This week Earth will overtake Mars in its orbit and will be at one of its closest positions to the planet. That will make Mars especially large and red in the night sky. Then, after midnight on April 15th a lunar eclipse will occur. (Details on the lunar eclipse in a Washington Post article.)
Comet Sliding Spring will pass very close to Mars when it approaches the planet in October 2014. It will produce a shower of particles as it flies by the planet could threaten orbiting spacecraft. There is a tiny chance that it could hit Mars.
“NASA spacecraft orbiting Mars have returned clues for understanding seasonal features that are the strongest indication of possible liquid water that may exist today on the Red Planet.” Quoted from the NASA press release.
“Space rocks hitting Mars excavate fresh craters at a pace of more than 200 per year, but few new Mars scars pack as much visual punch as one seen in a NASA image released today.” Quoted from the NASA press release (February 5, 2014).
While preparing to start robotic arm work on the target “Cape Elizabeth” on Sol 3541 (Jan. 8, 2014), Opportunity encountered a slight surprise — a rock had appeared in the images that had not been there before. This target that has been named “Pinnacle Island” and its origin has been the target of much speculation.
“Although researchers have determined the ages of rocks from other planetary bodies, the actual experiments—like analyzing meteorites and moon rocks—have always been done on Earth. Now, for the first time, researchers have successfully determined the age of a Martian rock—with experiments performed on Mars.” Quoted from the Caltech press release.
“South-central Idaho and the surface of Mars have an interesting geological feature in common: amphitheater-headed canyons. These U-shaped canyons with tall vertical headwalls are found near the Snake River in Idaho as well as on the surface of Mars. Various explanations for how these canyons formed have been offered—some for Mars, some for Idaho, some for both. [...] Kenneth A. Farley offers a plausible account that all these canyons were created by enormous floods.” Quoted from the Caltech press release.
“NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has revealed to scientists slender dark markings — possibly due to salty water – that advance seasonally down slopes surprisingly close to the Martian equator.” Quoted from the NASA press release.
“This illustration depicts a concept for the possible extent of an ancient lake inside Gale Crater. The existence of a lake there billions of years ago was confirmed from examination of mudstone in the crater’s Yellowknife Bay area.”
“Researchers now have stronger evidence of granite on Mars and a new theory for how the granite – an igneous rock common on Earth — could have formed there. The findings suggest a much more geologically complex Mars than previously believed.” Quoted from the Georgia Tech press release.
If all goes according to plans, India will launch a spacecraft to Mars on Tuesday, November 5th. So far there have been 40 attempts to reach Mars by the United States, the Soviet Union, the European Space Agency, Japan and China. Only 23 missions have been successful.
MIT researchers have recreated Mars-like conditions within a three-story-tall cloud chamber in Germany, adjusting the chamber’s temperature and relative humidity to match conditions on Mars — essentially forming Martian clouds on Earth. Quoted from the MIT press release.
“Data from NASA’s Curiosity rover has revealed the Martian environment lacks methane. This is a surprise to researchers because previous data reported by U.S. and international scientists indicated positive detections.” Quoted from the NASA press release.
“Researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have discovered evidence for an ancient delta on Mars where a river might once have emptied into a vast ocean.” Quoted from the California Institute of Technology press release.
“In particular, the southeast region of Tharsis bears strong resemblance in structure and topography to eastern Tibet. High topography and thick crust of eastern Tibet produces long, low-gradient plateau margins that may be caused by the flow of weakened lower crust. This has me thinking: if the lower crust flows in Tibet, did it do so on Mars?” Quoted from the Speaking of Geoscience article.
“Researchers using NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have found that temperatures in the Martian atmosphere regularly rise and fall not just once each day, but twice.” Quoted from the NASA press release.
“The team operating NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has selected a second target rock for drilling and sampling. The rover will set course to the drilling location in coming days.” Quoted from the NASA press release.
“A roughly 3.5-mile high Martian mound that scientists suspect preserves evidence of a massive lake might actually have formed as a result of the Red Planet’s famously dusty atmosphere, an analysis of the mound’s features suggests.” Quoted from the Princeton University press release.
“This image shows the first holes into rock drilled by NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity, with drill tailings around the holes plus piles of powdered rock collected from the deeper hole and later discarded after other portions of the sample had been delivered to analytical instruments inside the rover.”
“Over a trial period of ten months, 143 volunteers collected, improved, or deleted data on more than 6,400 structures in Colorado. The volunteers’ actions were accurate and exceeded USGS quality standards. In the Colorado pilot project the volunteer-collected data showed an improvement of approximately 25 percent in both location and attribute accuracy for existing data points. Completeness, or the extent to which all appropriate features were identified and recorded, was nearly perfect.” Quoted from the USGS summary.
“An analysis of a rock sample collected by NASA’s Curiosity rover shows ancient Mars could have supported living microbes. Scientists identified sulfur, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and carbon — some of the key chemical ingredients for life — in the powder Curiosity drilled out of a sedimentary rock near an ancient stream bed in Gale Crater on the Red Planet last month.” Quoted from the NASA press release.
“NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity has relayed new images that confirm it has successfully obtained the first sample ever collected from the interior of a rock on another planet. No rover has ever drilled into a rock beyond Earth and collected a sample from its interior.” Quoted from the NASA press release.
NASA-funded researchers analyzing a small meteorite that may be the first discovered from the Martian surface or crust have found it contains 10 times more water than other Martian meteorites from unknown origins.
This new class of meteorite was found in 2011 in the Sahara Desert. Designated Northwest Africa (NWA) 7034, and nicknamed “Black Beauty,” it weighs approximately 11 ounces (320 grams). After more than a year of intensive study, a team of U.S. scientists determined the meteorite formed 2.1 billion years ago during the beginning of the most recent geologic period on Mars, known as the Amazonian.
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