently, usually with some science mixed in.

That’s the case with this picture of star dunes captured by the HiRISE camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

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What’s it Like Inside a Super-Earth?

This artist’s impression shows the planet orbiting the Sun-like star HD 85512 in the southern constellation of Vela (The Sail). This planet is one of sixteen super-Earths discovered by the HARPS instrument on the 3.6-metre telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory. This planet is about 3.6 times as massive as the Earth lis at the edge of the habitable zone around the star, where liquid water, and perhaps even life, could potentially exist. Credit: ESO

We know a ton about the inside of Earth. We know it has both an inner core and an outer core and that the churning and rotation create a protective magnetosphere that shields life from the Sun’s radiative power. It has a mantle, primarily solid but also home to magma. We know it has a crust, where we live, and plate tectonics that moves the continents around like playthings.

But what about Super-Earths? We know they’re out there; we’ve found them. What do we know about their insides? Earth’s structure, and its ability to support life, are shaped by the extreme pressure and density in its interior. The pressure and temperature inside Super-Earths are even more powerful. How does it shape these planets and affect their habitability?

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It’s Been Constantly Raining Meteors on Mars for 600 Million Years. Earth too.

An impact crater on Mars. Image Credit: NASA

New research shows that Mars has faced a constant rain of meteors during the last 600 million years. This finding contradicts previous research showing that the impact rate has varied, with prominent activity spikes. Why would anyone care how often meteors rained down on Mars, a planet that’s been dead for billions of years?

Because whatever Mars was subjected to, Earth was also likely subjected to.

Who wouldn’t want to know our planet’s history?

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The Moon’s Crust was Formed From a Frozen Slushy Magma

Magma ocean and first rocky crust on the Moon. Image Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

Scientists’ detailed study of the Moon dates back to the Apollo missions when astronauts brought rock samples from the lunar surface back to Earth for analysis. Apollo 11 gathered samples from the lunar highland regions, the pale areas on the Moon’s surface easily seen from Earth. The highlands are made of a relatively light rock called anorthosite, which formed early in the history of the Moon, between 4.3 and 4.5 billion years ago.

There’s some mystery involved in the anorthosite formation on the Moon. The age of the anorthosite highlands doesn’t match how long it took for the Moon’s magma ocean to cool. But scientists behind a new study think they’ve solved that mystery.

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Remember When Life was Found in a Martian Meteorite? Turns out, it was Just Geology

The Alan Hills meteorite is a part of history to Mars aficionados. It came from Mars and meteorite hunters discovered in Antarctica in 1984. Scientists think it’s one of the oldest chunks of rock to come from Mars and make it to Earth.

The meteorite made headlines in 1996 when a team of researchers said they found evidence of life in it.

Did they?

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InSight Peers Deep Below the Surface on Mars

Artist's concept of InSight "taking the pulse of Mars". Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The InSight lander has been on Mars, gathering data for a thousand days now, working to give us a better understanding of the planet’s interior. It’s at Elysium Planitia, the second largest volcanic region on Mars. A newly-published paper based on seismic data from the lander shows something unexpected underground: a layer of sediment sandwiched between layers of lava flows.

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Curiosity Might Not Be In An Ancient Lake At All

Photos can’t do some places justice – nor can any level of sophisticated remote sensing.  That seems to be the case for Gale CraterCuriosity has been wandering around the crater for almost the last nine years.  Scientists thought Gale crater was an old lakebed, and it was specifically chosen as a landing site to allow Curiosity to collect samples from such a lakebed.  But new research from scientists at the University of Hong Kong shows that most likely, the samples Curiosity has been analyzing during its sojourn didn’t actually form in a lake.

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