Bright Ejecta Reveals a Fresh Crater on Mars

Meteors hit much harder on Mars than they do on the Earth.  Lack of atmosphere obviously contributes to that, but its proximity to the asteroid belt also makes the red planet a more likely target for some gravitationally disturbed rock to run into.  Now that we have a satellite infrastructure consistently monitoring Mars, we are able to capture the aftermath of what happens when it is pummeled by space debris, and the results can be dramatic.

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Mars has Been Through Many Ice Ages in the Last Billion Years

Like Earth, Mars has experienced periods of extreme glaciation or ice sheet coverage, which are known as ice ages. As these ice ages come and go, glaciers expand and contract along the planet’s surface, grinding huge boulders down to smaller rocks. By examining the size of boulders and rocks at specific locations on Mars, we should be able to understand the history of the Martian ice ages.

A new study did just that.

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This Martian Lava Tube Skylight is 50 Meters Across. The Biggest Lava Tube on Earth is Only 15 Meters Across

NASA’s Mariner 9 was the first spacecraft to orbit another planet when it reached Mars in late 1971. It got there only a few weeks before the Soviet Union’s Mars 2 and Mars 3 spacecraft, despite being launched 11 days later than those missions. Unfortunately, there was a major dust storm when Mariner 9 arrived, and NASA had to wait until January before the spacecraft could get good images.

When it did get those images, they revealed a surprise: volcanoes and lava flows cover large portions of the Martian surface.

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Sediments on Mars, Created By Blowing Wind or Flowing Water

The HiRISE (High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) instrument on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has given us a steady stream of images of the Martian surface. It’s been in orbit around Mars since March 2006, and has greatly outlived its intended mission length.

One of the latest Hi-PODs, or HiRISE Pictures of the Day, is this one, of sedimentary rock on Mars being eroded away.

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Another Incredible Picture of Mars, This Time From a Region Just Outside Valles Marineris

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) delivers once again! Using its advanced imaging instrument, the High Resolution Imaging Experiment (HiRISE) camera, the orbiter captured a breathtaking image (shown below) of the plains north of Juventae Chasma. This region constitutes the southwestern part of Valles Marineris, the gigantic canyon system that runs along the Martian equator.

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This is the Spot Where ESA’s Schiaparelli Crashed Into Mars

On October 19th, 2016, the NASA/ESA ExoMars mission arrived at the Red Planet to begin its study of the surface and atmosphere. While the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) successfully established orbit around Mars, the Schiaparelli Lander crashed on its way to the surface. At the time, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) acquired images of the crash site using its High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera.

In March and December of 2019, the HiRISE camera captured images of this region once again to see what the crash site looked like roughly three years later. The two images show the impact crater that resulted from the crash, which was partially-obscured by dust clouds created by the recent planet-wide dust storm. This storm lasted throughout the summer of 2019 and coincided with Spring in Mars’ northern hemisphere.

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Curiosity Captured from Orbit Crossing Landing Ellipse Boundary – Martian Scenery from Above and Below

NASA has now released a breathtaking high resolution image of the rover Curiosity captured from Mars orbit coincidentally coinciding with her crossing the targeted landing ellipse just days after she marked ‘1 Martian Year’ on the Red Planet in search of the chemical ingredients necessary to support alien microbial life forms.

The orbital image was taken on June 27 (Sol 672) by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and clearly shows the rover and wheel tracks at the end of the drive that Sol, or Martian day.

You can simultaneously experience the Martian eye view of Curiosity from above and below by checking out our Sol 672 ground level photo mosaic – below. It’s assembled from raw images taken by the mast mounted navigation camera (Navcam) showing the rovers wheel tracks and distant rim of the Gale Crater landing site.

Curiosity treks across Martian dunes and drives outside landing ellipse here, in this photo mosaic view captured on Sol 672, June 27, 2014.    Navcam camera raw images stitched and colorized.   Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Marco Di Lorenzo/Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com
Curiosity treks across Martian dunes and drives outside landing ellipse here, in this photo mosaic view captured on Sol 672, June 27, 2014. Navcam camera raw images stitched and colorized. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Marco Di Lorenzo/Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com

The six wheeled robot drove about 269 feet (82 meters) on June 27 traversing to the boundary of her targeted landing ellipse in safe terrain – approximately 4 miles wide and 12 miles long (7 kilometers by 20 kilometers) – for the first time since touchdown on Mars nearly two years ago on August 5, 2012 inside Gale Crater.

Curiosity celebrated another Martian milestone anniversary on June 24 (Sol 669) – 1 Martian Year on Mars!

A Martian year is equivalent to 687 Earth days, or nearly two Earth years.

1 Martian Year on Mars!  Curiosity treks to Mount Sharp in this photo mosaic view captured on Sol 669, June 24, 2014.    Navcam camera raw images stitched and colorized.   Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Marco Di Lorenzo/Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com
1 Martian Year on Mars!
Curiosity treks to Mount Sharp in this photo mosaic view captured on Sol 669, June 24, 2014. Navcam camera raw images stitched and colorized. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Marco Di Lorenzo/Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com

The SUZ sized rover is driving as swiftly as possible to the base of Mount Sharp which dominates the center of Gale Crater and reaches 3.4 miles (5.5 km) into the Martian sky – taller than Mount Rainier.

During Year 1 on Mars, Earth’s emissary has already accomplished her primary objective of discovering a habitable zone on the Red Planet that contains the minerals necessary to support microbial life in the ancient past when Mars was far wetter and warmer billions of years ago.

To date, Curiosity’s odometer totals over 5.1 miles (8.4 kilometers) since landing inside Gale Crater on Mars in August 2012. She has taken over 165,000 images.

Curiosity still has about another 2.4 miles (3.9 kilometers) to go to reach the entry way at a gap in the treacherous sand dunes at the foothills of Mount Sharp sometime later this year.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Curiosity, Opportunity, Orion, SpaceX, Boeing, Orbital Sciences, commercial space, MAVEN, MOM, Mars and more planetary and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

Amazing Sharper View of MSL Hanging by its Parachute

I have to steal a phrase from Phil Plait, the Bad Astronomer, who earlier this week said something like, “Things just can’t keep getting more cool all the time, right?”

Well, apparently they can. Here’s a sharpened view from HiRISE of the Mars Science Laboratory descending to Mars on a parachute. It shows greater detail of the parachute and even MSL itself.

Just wow.

The original image cropped image:

The HiRISE team describes how they sharpened the image: “This image was given special processing by members of the HiRISE Team, that included removing detector noise and optical blur. The sharpening was achieved by converting the image to its frequency components, correcting for the minor blur that was characterized by pre-flight laboratory measurements, and converting back.”

All I know is that it’s awesome.

See our article on the original image and how the team captured it.

See more details at the HiRISE website.