A video from their recent crowdfunding campaign (now ended):
Here’s a new SETI Institute seminar: The Diversity of Habitable Zones and the Planets – Stephen Kane (SETI Talks)
The field of exoplanets has rapidly expanded from the exclusivity of exoplanet detection to include exoplanet characterization. A key step towards this characterization is the determination of which planets occupy the Habitable Zone (HZ) of their host stars. As the Kepler data continues to be processed, the orbital period sensitivity is increasing and there are now numerous exoplanets known to occupy the HZ of their host stars.
In this talk Dr. Kane will describe the properties of the HZ, the dependence on the spectral type properties, and the current state of exoplanet detections in the HZ. Along the way Dr. Kane will attempt to dispel some common misconceptions regarding the Habitable Zone. Dr. Kane will relate HZ results to the calculation of eta_Earth and eta_Venus. Finally, Dr. Kane will present several case studies of HZ Kepler planets, including circumbinary planets for which the HZ is a time-dependent function.
A reader pointed me to these posts that look at several topics related to the growth in information technologies and their use in science, which generates ever more data:
- Will we ever Skype from the Moon? – Community Site News..
- Will we ever Skype from the Moon?
- Data and the Internet
- The importance of the Internet on our lives
- Broadband on the Moon
- Look to the stars – Community Site News..
- The World Wide Web
- Ever-increasing resolution
- Ever-increasing data demands
- The power of visualization
- What can the internet and apps be used to see over the coming months?
The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has produced new imagery of the Apollo 11 landing site:
From the caption:
Apollo 11 landed on the Moon on July 20th, 1969, a little after 4:00 in the afternoon Eastern Daylight Time. The Lunar Module, nicknamed Eagle and flown by Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, touched down near the southern rim of the Sea of Tranquility, one of the large, dark basins that contribute to the Man in the Moon visible from Earth. Armstrong and Aldrin spent about two hours outside the LM setting up experiments and collecting samples. At one point, Armstrong ventured east of the LM to examine a small crater, dubbed Little West, that he’d flown over just before landing.
The trails of disturbed regolith created by the astronauts’ boots are still clearly visible in photographs of the landing site taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) narrow-angle camera (LROC) more than four decades later.
LROC imagery makes it possible to visit the landing site in a whole new way by flying around a three-dimensional model of the site. LROC scientists created the digital elevation model using a stereo pair of images. Each image in the pair shows the site from a slightly different angle, allowing sophisticated software to infer the shape of the terrain, similar to the way that left and right eye views are combined in the brain to produce the perception of depth.
The animator draped an LROC photograph over the terrain model. He also added a 3D model of the LM descent stage—the real LM in the photograph looks oddly flat when viewed at an oblique angle.
Although the area around the site is relatively flat by lunar standards, West Crater (the big brother of the crater visited by Armstrong) appears in dramatic relief near the eastern edge of the terrain model. Ejecta from West comprises the boulders that Armstrong had to avoid as he searched for a safe landing site.
Apollo 11 was the first of six increasingly ambitious crewed lunar landings. The exploration of the lunar surface by the Apollo astronauts, when combined with the wealth of remote sensing data now being returned by LRO, continues to inform our understanding of our nearest neighbor in space.
2. Tuesday, July 22, 2014, 7 PM PDT (10 PM EDT, 9 PM CDT): We welcome DR. MARK SHELHAMER of NASA regarding his FISO talk from earlier this year regarding critical issues for Human Space Flight. His FISO talk was April 1, 2014.
3. Friday, June 27, 2014, 9:30 -11 AM PDT (12;30-2 PM EDT; 11:30-1 PM CDT): No show as am at NewSpace Conference.
4. Sunday, July 27, 2014, 12-1:30 PM PST, (3-4:30 PM EST, 2-3:30 PM CST). OPEN LINES. First time callers welcome. All space and STEM topics welcome.
/– The Space Show on Vimeo – webinar videos
/– The Space Show’s Blog – summaries of interviews.
/– The Space Show Classroom Blog – tutorial programs
The Space Show is a project of the One Giant Leap Foundation.
The latest TMRO/Spacevidcast show is now available on line: #Apollo45 -TMRO
From the caption:
TRMO is a crown funded show. Get you get value from this episode? Consider giving value back! http://www.patreon.com/tmro — Even as little as $1.00/ep can go a long way! Our main topic today is Apollo 45 years later and why we don’t want a repeat of the past. Our next humans on the Moon or Mars should be there to stay, not just flags and footprints!
