Conspicuous dark streaks atop icy dunes on Mars allure scientists and non-scientists, yet their origin remains a mystery. Perhaps they are small avalanches or patches of sand covered by a thin veneer of ice. Perhaps they formed when cold gas jets of evaporating ice spewed dust onto the surface.
Imagine being able to point a camera at such features from 60 million miles away! Students in Budapest, Hungary effectively did that, selecting this site for observation from orbit through a program that invites the public to help NASA select targets for imaging on Mars.
NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter put itself into a safe standby mode Wed., Nov. 7, after the on-board computer detected that one of the solar panels was moving slower than had been commanded. Update on Nov. 16, 2008: The flight team for NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has put the spacecraft back into operations. Science instruments have been powered up, and observations of Mars have resumed.
Dazzled by the beauty of the strange features in the Athabasca Valles channel system on Mars, geologist Windy Jaeger pondered their origin. In a new paper, she concludes that lava filled the channel system to the brim and then drained away leaving a thin coating of hard lava rock to preserve the underlying landscape. Other unique features indicating that massive lava flows once filled the channels are hydrovolcanic cones that formed when water met lava and boiled explosively, leaving behind small, conical and ring-shaped features visible in and around the dune field (upper left).
The High Resolution Imaging Experiment (HiRISE) has confirmed that a dark pit seen on Mars in an earlier HiRISE image really is a vertical shaft that cuts through lava flow on the flank of the Arsia Mons volcano. Such pits form on similar volcanoes in Hawaii and are called "pit craters."
CRISM View is a first-of-its-kind opportunity to watch Mars through the "eyes" of the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) - as if you were riding along with it on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter!
The team operating the mineral-mapping camera (CRISM) on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter offers Web users a simulated view, in real time, of what part of Mars the instrument is seeing as it orbits the planet. The viewer is based on the application that team members use to monitor their instrument.
As engineers and scientists anticipate the Opportunity rover's long-awaited descent into "Victoria Crater," they have a bird's-eye view thanks to the HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) camera aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
Opportunity's tracks decorate the edge of Victoria Crater like a constellation in our night sky. These tracks represent nearly a year's worth of investigation to characterize the massive depression before deciding whether or not to enter.
Plans are to take a dip into the crater around the second week of July and then proceed down, if driving conditions are favorable.
Erosion has exposed light-toned, layered rocks on the northern rim of Hellas Basin, the largest impact crater on Mars. Details in the layering seen in this image from the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment reveal variations in brightness that may indicate differing mineralogies.
NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter put itself into safe mode -- a precautionary status with minimized activities -- on March 14. It remained healthy and in communication with Earth, but with no science observations, while the flight team examined engineering data. On March 20, the team brought the spacecraft back out of safe mode.
Liquid or gas flowed through cracks penetrating underground rock on ancient Mars, according to a report based on some of the first observations by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. These fluids may have produced conditions to support possible habitats for microbial life.
NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft this month is set to surpass the record for the most science data returned by any Mars spacecraft. While the mission continues to produce data at record levels, engineers are examining why two instruments are intermittently not performing entirely as planned. All other spacecraft instruments are operating normally and continue to return science data.
Using the high-resolution camera, visual clues such as peaks and craters seen in earlier images, and old-fashioned detective skills, scientists were able to identify the 1997 Pathfinder mission within a vast landscape of seemingly homogenous Martian terrain.