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NASA studies Mars Canyons for signs of liquid water

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Puzzles persist about possible water at seasonally dark streaks on Martian slopes, according to a new study of thousands of such features in the Red Planet’s largest canyon system.

The study published today investigated thousands of these warm-season features in the Valles Marineris region near Mars’ equator. Some of the sites displaying the seasonal flows are canyon ridges and isolated peaks, ground shapes that make it hard to explain the streaks as resulting from underground water directly reaching the surface.

Blue dots on this map indicate sites of recurring slope lineae (RSL) in part of the Valles Marineris canyon network on Mars. RSL are seasonal dark streaks that may be indicators of liquid water. The area mapped here has the highest density of known RSL on Mars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

Blue dots on this map indicate sites of recurring slope lineae (RSL) in part of the Valles Marineris canyon network on Mars. RSL are seasonal dark streaks that may be indicators of liquid water. The area mapped here has the highest density of known RSL on Mars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover put itself into Safe Mode over Fourth of July weekend

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The team operating NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is taking steps to return the rover to full activity following a precautionary stand-down over the Fourth of July weekend.

Curiosity is now communicating with ground controllers and is stable. The rover put itself into safe mode on July 2nd, ceasing most activities other than keeping itself healthy and following a prescribed sequence for resuming communications.

This May 11, 2016, self-portrait of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows the vehicle at the "Okoruso" drilling site on lower Mount Sharp's "Naukluft Plateau." The scene is a mosaic of multiple images taken with the arm-mounted Mars Hands Lens Imager (MAHLI). (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

This May 11, 2016, self-portrait of NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover shows the vehicle at the “Okoruso” drilling site on lower Mount Sharp’s “Naukluft Plateau.” The scene is a mosaic of multiple images taken with the arm-mounted Mars Hands Lens Imager (MAHLI). (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover finds differences between Earth and Mars’ Sand Dunes

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Some of the wind-sculpted sand ripples on Mars are a type not seen on Earth, and their relationship to the thin Martian atmosphere today provides new clues about the atmosphere’s history.

The determination that these mid-size ripples are a distinct type resulted from observations by NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover. Six months ago, Curiosity made the first up-close study of active sand dunes anywhere other than Earth, at the “Bagnold Dunes” on the northwestern flank of Mars’ Mount Sharp.

Two sizes of ripples are evident in this December 13th, 2015, view of a top of a Martian sand dune, from NASA's Curiosity Mars rover. Sand dunes and the smaller type of ripples also exist on Earth.

Two sizes of ripples are evident in this December 13th, 2015, view of a top of a Martian sand dune, from NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover. Sand dunes and the smaller type of ripples also exist on Earth.

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NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover may be used to search for Water on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Ever since it was announced that there may be evidence of liquid water on present-day Mars, NASA scientists have wondered how best to further investigate these long, seasonally changing dark streaks in the hope of finding evidence of life — past or present — on the Red Planet.

“It’s not as simple as driving a rover to a potential site and taking a scoop of soil,” said Jim Green, NASA’s director of planetary science. “Not only are these on steep slopes, we need to ensure that planetary protection concerns are met. In other words, how can we search for evidence of life without contaminating the sites with bugs from Earth?”

This May 11, 2016, self-portrait of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows the vehicle at the "Okoruso" drilling site on lower Mount Sharp's "Naukluft Plateau." The scene is a mosaic of multiple images taken with the arm-mounted Mars Hands Lens Imager (MAHLI). (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

This May 11, 2016, self-portrait of NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover shows the vehicle at the “Okoruso” drilling site on lower Mount Sharp’s “Naukluft Plateau.” The scene is a mosaic of multiple images taken with the arm-mounted Mars Hands Lens Imager (MAHLI). (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover finds Volcanic Mineral on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Scientists have discovered an unexpected mineral in a rock sample at Gale Crater on Mars, a finding that may alter our understanding of how the planet evolved.

NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity, has been exploring sedimentary rocks within Gale Crater since landing in August 2012. In July 2015, on Sol 1060 (the number of Martian days since landing), the rover collected powder drilled from rock at a location named “Buckskin.” Analyzing data from an X-ray diffraction instrument on the rover that identifies minerals, scientists detected significant amounts of a silica mineral called tridymite.

This low-angle self-portrait of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows the vehicle at the site from which it reached down to drill into a rock target called "Buckskin." Bright powder from that July 30, 2015, drilling is visible in the foreground. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

This low-angle self-portrait of NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover shows the vehicle at the site from which it reached down to drill into a rock target called “Buckskin.” Bright powder from that July 30, 2015, drilling is visible in the foreground. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA’s Mars Rover Opportunity finishes work at Marathon Valley on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – “Marathon Valley,” slicing through a large crater’s rim on Mars, has provided fruitful research targets for NASA’s Opportunity rover since July 2015, but the rover may soon move on.

