It seems like just last week we were singing the praises of the oft-overlooked Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO)
. Over the weekend, the Mars satellite sporting one of the coolest cameras this side of the asteroid belt announced new data suggesting a surface formation on the Red Planet long held to be an impact crater may have been misinterpreted. The MRO's new analysis of the geology at the 57 mile-wide Mclaughlin Crater turned up evidence that the massive impact formation may have been a Martian lake at one point in its history -- and that the lake may have been fed by plentiful groundwater long ago in the planet's past.
See that newly formed set of tracks in Mars' Gale Crater? Those are the tracks left behind by the Curiosity rover, which can apparently be seen from orbit
. Well, from orbit around Mars and with about a bazillion dollars worth of camera equipment, we mean. Still, it's pretty cool to see the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's latest shot of the rover's... rovings
, I guess? It's good to know that there's a backup plan in place on the chance that NASA loses contact with the rover, even if being able to see where it's tracks suddenly end seems like a pretty low-tech solution to a potential problem. Keep reading for a bigger photo with more Mars goodness.
It Came From Outer Space
Look, I know that Curiosity didn't land anywhere near Mars' polar dry-ice-cap. And I know that this recent discovery was made based on observations from a particular Martian winter several years ago. And I know
that the Curiosity Rover is not sentient neither tires, gets bored, or has feelings.
I'm just saying: Martian. Robot. Snow day.
has been getting a lot of well-deserved attention lately, it's worth remembering that everyone's favorite rover isn't the only one doing cool stuff with Mars
. When it's not getting some glamour shots of its ground-based cousin, the Mars Reconaissance Orbiter (MRO) is still finding out all sorts of neat things
about our nearest sibling in the solar system, like confirming the suspicion that Mars has instances in which it snows dry ice --
carbon dioxide that has frozen at temperatures below -193 degrees Fahrenheit.
camera aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter
has already shown of its ability to photograph minute details of the Martian surface, even meteorlogical evens like dust devils
and spring thaws
. The HiRISE camera recently spotted another dust devil spinning across the surface of Mars, but this one dwarfs its predecessor being an incredible twelve miles tall
On Earth, the coming of Spring is marked with singing birds, bright sun, and the culmination of the college basketball season. On Mars
, things are a little quieter. These dunes in the northern polar regions have only a few specks of white ice clinging to them as they warm up in a late Martian spring. Captured by the HiRISE
camera aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter
a few days ago, its a rare and mesmeric look at the changing seasons on the red planet.
You know what's cool? Caves. You know what's cooler than caves? Caves on Mars
. This image, captured with the HiRise
camera aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO)
, shows a large bowl-like depression in the Martian landscape. At the apex of the depression, an entrance to a subterranean level of the planet can clearly be seen. Keep in mind that it is a false-color image, but that doesn't make it any less striking.
Every time NASA
holds a press conference it is completely impossible not to start thinking, well maybe they've done it this time, maybe they've found alien life. It happened when the Internet got carried away with the arsenic life debacle
last year. So, when NASA said they had a special announcement about Mars
, who didn't start hoping for aliens, really? But, alas, once again NASA has not found life on Mars. What they did find, pictured in the image above, is water. Or, what is most likely, probably, should be, water of some kind.
Now, liquid water on Mars, that is pretty cool. But what is the evidence? Images gathered by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter
have showed dark, finger-like features that appear and extend down some of the slopes on Mars' surface. These features appear during the warmest months on Mars, and retreat as it gets colder, leading to the conclusion that it could possibly be the result of water flowing on or beneath Mars' surface.
We usually think of the other planets in our solar system as relatively peaceful, unchanging. It's sort of a "tree falls in the forest" situation. If there's no life, how active can they really be? The storm on Jupiter is a swirling maelstrom, sure, but it's a swirling maelstrom that's been around for over two hundred years.
And yet... spring is approaching the northern hemisphere of Mars, thawing the carbon dioxide ice that's built up along cliff faces. And when you get thawing ice on cliff faces, you also get...