This full-circle scene combines 817 images taken by the panoramic camera (Pancam) on NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity. It shows the terrain that surrounded the rover while it was stationary for four months of work during its most recent Martian winter.
Opportunity's Pancam took the component images between the 2,811th Martian day, or sol, of the rover's Mars surface mission (Dec. 21, 2011) and Sol 2,947 (May 8, 2012). Opportunity spent those months on a northward sloped outcrop, "Greeley Haven," which angled the rover's solar panels toward the sun low in the northern sky during southern hemisphere winter. The outcrop's informal name is a tribute to Ronald Greeley (1939-2011), who was a member of the mission team and who taught generations of planetary scientists at Arizona State University, Tempe. The site is near the northern tip of the "Cape York" segment of the western rim of Endeavour Crater.
North is at the center of the image. South is at both ends. On the far left at the horizon is "Rich Morris Hill." That outcrop on Cape York was informally named in memory of John R. "Rich" Morris (1973-2011), an aerospace engineer and musician who was a Mars rover team member and mission manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena.
Bright wind-blown deposits on the left are banked up against the Greeley Haven outcrop. Opportunity's tracks can be seen extending from the south, with a turn-in-place and other maneuvers evident from activities to position the rover at Greeley Haven. The tracks in some locations have exposed darker underlying soils by disturbing a thin, bright dust cover.
Other bright, dusty deposits can be seen to the north, northeast, and east of Greeley Haven. The deposit at the center of the image, due north from the rover's winter location, is a dusty patch called "North Pole." Opportunity drove to it and investigated it in May 2012 as an example of wind-blown Martian dust.
The interior of Endeavour Crater can been seen just below the horizon in the right half of the scene, to the northeast and east of Cape York. The crater spans 14 miles (22 kilometers) in diameter.
Opportunity's solar panels and other structures show dust that has accumulated over the lifetime of the mission. Opportunity has been working on Mars since January 2004.
During the recent four months that Opportunity worked at Greeley Haven, activities included radio-science observations to better understand Martian spin axis dynamics and thus interior structure, investigations of the composition and textures of an outcrop exposing an impact-jumbled rock formation on the crater rim, monitoring the atmosphere and surface for changes, and acquisition of this full-color mosaic of the surroundings.
The panorama combines exposures taken through Pancam filters centered on wavelengths of 753 nanometers (near infrared), 535 nanometers (green) and 432 nanometers (violet). The view is presented in false color to make some differences between materials easier to see.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Arizona State Univ.
Hunting for meteorites may sound like a cool way to spend an afternoon, but imagine doing it from an airship.
A couple weeks after a meteorite blazed to Earth April 22 over California’s Sierra Nevada mountains, a team of researchers flew aboard the commercial airship Eureka to try to search for pieces of the space rock.
The 10-foot hunk of rock, about the size of a car, burned to pieces in the air above Sutter’s Mill, the site where gold was first found in California. A thunderous boom announced its arrival, and scientists raced up to the site to look for pieces of the meteorite. They only found disappointingly small pieces, but it was enough to determine the meteorite was a rare, carbon-containing type. Studying it could help scientists learn how the building blocks for life — like carbon, nitrogen and oxygen — ended up on Earth.
The meteorite’s fall ranged over about 20 miles, so the best bet for finding more pieces was to look for scars in the landscape from the air.
“An airship is perfect, because it flies at 1,000 feet and it moves very gradually, very relaxed,” said astronomer Peter Jenniskens at SETI Institute and NASA Ames Research Center, who led the airship search party.
They flew in a German-built Zeppelin-NT, owned and operated by the company Airship Ventures and housed in one of NASA’s giant hangars at Moffett Field in California, the same airfield where the airship USS Macon (ZRS-5) was once based. At 246 feet, the Eureka is longer than a Boeing 747 airplane. While its usual job is giving tourists aerial views of the Bay Area, it has been used for a number of scientific missions, including the meteorite hunt.
Unlike a blimp, an airship can’t pop: It has a rigid frame, made of aluminum and carbon fiber and encased in a fabric envelope made by the same company that makes fabric for NASA’s spacesuits. Even if you shot a bullet into it, it would only lose its helium gas very slowly, said Brian Hall, CEO of Airship Ventures. Its three 200-horsepower engines power propellers that maneuver the giant balloon around like a helicopter.
Jenniskens and his team used a camera aboard the airship to look for signs of meteorite wreckage. They pinpointed 12 sites to inspect more closely from the ground, but none contained any big chunks of meteorite. Instead, any black fragments at the sites turned out to be charcoal, and one “really interesting hole in the ground” turned out to be a sinkhole, Jenniskens said.
While the zeppelin hunt didn’t immediately turn up large bits of the Sutter’s Hill meteorite, the search continues on the ground. The largest piece of meteorite found so far weighs about half a pound — less than a can of soda. Jenniskens will be going out again throughout the summer, before the fall rains degrade the fragments.
Scientists around the world will be analyzing these fragments to understand the meteorite’s composition and origin. “These meteorites are basically a window on our past, when the planets were forming,” Jenniskens said.
For days, giant sunspot AR1515 has looked capable of producing a really strong explosion. On July 6th it finally did. Yesterday, the sunspot's magnetic canopy erupted, producing a brief but potent X1.1-class solar flare. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory recorded the extreme ultraviolet flash:
Animation: SDO - NASA
The explosion hurled a CME into space. According to this movie from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, the cloud appears to be heading south and away from Earth. However, we cannot yet rule out a glancing blow to our planet on July 8th or 9th.
Erste interferometrische Signale zwischen der Radioantenne in Effelsberg und dem Weltraum-Teleskop Spektr-R aufgezeichnet
Einer Gruppe von Wissenschaftlern am Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie in Bonn und dem Astro Space Center in Moskau/Russland ist es zum ersten Mal gelungen, interferometrische Signale zwischen dem 100-Meter-Radioteleskop Effelsberg und dem weltraumgebundenen Satelliten-Radioteleskop Spektr-R zu erhalten. Der Abstand der beiden Radioteleskope beträgt bis zu 350000 Kilometer – was einem virtuellen Teleskop dieser Öffnung entspricht und damit einer Winkelauflösung von rund 40 Mikro-Bogensekunden. Die beiden Antennen waren auf das Objekt BL Lacertae gerichtet, den Kern einer aktiven Galaxie in etwa 900 Millionen Lichtjahren Entfernung.