It was 45 years ago today that humans first walked on the Moon. I hope, and expect, it will be a lot less time than that before humans are on the Moon again.
Some resource sites
On The Space Show today at 12 PM PDT, (3 PM EDT, 2 PM CDT), Rand Simberg and Bill Simon will return to “celebrate this special day with us and the Evoloterra ceremony. You can download Evoloterra [pdf] at www.evoloterra.com.”
Last year my wife and I and some friends celebrated July 20th with the Evoloterra ceremony and really enjoyed it: Our Evoloterra evening. Recommend you give it a try.
There are lots of Apollo 11 documentaries available at Youtube. Here is one from NASA:
Alvin Remmers has led the Moonandback Media effort to document this period of burgeoning private space development with video interviews of many of the leaders and participants in these endeavors. The project has built up a large collection of such interviews and now Alvin is
seeking funds to transcribe 102 hours of video content for donation to the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum. Our target funding will enable us to pay for the transcription and donation of the archive to the NASM and to continue our documentary project. The transcription is necessary to make the content useful for historians, journalists, academicians and researchers.
You can contribute to their crowd-funded campaign at The People of NewSpace (2010-2013) — a Moonandback documentary project | RocketHub.
Their collection of videos can be seen at Moonandback Media on Vimeo.
Alvin describes the Moonandback collection and the plan to create transcripts for them in this video:
More about the campaign on the RocketHub page.
Government space missions are expensive. New private-sector space ventures always seem to involve billionaires. Yet we achieved results by raising funds a few dollars at a time — and by involving our donors directly in our work.
NASA likes to say that “space is hard,” but to make itself relevant to the people whose taxes fund it, it must get outside its comfort zone. To its credit, NASA saw the potential of our project to reach beyond the traditional audience. The interactions via social media with our supporters have borne this out. Imagine what feats of exploration might be possible if an empowered and engaged citizenry realized that exploring space is really something anyone can do.
And here’s an update on the project: ISEE-3 Status Report 18 July 2014 – Space College
During our pass at Arecibo today we managed to get some propulsion out of thruster K. We’re looking at how this was accomplished with an eye toward repeating it.
JP Aerospace has taken many interesting items to high altitudes with their balloon systems but a small pine tree and a floral arrangement must be among the most unusual.
- What A Bonsai Tree Looks Like Suspended In Space | Co.Design | business + design
- A Japanese Artist Launches Plants Into Space – New York Times
- Exobiotanica – Botanical Space Flight – photo gallery
- Mission Success! – JP Aerospace Blog
- JP Aerospace in the New York Times! – JP Aerospace Blog
A bonzai tree from Japanese artist Azuma Makoto
reaches high in the sky.
And a flower arrangement as well.
I didn’t realize so many pits/caves have been seen on the Moon:
While the moon’s surface is battered by millions of craters, it also has over 200 holes – steep-walled pits that in some cases might lead to caves that future astronauts could explore and use for shelter, according to new observations from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft.
The pits range in size from about 5 meters (~5 yards) across to more than 900 meters (~984 yards) in diameter, and three of them were first identified using images from the Japanese Kaguya spacecraft. Hundreds more were found using a new computer algorithm that automatically scanned thousands of high-resolution images of the lunar surface from LRO’s Narrow Angle Camera (NAC).
“Pits would be useful in a support role for human activity on the lunar surface,” said Robert Wagner of Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona. “A habitat placed in a pit — ideally several dozen meters back under an overhang — would provide a very safe location for astronauts: no radiation, no micrometeorites, possibly very little dust, and no wild day-night temperature swings.” Wagner developed the computer algorithm, and is lead author of a paper on this research now available online in the journal Icarus.
This is a spectacular high-Sun view of the Mare Tranquillitatis pit crater
revealing boulders on an otherwise smooth floor. This image from LRO’s NAC
is 400 meters (1,312 feet) wide, north is up.
Image Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University
Most pits were found either in large craters with impact melt ponds – areas of lava that formed from the heat of the impact and later solidified, or in the lunar maria – dark areas on the moon that are extensive solidified lava flows hundreds of miles across. In ancient times, the maria were thought to be oceans; “maria” is the Latin word for “seas.” Various cultures have interpreted the patterns formed by the maria features in different ways; for example, some saw the face of a man, while others saw a rabbit or a boy carrying a bundle of sticks on his back.
