USGS Astrogeology Science Center News http://astrogeology.usgs.gov/news News about current and upcoming space missions, USGS gelogic products and historical exhibits en-us <![CDATA[Names Approved for Six Faculae on Mercury]]> Mon, 16 Apr 2018 00:00:00 -0700 Bibilava Faculae, Ejo Faculae, Ibab Facula, Inyoka Faculae, Maciji Facula, and Nzoka Facula. For more information, see Mercury map H-8 in the Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature.]]> <![CDATA[Sols 2022-2024: Waternish extravaganza]]> Fri, 13 Apr 2018 00:00:00 -0700
The Sol 2020 drive completed successfully, placing the vehicle in a good position for contact science on the Waternish conglomerate.  To sample the diversity of clasts in Waternish, the Sol 2022 plan includes brushing two spots, a 5-point APXS raster, and lots of MAHLI imaging.  But first, ChemCam will shoot its laser at Waternish and the cobble behind it, named "Arrochar."  After the DRT is finished brushing, MAHLI will acquire full suites of images of one of the brushed spots and of Arrochar, as well as a mosaic of images from 5 cm above the APXS raster spots and context images from 25 cm.  Then APXS will go to work on Waternish, followed by placement on Arrochar for an overnight integration.  This complex set of arm activities took longer than usual to plan, but should provide a rich dataset. 
On Sol 2023, Mastcam will take a full multispectral set of images of Waternish and a 3x3 mosaic of both Waternish and Arrochar.  ChemCam will observe two more spots on Waternish, and the Right Mastcam will take an image of the ChemCam target selected by AEGIS on Sol 2021.  Then the rover will drive backwards to a nearby sandy ripple, un-stow its arm, and acquire the images needed to plan close-up observations of the ripple.  Overnight, APXS will again measure the amount of argon in the atmosphere. 

On Sol 2024, ChemCam will gather calibration data, Mastcam will measure the opacity of dust in the atmosphere, and Navcam will search for dust devils.  Finally, APXS will perform a short thermal test and MARDI will take another twilight image.  Another busy weekend for our intrepid explorer!

by Ken Herkenhoff

Dates of planned rover activities described in these reports are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.

]]>
<![CDATA[First Names Approved for Charon]]> Thu, 12 Apr 2018 00:00:00 -0700 Argo Chasma, Caleuche Chasma, Mandjet Chasma, Butler Mons, Kubrick Mons, Clarke Montes, Dorothy, Nasreddin, Nemo, Pirx, Revati, and Sadko. For more information, see the map of Charon in the Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature.]]> <![CDATA[Sols 2020-2021: Leaving Bressay]]> Wed, 11 Apr 2018 00:00:00 -0700
The top science priority for this plan is to acquire all of the data needed to adequately characterize the rocks at the current location before driving away.  So the GEO Science Theme Group discussed the priorities of various proposed observations, including a Right Mastcam mosaic of the arm workspace and surrounding area, ChemCam LIBS targets, and a mosaic of the mid-field terrain toward the south.  Fortunately, power modeling indicated that the pre-drive science block could be lengthened to 2 hours, which made it much easier to fit all of the desired observations into the plan.  First, ChemCam will measure the elemental chemistry of 4 nearby rock targets, called "Ledmore 2," "Minginish," "Askival 3," and "Tyndrum 3."  Minginish has already been examined by MAHLI and APXS.  Then the Right Mastcam will take images of Askival 3 and Ledmore 2, as well as a 9x1 mosaic of "Lorne Plateau" (the area to the south), a large mosaic to provide complete coverage of the area in front of the rover, named "Bressay," and a 3x3 mosaic of the "Jedburgh" area closer the rover toward the south.  All these data will give the science team plenty to think about as we try to better understand the variety of rocks at Bressay.  

We are transitioning into restricted planning again, so the drive away from Bressay is planned on Sol 2020.  The drive target is a conglomerate rock named "Waternish."  After the drive, early on Sol 2021, Mastcam will measure the amount of dust in the atmosphere and Navcam will search for clouds.  Later that sol, Navcam will search for dust devils and Mastcam will measure dust opacity again.  Then ChemCam will acquire calibration data and will use AEGIS to autonomously select and acquire LIBS data on a target in the new arm workspace.  Finally, MARDI will take an image of the ground under the rover during twilight, to sample the terrain once again.  Overall, it was a good day for me as SOWG Chair, and despite the late start we finished planning in time for me to take my wife out on her birthday this evening!

by Ken Herkenhoff

Dates of planned rover activities described in these reports are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.

