Mars has been in the news a lot lately, and for good reason. With the historic landing of the Perseverance Rover earlier in the year, and the successful flight of Ingenuity, the first-ever aircraft to fly in another atmosphere, earlier this morning (April 19, 2021), there’s no shortage of exciting stories of technical brilliance from the human-built wonders exploring the red planet. High above the plucky helicopter, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) surveys the Martian landscape on a grand scale. A brain-bending image released by High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE), a powerful camera aboard MRO, shows a sunken pit in the planet’s polar region. From the high-altitude perspective of the orbiter, it’s easy for the mind to warp the concave depression into a convex, acne-esque Martian polar zit!Continue reading “This Is a Collapsed Pit on Mars, Not a Pimple”
NASA’s InSight lander felt the distant rumble of two major ‘marsquakes’ in March, originating from a region near the Martian equator known as the Cerberus Fossae. Registering magnitudes of 3.1 and 3.3 on March 7th and March 18th respectively, the quakes cement the Cerberus Fossae’s reputation as one of the most geologically active places on the Red Planet today. A pair of similarly strong marsquakes rocked the same region back in 2019.Continue reading “InSight Detects Two Significant Quakes from the Cerberus Fossae Region on Mars”
Sand dunes on Mars are fascinating. They shift and move in different ways than they do on Earth, and they can grow to much more immense sizes than on our own planet. Several conditions contribute to the gigantic sand dunes and large fields of dunes that can form on the Red Planet, including its low gravity and air pressure.
Seasonal changes affect the Martian sand dunes, as well.Continue reading “Frosty Sand Dunes on Mars”
Mars has a great combination of dust and wind. The result of that combination is often dust devils.
The HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has captured several dust devils in action, including this lonely whirling dust cloud traversing across a small crater on the Red Planet.Continue reading “A Single Dust Devil on Mars”
The HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has done it again.
The imaging team was able to capture the Perseverance rover as it descended through the Martian atmosphere, hanging under its parachute.
Stunning.Continue reading “Perseverance’s Landing … Seen From Orbit!”
On Earth, the study of ice core samples is one of many methods scientists use to reconstruct the history of our past climate change. The same is true of Mars’ northern polar ice cap, which is made up of many layers of frozen water that have accumulated over eons. The study of these layers could provide scientists with a better understanding of how the Martian climate changed over time.
This remains a challenge since the only way we are able to study the Martian polar ice caps right now is from orbit. Luckily, a team of researchers from UC Boulder was able to use data obtained by the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) to chart how the northern polar ice caps’ evolved over the past few million years.Continue reading “How Old is the Ice at Mars’ North Pole?”
Who has an even bigger grin than ten years ago? This goofy-looking crater on Mars.Continue reading “The “Happy Face Crater” on Mars Has Been Changing Right Before Our Eyes”
Since the 1960s and 70s, scientists have come to view Mars as something of a “dead planet.” As the first close-up images from orbit and the surface came in, previous speculation about canals, water, and a Martian civilization were dispelled. Subsequent studies also revealed that the geological activity that created features like the Tharsis Mons region (especially Olympus Mons) and Valles Marineris had ceased long ago.
However, in the past few decades, robotic missions have found ample evidence that Mars is still an active place. A recent indication was an image taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), which showed relatively fresh landslides in a crater near Nili Fossae. This area is part of the Syrtis Major region and is located just north of the Jezero Crater (where the Perseverance rover will be landing in six weeks!)Continue reading “Mars is Still an Active World. Here’s a Landslide in Nili Fossae”
In many ways, Mars is the planet that is most similar to the Earth. The red world has polar ice caps, a nearly 24-hour rotation period (about 24 hours and 37 minutes), mountains, plains, dust storms, volcanoes, a population of robots, many of which are old and no longer work, and even a Grand Canyon of sorts. The ‘Grand Canyon’ on Mars is actually far grander than any Arizonan gorge. Valles Marineris dwarfs the Grand Canyon of the southwestern US, spanning 4,000 km in length (the distance between LA and New York City), and dives 7 kilometers into the Martian crust (compared to a measly 2km of depth seen in the Grand Canyon). Newly released photos from the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) reveal a stunning look at eroding cliff faces in Candor Chasma, a gigantic canyon that comprises a portion of the Valles Marineris system.Continue reading “Layers Upon Layers of Rock in Candor Chasma on Mars”
At a fundamental level, Mars is a volcanic planet. Its surface is home to the Solar System’s largest extinct volcano, Olympus Mons, and another trio of well-known volcanoes at Tharsis Montes. And those are just the highlights: there are many other volcanoes on the surface. Though that volcanic activity ceased long ago, the planet’s surface tells the tale of a world disrupted and shaped by powerful volcanic eruptions.Continue reading “You Can See the Spot Where Lava Broke Through the Wall of a Martian Crater and Began Filling it Up”