The pits could form when the roof of a void or cave collapses, perhaps from the vibrations generated by a nearby meteorite impact, according to Wagner. However, he noted that from their appearance in the LRO photos alone, there is little evidence to point to any particular cause. The voids could be created when molten rock flowed under the lunar surface; on Earth, lava tubes form when magma flows beneath a solidified crust and later drains away. The same process could happen on the moon, especially in a large impact crater, the interior of which can take hundreds of thousands of years to cool, according to Wagner. After an impact crater forms, the sides slump under lunar gravity, pushing up the crater’s floor and perhaps causing magma to flow under the surface, forming voids in places where it drains away.
Exploring impact melt pits would pin down the nature of the voids in which they form. “They are likely due to melt flow within the pond from uplift after the surface has solidified, but before the interior has cooled,” said Wagner. “Exploring impact melt pits would help determine the magnitude of this uplift, and the amount of melt flow after the pond is in place.”
Exploring the pits could also reveal how oceans of lava formed the lunar maria. “The mare pits in particular would be very useful for understanding how the lunar maria formed. We’ve taken images from orbit looking at the walls of these pits, which show that they cut through dozens of layers, confirming that the maria formed from lots of thin flows, rather than a few big ones. Ground-level exploration could determine the ages of these layers, and might even find solar wind particles that were trapped in the lunar surface billions of years ago,” said Wagner.
To date, the team has found over 200 pits spread across the melt ponds of 29 craters, which are considered geologically young “Copernican” craters at less than a billion years old; eight pits in the lunar maria, three of which were previously known from images from the Japanese Kaguya orbiter; and two pits in highlands terrain.
The general age sequence matches well with the pit distributions, according to Wagner. “Impact melt ponds of Copernican craters are some of the younger terrains on the moon, and while the maria are much older at around three billion years old, they are still younger and less battered than the highlands. It’s possible that there’s a ‘sweet spot’ age for pits, where enough impacts have occurred to create a lot of pits, but not enough to destroy them,” said Wagner.
There are almost certainly more pits out there, given that LRO has only imaged about 40 percent of the moon with appropriate lighting for the automated pit searching program, according to Wagner. He expects there may be at least two to three more mare pits and several dozen to over a hundred more impact melt pits, not including any pits that likely exist in already-imaged areas, but are too small to conclusively identify even with the NAC’s resolution.
These images from NASA’s LRO spacecraft show all of the known mare pits and
highland pits. Each image is 222 meters (about 728 feet) wide.
Image Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University
“We’ll continue scanning NAC images for pits as they come down from the spacecraft, but for about 25 percent of the moon’s surface area (near the poles) the sun never rises high enough for our algorithm to work,” said Wagner. “These areas will require an improved search algorithm, and even that may not work at very high latitudes, where even a human has trouble telling a pit from an impact crater.”
The next step would be to tie together more datasets such as composition maps, thermal measurements, gravity measurements, etc., to gain a better understanding of the environments in which these pits form, both at and below the surface, according to Wagner.
“The ideal follow-up, of course, would be to drop probes into one or two of these pits, and get a really good look at what’s down there,” adds Wagner. “Pits, by their nature, cannot be explored very well from orbit — the lower walls and any floor-level caves simply cannot be seen from a good angle. Even a few pictures from ground-level would answer a lot of the outstanding questions about the nature of the voids that the pits collapsed into. We’re currently in the very early design phases of a mission concept to do exactly this, exploring one of the largest mare pits.”
The research was funded by NASA’s LRO project. Launched on June 18, 2009, LRO has collected a treasure trove of data with its seven powerful instruments, making an invaluable contribution to our knowledge about the moon. LRO is managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
Here’s the latest NASA Earth to Ground report on what has been happening aboard the International Space Station:
The European Space Agency’s Rosetta probe was launched in March 2004 on an Ariane V rocket and on August 6th it will finally
rendezvous with Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and remain in close proximity to the icy nucleus as it plunges towards the warmer inner reaches of the Sun’s domain. At the same time, a small lander will be released onto the surface of this mysterious cosmic iceberg.
Here is a post from the Rosetta blog about how the comet’s structure is starting to come into focus:
This week’s images of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko reveal an extraordinarily irregular shape. We had hints of that in last week’s images and in the unscheduled previews that were seen a few days ago, and in that short time it has become clear that this is no ordinary comet. Like its name, it seems that comet 67P/C-G is in two parts.
What the spacecraft is actually seeing is the pixelated image shown [above], which was taken by Rosetta’s OSIRIS narrow angle camera on 14 July from a distance of 12 000 km.
