Category Archives: Solar Science

Curiosity rover returning to action after period in safe mode

NASA JPL reports on the status of Curiosity’s computer:

Curiosity Rover Exits ‘Safe Mode’

PASADENA, Calif. – NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity has returned to active status and is on track to resume science investigations, following two days in a precautionary standby status, “safe mode.”

Next steps will include checking the rover’s active computer, the B-side computer, by commanding a preliminary free-space move of the arm. The B-side computer was provided information last week about the position of the robotic arm, which was last moved by the redundant A-side computer.

The rover was switched from the A-side to the B-side by engineers on Feb. 28 in response to a memory glitch on the A-side. The A-side now is available as a back-up if needed.

“We expect to get back to sample-analysis science by the end of the week,” said Curiosity Mission Manager Jennifer Trosper of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Engineers quickly diagnosed the software issue that prompted the safe mode on March 16 and know how to prevent it from happening again.

Other upcoming activities include preparations for a moratorium on transmitting commands to Curiosity during most of April, when Mars will be passing nearly directly behind the sun from Earth’s perspective. The moratorium is a precaution against interference by the sun corrupting a command sent to the rover.

NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory project is using Curiosity and the rover’s 10 science instruments to investigate environmental history within Gale Crater, a location where the project has found that conditions were long ago favorable for microbial life. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the project for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

More information about Curiosity is online at . You can follow the mission on Facebook at: and on Twitter at: .

Coronal Rain falls fearsome hot upon the Sun

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory in space recorded this awesome event on the sun last July: NASA’s SDO Shows A Little Rain On the Sun – NASA – Feb.20.13

From the caption:

Eruptive events on the Sun can be wildly different. Some come just with a solar flare, some with an additional ejection of solar material called a coronal mass ejection (CME), and some with complex moving structures in association with changes in magnetic field lines that loop up into the Sun’s atmosphere, the corona.

On July 19, 2012, an eruption occurred on the sun that produced all three. A moderately powerful solar flare exploded on the Sun’s lower right hand limb, sending out light and radiation. Next came a CME, which shot off to the right out into space. And then, the Sun treated viewers to one of its dazzling magnetic displays — a phenomenon known as coronal rain.

Over the course of the next day, hot plasma in the corona cooled and condensed along strong magnetic fields in the region. Magnetic fields, themselves, are invisible, but the charged plasma is forced to move along the lines, showing up brightly in the extreme ultraviolet wavelength of 304 Angstroms, which highlights material at a temperature of about 50,000 Kelvin. This plasma acts as a tracer, helping scientists watch the dance of magnetic fields on the Sun, outlining the fields as it slowly falls back to the solar surface.

The footage in this video was collected by the Solar Dynamics Observatory’s AIA instrument. SDO collected one frame every 12 seconds, and the movie plays at 30 frames per second, so each second in this video corresponds to 6 minutes of real time. The video covers 12:30 a.m. EDT to 10:00 p.m. EDT on July 19, 2012.

Credit: NASA SDO
Music: “Thunderbolt” by Lars Leonhard, courtesy of artist.

The Comet threat to Mars + Stopping a comet heading for Earth + 2013 Planetary Defense Conference

Alan Boyle writes about the possibility that Comet 2013 A1 (aka Comet Siding Spring) might hit Mars and how this might affect attitudes on earth about the threat of comet and asteroid impacts on earth: ‘Marsageddon’ comet scenario adds to concerns about threats from space – Cosmic Log.

He also discusses the writeup – Warning Shots – Space Access Update #130 – 3/4/13, by Henry Vanderbilt of the Space Access Society, on whether we could prevent such a cometary hit if we only had two years of warning.


Michale Belfiore points to the 2013 IAA Planetary Defense Conference, 15-19 April, 2013 in Flagstaff, Arizona, USA, where such issues will be discussed: Planetary Defense Conference 2013 – Michael Belfiore.

Prof. Jim Bell talks about exploring Mars, the Moon, asteroids and more with rovers and landers

Here is a video of a public presentation by Prof. Jim Bell of Arizona State Univ. on planetary and deep space exploration. Lots of great pictures.

In this talk Professor Bell will review some of the recent highlights from Mars surface missions (especially the continuing adventures of the Opportunity and Curiosity rovers), discuss the kinds of up-close contact science measurements that can be done from such robotic vehicles, and talk about how the lessons learned from these missions can influence future Mars, asteroid, and comet rovers and landers.

More at