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”
Mars’ gravity makes it an amazing place to find some of the biggest landscapes in the solar system. Those would include the solar system’s biggest sand dune – one that resides in Russell crater. Now, a team of scientists led by Dr. Cynthia Dinwiddie noticed something unique about the sides of this massive dune. Occasionally gullies form along its surface. Dr. Dinwiddie’s novel explanation for this phenomena – boulders of CO2 rolling down the dune’s surface.Continue reading “Sand Dunes on Mars Shift From Season to Season”
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!”
The northern hemisphere of Mars is beginning to thaw from winter. But for the red planet, that doesn’t mean that birds will sing and flowers will bloom. It means that the carbon dioxide will sublimate. It’s still beautiful though.Continue reading “You Know it’s Spring on Mars When the Carbon Dioxide is Starting to Sublimate”
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”
Just like Earth, Mars undergoes seasonal changes due to its axial tilt. And while summer heat on Mars can’t compare with Earth’s, along with the Martian summer warmth comes an increase in small whirling storms known as dust devils.Continue reading “Summer is Dust Devil Time on Mars”
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.Continue reading “This Martian Lava Tube Skylight is 50 Meters Across. The Biggest Lava Tube on Earth is Only 15 Meters Across”