]]>
<![CDATA[Sol 2019: The workspace that just keeps giving]]> Tue, 10 Apr 2018 00:00:00 -0700 Sol 2017 Mastcam

For the past few sols Curiosity has been exploring a diverse assemblage of cobbles and boulders on Vera Rubin Ridge, trying to understand how this blocky deposit came to be, and what the variety of rock types can tell us about geologic processes in Gale crater.  We’ve been really excited by the diversity of rock types, as seen in the above Mastcam image.  The team decided to stay for one more full day of contact science before driving away in tomorrow’s plan.

I was the SOWG Chair today, and we tried to pack as much science as possible into the plan, pushing the bounds of our power and data volume limits.  We were able to plan 3 more contact science targets, and we’ll acquire a full suite of MAHLI images and APXS data on each of them.  The targets include a smooth gray rock named “Minginish,” a well-cemented, finely-laminated rock named “Sanquhar,” and a well-stratified rock named “Rousay.”  The Geology theme group also planned several ChemCam observations to assess the composition of different rock types, and three Mastcam mosaics to document a nearby light-toned outcrop, a view toward the sulfate-bearing unit, and the Greenheugh pediment in the distance. The Environmental theme group planned standard DAN and REMS observations, and a Navcam dust devil movie to find and characterize dust devils.  It’s been a lot of fun to see the diversity of rock types that Gale crater contains! 

By Lauren Edgar

--Lauren is a Research Geologist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center and a member of the MSL science team.

Dates of planned rover activities described in these reports are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.

]]>
<![CDATA[Astrogeology Sows STEM Seeds]]> Mon, 09 Apr 2018 00:00:00 -0700 The fifth Annual Flagstaff Community STEM Celebration, at Lawrence Walkup Skydome, was another undertaking of progress for presenting science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Astrogeology seldom misses an opportunity to sow STEM seeds — encouraging STEM activities, providing awareness, and support. The hope is that the seeds will develop and inspire students to entertain STEM subject matter in their future careers.

Astrogeology took advantage of the opportunity to contribute to the  Flagstaff Community STEM Celebration on March 5th. “USGS had a good presence, " said Greg Vaughn, the USGS coordinator of this effort. "Four science centers were represented from campus: Astrogeology, Western Geographic, Arizona Water, and Southwest Biological. We thank all contributors, particularly Melody Hartke from the USGS Flagstaff Science Campus warehouse, for pick-up and delivery of needed equipment.”

The turnout, some 2500-3000 individuals who went, included Grades K-12, parents, and educators.

STEM Celebration USGS scientists are demonstrating the aftereffects of a "Save the Village" exhibit, in which participants endeavor to erect barriers to divert a "lava flow" (melted candle wax) from pulverizing a toy village. Image Credit: Patricia Garcia

“This is a great demonstration that teaches participants about magma stream conduct and volcanic hazard appraisal and relief," said Elsie Rumpf, pictured above, “STEM night attendees had a great time working together to build walls to block the lava flows (and sometimes breaking down those walls to watch the village be overrun!)"

Vaughn brought one of the general population's top picks - an infrared camera, which enables members to see the infrared vitality that they exclude. Individuals like seeing themselves in the camera and at the same time learn how the camera detects and measures the infrared energy of objects, and learn how it is used for scientific study.

STEM Celebration

Vaughn demonstating the infrared camera.


Watch a movie of this fantastic event!

]]>
<![CDATA[Names Approved for Seven Faculae on Mercury]]> Fri, 06 Apr 2018 00:00:00 -0700 The IAU Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature approved names for seven faculae on Mercury: Abeeso Facula, Agwo Facula, Nathair Facula, Neidr Facula, Suge Facula, Thueban Facula, and Slang Faculae. For more information, see Mercury maps H-3, H-4, H-5, and H-8 in the Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature.