A second image and a movie show the comet after the image has been processed. The technique used, called “sub-sampling by interpolation”, only acts to remove the pixelisation and make a smoother image, and it is important to note that the comet’s surface features won’t be as smooth as the processing implies. The surface texture has yet to be resolved simply because we are still too far away; any apparent brighter or darker regions may turn out to be false interpretations at this early stage.
But the movie, which uses a sequence of 36 interpolated images each separated by 20 minutes, certainly provides a truly stunning 360-degree preview of the overall complex shape of the comet. Regardless of surface texture, we can certainly see an irregular shaped world shining through. Indeed, some people have already likened the shape to a duck, with a distinct body and head.
Although less obvious in the ‘real’ image, the movie of interpolated images supports the presence of two definite components. One segment seems to be rather elongated, while the other appears more bulbous.
Dual objects like this – known as ‘contact binaries’ in comet and asteroid terminology – are not uncommon.
Indeed, comet 8P/Tuttle is thought to be such a contact binary; radio imaging by the ground-based Arecibo telescope in Puerto Rico in 2008 suggested that it comprises two sphere-like objects. Meanwhile, the bone-shaped comet 103P/Hartley 2, imaged during NASA’s EPOXI flyby in 2011, revealed a comet with two distinct halves separated by a smooth region. In addition, observations ofasteroid 25143 Itokawa by JAXA’s Hayabusa mission, combined with ground-based data, suggest an asteroid comprising two sections of highly contrasting densities.
Is Rosetta en-route to rendezvous with a similar breed of comet? The scientific rewards of studying such a comet would be high, as a number of possibilities exist as to how they form.
One popular theory is that such an object could arise when two comets – even two compositionally distinct comets – melded together under a low velocity collision during the Solar System’s formation billions of years ago, when small building blocks of rocky and icy debris coalesced to eventually create planets. Perhaps comet 67P/C-G will provide a unique record of the physical processes of accretion.
Or maybe it is the other way around – that is, a single comet could be tugged into a curious shape by the strong gravitational pull of a large object like Jupiter or the Sun; after all, comets are rubble piles with weak internal strength as directly witnessed in the fragmentation of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 and the subsequent impacts into Jupiter, 20 years ago this week. Perhaps the two parts of comet 67P/C-G will one day separate completely.
On the other hand, perhaps comet 67P/C-G may have once been a much rounder object that became highly asymmetric thanks to ice evaporation. This could have happened when the comet first entered the Solar System from the Kuiper Belt, or on subsequent orbits around the Sun.
One could also speculate that the striking dichotomy of the comet’s morphology is the result of a near catastrophic impact event that ripped out one side of the comet. Similarly, it is not unreasonable to think that a large outburst event may have weakened one side of the comet so much that it simply gave away, crumbling into space.
But, while the interpolated images are certainly brilliant, we need to be closer still to see a better three-dimensional view – not to mention to perform a spectroscopic analysis to determine the comet’s composition – in order to draw robust scientific conclusions about this exciting comet.
Rosetta Mission Manager Fred Jansen comments: “We currently see images that suggest a rather complex cometary shape, but there is still a lot that we need to learn before jumping to conclusions. Not only in terms of what this means for comet science in general, but also regarding our planning for science observations, and the operational aspects of the mission such as orbiting and landing.
“We will need to perform detailed analyses and modelling of the shape of the comet to determine how best we can fly around such a uniquely shaped body, taking into account flight control and astrodynamics, the science requirements of the mission, and the landing-related elements like landing site analysis and lander-to-orbiter visibility. But, with fewer than 10 000 km to go before the 6 August rendezvous, our open questions will soon be answered.”
I mentioned Ken Murphy in the previous posting about the Moon Day event this Saturday in Dallas that he is helping to organize. Ken was interviewed on the Space Show recently : Ken Murphy, Tuesday, 7-15-14 – Thespaceshow’s Blog
They talked about a number of topics, particularly his extensive compilation of space films with settings in the Earth-Moon system (i.e. cislunar):
Our goal is to provide a a cinematic and immersive experience that doesn’t compromise on gameplay. Project Tool is inspired by many works of science fiction, and aims to push the genre forward in a faithful but new way. We actively consult with scientists, astronauts, NASA and even some world recognized museums to make a universe that is futuristic, but plausible. When you look at classic Star Trek, you see how much modern technology is inspired by it, with cell phones and more recently, Google Glass being great examples. So in that sense, we want to show people what technology might look like in the future via our game. Ultimately, we want Project Tool to be smart sci-fi, that has awesome gameplay and a fully engrossing storyline.