Opportunity recently collected a sweeping panorama from near the western end of this east-west valley. The vista shows an area where the mission investigated evidence about how water altered the ancient rocks and, beyond that, the wide floor of Endeavour Crater and the crater’s eastern rim about 14 miles (22 kilometers) away.

"Marathon Valley" on Mars opens to a view across Endeavour Crater in this scene from the Pancam of NASA's Mars rover Opportunity. The scene merges many exposures taken during April and May 2016. The view spans from north (left) to west-southwest. Its foreground shows the valley's fractured texture. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.)

“Marathon Valley” on Mars opens to a view across Endeavour Crater in this scene from the Pancam of NASA’s Mars rover Opportunity. The scene merges many exposures taken during April and May 2016. The view spans from north (left) to west-southwest. Its foreground shows the valley’s fractured texture. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover prepares to climb Mount Sharp

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has analyzed its 12th drilled sample of Mars. This sample came from mudstone bedrock, which the rover resumed climbing in late May after six months studying other features.

Since the previous time Curiosity drilled into this “Murray formation” layer of lower Mount Sharp, the mission has examined active sand dunes along the rover’s route, then crossed a remnant plateau of fractured sandstone that once more extensively covered the Murray formation.

This May 11, 2016, self-portrait of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows the vehicle at the "Okoruso" drilling site on lower Mount Sharp's "Naukluft Plateau." The scene is a mosaic of multiple images taken with the arm-mounted Mars Hands Lens Imager (MAHLI). (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

This May 11, 2016, self-portrait of NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover shows the vehicle at the “Okoruso” drilling site on lower Mount Sharp’s “Naukluft Plateau.” The scene is a mosaic of multiple images taken with the arm-mounted Mars Hands Lens Imager (MAHLI). (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter data shows Dust Storm Pattern on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – After decades of research to discern seasonal patterns in Martian dust storms from images showing the dust, but the clearest pattern appears to be captured by measuring the temperature of the Red Planet’s atmosphere.

For six recent Martian years, temperature records from NASA Mars orbiters reveal a pattern of three types of large regional dust storms occurring in sequence at about the same times each year during the southern hemisphere spring and summer. Each Martian year lasts about two Earth years.

“When we look at the temperature structure instead of the visible dust, we finally see some regularity in the large dust storms,” said David Kass of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

This graphic presents Martian atmospheric temperature data as curtains over an image of Mars taken during a regional dust storm. The temperature profiles extend from the surface to about 50 miles up. Temperatures are color coded, from minus 243 degrees Fahrenheit (purple) to minus 9 F (red).

This graphic presents Martian atmospheric temperature data as curtains over an image of Mars taken during a regional dust storm. The temperature profiles extend from the surface to about 50 miles up. Temperatures are color coded, from minus 243 degrees Fahrenheit (purple) to minus 9 F (red).

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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter data reveals most recent Ice Age on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Scientists using radar data from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) have found a record of the most recent Martian ice age recorded in the planet’s north polar ice cap.

The new results agree with previous models that indicate a glacial period ended about 400,000 years ago, as well as predictions about how much ice would have been accumulated at the poles since then.

The results, published in the May 27th issue of the journal Science, help refine models of the Red Planet’s past and future climate by allowing scientists to determine how ice moves between the poles and mid-latitudes, and in what volumes.

Climatic cycles of ice and dust build the Martian polar caps, season by season, year by year, and periodically whittle down their size when the climate changes. This image is a simulated 3-D perspective view, created from image data taken by the THEMIS instrument on NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft. (NASA/JPL/Arizona State University, R. Luk)

Climatic cycles of ice and dust build the Martian polar caps, season by season, year by year, and periodically whittle down their size when the climate changes. This image is a simulated 3-D perspective view, created from image data taken by the THEMIS instrument on NASA’s Mars Odyssey spacecraft. (NASA/JPL/Arizona State University, R. Luk)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover moves across difficult terrain on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has nearly finished crossing a stretch of the most rugged and difficult-to-navigate terrain encountered during the mission’s 44 months on Mars.

The rover climbed onto the “Naukluft Plateau” of lower Mount Sharp in early March after spending several weeks investigating sand dunes. The plateau’s sandstone bedrock has been carved by eons of wind erosion into ridges and knobs. The path of about a quarter mile (400 meters) westward across it is taking Curiosity toward smoother surfaces leading to geological layers of scientific interest farther uphill.

This early-morning view from the Mastcam on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover on March 16, 2016, covers a portion of the inner wall of Gale Crater. At right, the image fades into glare of the rising sun. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

This early-morning view from the Mastcam on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover on March 16, 2016, covers a portion of the inner wall of Gale Crater. At right, the image fades into glare of the rising sun. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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