 

]]>
<![CDATA[Name Approved for Crater on Mars: Garu]]> Fri, 06 Apr 2018 00:00:00 -0700 Garu for a crater on Mars. For more information, see MC-23 in the Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature.]]> <![CDATA[Sol 2014: Something new and different]]> Thu, 05 Apr 2018 00:00:00 -0700 Sol 2012 Mastcam blocky deposits

For much of the last year, Curiosity has been exploring fine-grained rocks along Vera Rubin Ridge, and investigating red and gray color variations.  Recently, something else caught our eye: dark cobbles and boulders exposed in patches, as seen in the above Mastcam image.  We’ve seen some similar blocky deposits earlier in the mission, but it’s definitely been a while.  These interesting rocks led the science team to decide to spend the weekend at a patch of these dark blocky deposits.

I was the SOWG Chair today, and it was a fairly straightforward planning day once we settled on that end of drive location.  The plan starts with MAHLI and APXS observations of the target “Corsehill” to characterize some potential concretions in the bedrock at our present location.  Then we’ll acquire Mastcam multispectral imaging of yesterday’s DRT target “Lingarabay” and some additional Mastcam mosaics to document diagenetic features and nearby blocky deposits at “Sidlaw,” “Edzell,” and “Waternish.”  Unfortunately we were pressed for time today so we weren’t able to fit in any ChemCam observations, but we look forward to collecting more ChemCam data in the weekend plan.  We also planned a Navcam dust devil movie, along with standard REMS and DAN measurements.  After Curiosity’s ~18 m drive, we’ll take post-drive imaging to prepare for contact science in the weekend plan, and we’ll acquire an overnight APXS atmospheric observation.  I’m looking forward to learning more about these blocky deposits and how they relate to the depositional and erosional history preserved at Vera Rubin Ridge!

By Lauren Edgar

--Lauren is a Research Geologist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center and a member of the MSL science team.

Dates of planned rover activities described in these reports are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.

]]>
<![CDATA[Sols 2008-2010: Exploring variations in composition, texture, and color]]> Fri, 30 Mar 2018 00:00:00 -0700 Sol 2007 Navcam

Sol 2005 MAHLI

Yesterday Curiosity drove 35 m to the southeast, which set us up for some great contact science on the rim of a small impact crater.  We’re working our way toward Region 13 on Vera Rubin Ridge and exploring changes in bedrock composition, texture, and color, as shown in the above Navcam and MAHLI images.

I was the SOWG Chair today, and we developed a 3-sol plan with a lot of great science for the weekend.  The first sol kicks off with ChemCam observations of “Beinn Dearg Mhor,” “Dun Caan,” and “Dalbeattie” to look for changes in chemistry within the red bedrock in our workspace.  Sometimes I’m convinced that the geology theme group intentionally picks names that are hard for me to pronounce during the SOWG meeting!  Then we’ll acquire Mastcam documentation of those targets as well as a mosaic to characterize a sandy trough on the floor of the small crater at “Saxa Vord.”  In the afternoon, we planned contact science (including DRT, MAHLI, and APXS) on the targets “Lanark” and “Dun Caan” and some overnight APXS integrations.  These observations will help to compare orbital observations to surface characteristics, particularly as we move through an area with a high hematite signature in orbital spectroscopic data.  On the second sol Curiosity will acquire Mastcam multispectral observations of the DRT target “Lanark,” and the stratigraphy exposed in the wall of the small crater at the target “Stac Fada.”  After completing science activities at this location, Curiosity will drive to the southeast to investigate variations in color and sedimentary structures.  On the third sol, we planned an early science block for environmental monitoring activities.  Later in the afternoon Curiosity will acquire a long distance RMI to characterize the yardangs and stratigraphy exposed higher on the slope of Mt Sharp.  We’ll also acquire several additional Navcam and Mastcam images to monitor atmospheric opacity, clouds, and scattering properties.  It’s going to be a busy weekend on Mars!

By Lauren Edgar

--Lauren is a Research Geologist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center and a member of the MSL science team.

Dates of planned rover activities described in these reports are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.

]]>
<![CDATA[Name Approved for Crater on the Moon: Hawke]]> Fri, 23 Mar 2018 00:00:00 -0700 Hawke for a crater on the Moon. For more information, see LAC-140 in the Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature.]]> <![CDATA[Let the Good Times Roll at LPSC]]> Mon, 19 Mar 2018 00:00:00 -0700 Many Astrogeology Science Center employees are off to the 49th Lunar Planetary Science Center Conference (LPSC), in Woodlands, Texas, beginning this week throughout the 23rd. LPSC is co-sponsored by the Lunar and Planetary Institute and NASA. Astrogeology engages in this yearly conference to present their latest research in planetary science, to learn new information regarding current research in their field, to pursue other scientific interests, and to conduct workshops. One such workshop is a GIS introductory course put on by the Regional Planetary Information Facility of Astro, convening on Sunday.