Check out the trailer for the game:
And this video focuses on the graphics used in the game:
They are crowd-sourcing the funding for the game with the goal of releasing it at the end of December, 2015.
Sunday July 20th will be the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing. Here is a video released by NASA today showing the complete lunar EVA with restored imagery:
Original Mission Video as aired in July 1969 depicting the Apollo 11 astronauts conducting several tasks during extravehicular activity (EVA) operations on the surface of the moon. The EVA lasted approximately 2.5 hours with all scientific activities being completed satisfactorily.
The Apollo 11 (EVA) began at 10:39:33 p.m. EDT on July 20, 1969 when Astronaut Neil Armstrong emerged from the spacecraft first. While descending, he released the Modularized Equipment Stowage Assembly on the Lunar Module’s descent stage. A camera on this module provided live television coverage of man’s first step on the Moon.
On this, their one and only EVA, the astronauts had a great deal to do in a short time. During this first visit to the Moon, the astronauts remained within about 100 meters of the lunar module, collected about 47 pounds of samples, and deployed four experiments. After spending approximately 2 hours and 31 minutes on the surface, the astronauts ended the EVA at 1:11:13 a.m. EDT on July 21.
Ken Murphy, president of the Moon Society, informs me that the Frontiers of Flight Museum in Dallas, Texas will host the MOON DAY event this Saturday, July 19th: “Moon Day”, July 19, 2014 – the Biggest Annual Space Event in the DFW Metroplex! – NSSofNT.org
In cooperation with the National Space Society of North Texas, the Museum once again celebrates space exploration with MOON DAY, July 19, 2014. Come and experience a full day of family-oriented activities, demonstrations, and programs, marking the 45th anniversary of the first manned Moon landing (the actual landing was on July 20).
THE FIRST 250 CHILDREN to arrive will receive a free “Lunar Sample Bag” courtesy of Moonlite Printing & Graphics of Carrollton, full of magazines, stickers, activity books, posters and other materials of interest to space flight enthusiasts of all ages.
OVER 25 EXHIBITORS will offer fascinating displays and activities such as a close-up look at a meteorite, robotics demonstrations, space art, re-creating Moon craters, and a SAFE look directly at the sun through specially-equipped telescopes.
THREE PORTABLE PLANETARIUMS will be featured this year, all with different programs, to give visitors a glimpse of the night sky throughout the day!
FASCINATING PROGRAMS for all ages will include a look at life on Mars, “Cosmic Chemistry,” and the story of how Dr. James Carter of the University of Texas at Dallas developed simulated moon soil—presented by Dr. Carter himself!
BUILD AND LAUNCH A MODEL ROCKET!—Our younger visitors can attend a model rocket-building class courtesy of the Dallas Area Rocket Society from 1:30-3:15 p.m. A $25.00 fee includes all materials including a beginner’s level model rocket and engine, a one-year membership to the Dallas Area Rocket Society, and an opportunity to launch the model rocket at a supervised Dallas Area Rocket Society launch event. Students can enroll in advance or sign up at the door. Call (214) 350-4215 for details.
GIRL SCOUTS, BOY SCOUTS, AND CUB SCOUTS can meet various badge and pin requirements through participation in specific Moon Day activities. No registration is required, and the qualifying activities are presented throughout the entire day.
CONTINUING PROFESSIONAL EDUCATION (CPE) CREDITS can be earned by DISD teachers attending any one of several presentations throughout the day—get a head start on your 2014-2015 requirements!
P.S. If you are not living near Dallas, you might check to see if a museum in your area is hosting a Moon Day event of their own.
The sun seems to be taking a nap: Spaceweather.com – July.16.14
WHERE DID ALL THE SUNSPOTS GO? This week, solar activity has sharply declined. There are only two numbered sunpots on the Earth-facing side of the sun, and each is so small you might have trouble finding them. Click to enlarge this July 17th image from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory and see if you can locate AR2113 and AR2114:
In case you couldn’t find them, here they are.
Long-time readers absorbing this image might be reminded of 2008-2009, years when the sun plunged into the deepest solar minimum in a century. The resemblance, however, is only superficial. Researchers believe that, underneath the visible surface of the sun, the solar dynamo is still churning out knots of magnetism that will soon bob to the surface to make sunspots. Solar Max is not finished.
For the moment, though, it seems to have paused. Solar activity is very low, and NOAA forecasters put the daily odds of an X-class flare no more than 1%. Updates on Twitter @spaceweatherman.
Keep an eye on the sun via the HobbySpace Sun & Space Weather page.
