NASA’s Mars Rover Opportunity catches its own late-afternoon shadow in this dramatically lit view eastward across Endeavour Crater on Mars. Opportunity is perched on the western rim of Endeavour Crater looking eastward. The crater spans about 14 miles (22 kilometers) in diameter. Opportunity has been studying the edge of Endeavour Crater since arriving there in August 2011. The photo is a mosaic composed of images taken with Opportunity’s panoramic camera between 4:30 and 5 p.m.
NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has revealed that movement in sand dune fields on the Red Planet occurs on a surprisingly large scale, about the same as in dune fields on Earth. This is unexpected because Mars has a much thinner atmosphere than Earth, is only about one percent as dense, and its high-speed winds are less frequent and weaker than Earth’s. For years, researchers debated whether sand dunes observed on Mars were mostly fossil features related to past climate, rather than currently active.
The newly discovered glass dune fields, spread across almost a third of the planet Mars, likely formed from interactions between magma and ice, or water, interactions that could create the perfect environments for microbial life. The northern lowlands spread across millions of square miles in the Red Planet’s northern hemisphere. But dark sediments in the region have puzzled planetary scientists. Briony Horgan and James Bell, both of Arizona State University, used the European Space Agency’s Mars Express orbiter to re-examine light radiated from the Martian plains.
As said researchers Giant coils of lava on Mars suggest a mysterious network of valleys on the planet was born from volcanoes. The origin of the Athabasca Valles region near the equator of Mars has been debated for more than a decade. Some researchers have proposed that lava once shaped the valleys, while others have thought ice was responsible. The way the ground there is patterned with multisided polygons suggests that either fire or ice could be the culprit, such patterns of cracks might have formed due to seasonal fluctuations in temperature if the surface there was rich in ice, but also might have arose as lava cooled and fractured.
A gigantic dust devil races across the surface of Mars. NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) captured the 12 mile-high (20 kilometer) twister as it whirled its way through the Amazonis Planitia region of northern Mars on March 14. According to researchers despite its towering height, the dust devil is just 210 feet (64 meters) wide. The plume’s shadow is also clearly visible in the new image, as are some topographic features on the Red Planet’s complex surface.
An amateur astronomer Wayne Jaeschke has managed to capture recent images of Mars which appear to show cloud like formations on Mars. The image was taken on March 22, 2012. Wayne Jaeschke, from West Chester, Pennsylvania, first noticed the formations which can be seen rising up from the edge of the Martian disk after he took the pictures on March 20. Some observers have suggested the so-called clouds are at least 150 miles away from the surface while others have suggested it could be debris which was disturbed after the Red Planet was hit by a meteor.
The mud and clays ideal for preserving fossil records are less common around Martian lakes than on Earth. A team of scientists from Brown University pored over surface images from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the Mars Odyssey Spacecraft, and the Mars Express spacecraft in search of lakes that once boasted water rushing out as well as in. They then analyzed the reflected light from each lake to determine their chemical composition, hoping to identify the muds and clays found in such systems on Earth.
The Martian twister rises up on a huge column of dust more than half a mile (800 meters) high in the new image from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. HiRISE captured the image on February 16, 2012, while the orbiter passed over the Amazonis Planitia region of northern Mars. In the area observed, paths of many previous whirlwinds, or dust devils, are visible as streaks on the dusty surface.
Mars is the only planet with a clearly visible surface and, as such, has been studied by astronomers for hundreds of years. The next two months offer the best opportunity for skywatchers to study Mars for the next two years. Because of their orbits, Mars and Earth have close encounters only once every 26 months. The next encounter is coming up this week. On March 3, Mars will be in opposition to the Earth.