“Since its beginning in 1970, when it was called the Apollo 11 Lunar Science Conference, the meeting has been a significant focal point for planetary science research, with nearly 1800 planetary scientists and students representing 41 countries attending the conference each year.”

Photo Credit: LPI/NASA

Preparing for the conference is busy business. Contributors and participants to the LPSC effort, must go through the motions of being affirmed to attend, abstracts must be composed and thereafter submitted by a specific due date. Preparation must be made to give presentations (not all who submit abstracts are allowed to present). If posters are to be provided, they are created and then prepared to ship, later to be displayed at the conference. Not to overlook the essentials of working with the movement specialist to make travel game plans and get lodging. Would Astro employees say they are then done at this point? Although this rundown of activities isn't thorough, they have still to pack their garments and make their destination before the good time rolls.

]]>
<![CDATA[Happy International Women's Day: with Barbie!]]> Wed, 07 Mar 2018 00:00:00 -0700 Hooray to the little girls who have grown up and are making contributions to science every day! In honor of International Women's Day on March 8, Mattel is making 17 new Barbie dolls that include an Inspiring Women line—featuring dolls based on historical female figures, and Shero dolls—designed for inspirational contemporary women.

Photo Credit: Mattel

So what has this to do with science you ask? Everything. One of the Inspiring Women dolls, in the likes of Katherine Johnson, whose work was featured in the film Hidden Figures, was a pioneer in mathematics hired by NASA to calculate the trajectory of the first American-manned flight into space. There are little girls growing up that will want to be like her. Lisa McKnight, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Barbie said, “Girls have always been able to play out different roles and careers with Barbie and we are thrilled to shine a light on real life role models to remind them that they can be anything.”

Photo of doll in the likeness of Johnson. Photo Credit: Mattel

 

Go ahead and catch up on how some real women are making a difference in science .]]>
<![CDATA[Sols 1981-1983: Second sample acquisition attempt]]> Fri, 02 Mar 2018 00:00:00 -0700

All of the data returned for the second drill target, called "Lake Orcadie 2," support the decision to attempt to acquire sample at that location using feed-extended drilling.  So the weekend plan is focused on drilling, which is planned for the second sol (1982).  But first, on Sol 1981, ChemCam and Right Mastcam will observe a potential location for dropping sample in the future and targets named "Ben Nevis" and "Moray."  Mastcam will then measure dust in the atmosphere and Navcam will search for dust devils.  Later that afternoon, Right Mastcam will look for changes in the sieved and unsieved Ogunquit Beach dump piles, and the ChemCam RMI and Right Mastcam will acquire mosaics of the alluvial fan near the north rim of Gale Crater.  Overnight, APXS will integrate on air rather than surface materials to measure the amount of argon in the atmosphere, which is known to vary seasonally based on Mars Exploration Rover APXS data.

Feed-extended drilling dominates the Sol 1982 plan, with only REMS and DAN activities running in parallel.  The drill will be retracted from the hole, and Mastcam will take pictures of the hole and the drill bit on Sol 1983.  Then the rover will sleep in preparation for more work on Monday. Of course we are all hoping that the drilling goes well--we're looking forward to studying the drill hole and sample!

by Ken Herkenhoff

Dates of planned rover activities described in these reports are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.

]]>
<![CDATA[Just published 'article' on the largest crater on dwarf planet, Ceres]]> Fri, 02 Mar 2018 00:00:00 -0700 Dr. Mike Bland is a research space scientist, at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center,  who just published a paper with engaging information on Kerwan crater. Kerwan is located on Ceres, the dwarf planet that has been the subject of mass media coverage in the past two years. Scientists knew very little about Ceres until the Dawn mission investigated this old and massive body in the asteroid belt. In his latest paper,  Dr. Bland has shared his research about the structure and evolution of Kerwan crater, the largest impact crater on Ceres. Find this exciting in-depth information in Geophysical Research Letters.

Kerwan

Kerwan Crater. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

]]>