Red Sox Foundation to Partner with CASIS and
International Space Station
Ring Raffle Promotion to Include Visit to NASA’s Johnson Space Center and
Tour of International Space Station Mission Control Facility
Boston, MA – July 16, 2014 – The Boston Red Sox Foundation today announced a truly out of this world collaborative partnership with the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the manager of the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory. As part of an initial Partnership with the Red Sox Foundation, CASIS will add its support of the ongoing World Series Ring Raffle by adding aonce-in-a-lifetime, VIP trip to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX. The winner and three guests will receive a private tour of ISS Mission Control and the Astronaut Training Facility, as well as four passes to Space Center Houston and an authentic CASIS Mission Patch that has orbited the Earth. Airfare and hotel accommodations are also included.
This prize package will be available to those who enter the promotional code “CASIS” upon ordering their raffle tickets. These tickets are just $2 each, with a minimum of five tickets purchased, and can be found by visiting www.redsox.com/ringraffle. All proceeds from the Ring Raffle will go toward the Red Sox Foundation’s ongoing commitment to youth in our communities.
The Red Sox Foundation and CASIS are also partnered on an endeavor to generate Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) opportunities for its younger fans.
“To be able to partner with CASIS and the ISS is really a thrill,” said Gena Borson, Executive Director of Special Events at the Red Sox Foundation. “And not just for this amazing offer, but so that we can look together at how we may further develop programs focusing on STEM education.”
“We are excited to support the Red Sox Foundation as its dedication to educating the youth in its community is not only commendable but synergistic with our mission of providing unique educational opportunities,” said Duane Ratliff, Chief Operating Officer of CASIS. “One of CASIS’s goals is to support research on the ISS targeted toward improving life and health on earth. In addition, we have the cherished responsibility to use the ISS as the ideal platform for teaching science, technology, engineering and math to the next generation of researchers and leaders.”
Cleon Daskalakis, President of Celebrity Marketing, Inc. and Cofounder of the Celebrities for Charity Foundation, the provider of the online charitable raffle program netRaffle.org, added, “We are excited to have brought CASIS and the Red Sox Foundation together to both provide this unique promotion opportunity for fans to explore Mission Control but also for the future opportunities of providing STEM education with sports as a backdrop. “
Curiosity zaps a rock with its laser and gets a brief flash:
Flashes appear on a baseball-size Martian rock in a series of images taken Saturday, July 12 by the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera on the arm of NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover. The flashes occurred while the rover’s Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument fired multiple laser shots to investigate the rock’s composition.
ChemCam’s laser has zapped more than 600 rock and soil targets on Mars since Curiosity landed in the planet’s Gale Crater in August 2012.
“This is so exciting! The ChemCam laser has fired more than 150,000 times on Mars, but this is the first time we see the plasma plume that is created,” said ChemCam Deputy Principal Investigator Sylvestre Maurice, at the Research Institute in Astrophysics and Planetology, of France’s National Center for Scientific Research and the University of Toulouse, France. “Each time the laser hits a target, the plasma light is caught and analyzed by ChemCam’s spectrometers. What the new images add is confirmation that the size and shape of the spark are what we anticipated under Martian conditions.”
to catch the first images of sparks produced by the rover’s laser being shot
at a rock on Mars. The left image is from before the laser zapped this rock,
called “Nova.” The spark is at the center of the right image.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS Full image and caption
Preliminary analysis of the ChemCam spectra from this target rock, appropriately named “Nova,” indicates a composition rich in silicon, aluminum and sodium, beneath a dust layer poor in those elements. This is typical of rocks that Curiosity is encountering on its way toward Mount Sharp.
MAHLI Deputy Principal Investigator Aileen Yingst of the Planetary Science Institute, Tucson, Arizona, said, “One of the reasons we took these images is that they allow the ChemCam folks to compare the plume to those they imaged on Earth. Also, MAHLI has captured images of other activities of Curiosity, for documentation purposes, and this was an opportunity to document the laser in action.”
Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego, developed, built and operates MAHLI. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Los Alamos National Laboratory, in Los Alamos, New Mexico, developed ChemCam in partnership with scientists and engineers funded by the French national space agency (CNES), the University of Toulouse and France’s National Center for Scientific Research.
NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory Project is using Curiosity to assess ancient habitable environments and major changes in Martian environmental conditions. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, built the rover and manages the project for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.
For more information about Curiosity, visit these sites:
You can follow the mission on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/marscuriosity
and on Twitter at: www.twitter.com/marscuriosity