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 Cavi and a Tholus on Mars]]> Tue, 07 Nov 2017 00:00:00 -0700 Dalu Cavus, Layl Cavus, Malam Cavus, Nat Cavus, Noc Cavus, Usiku Cavus, and Noctis Tholus. For more information, see Mars map MC-17 in the Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature.]]> <![CDATA[Sols 1868-1869: Hello gorgeous]]> Mon, 06 Nov 2017 00:00:00 -0700 Sol 1866 Mastcam

It was a good weekend on Mars.  Curiosity spent the weekend exploring a beautiful outcrop of sedimentary rocks (shown in the above image) as part of our continued investigation of the middle and upper parts of Vera Rubin Ridge.  Images like these will help us figure out the environment in which these rocks were deposited.

Today’s two-sol plan is focused on additional imaging of a different part of this outcrop to better constrain the sedimentary structures and the transport directions that they record.  We planned a large Mastcam stereo mosaic of the outcrop seen in this Navcam image, as well as a ChemCam RMI mosaic to get even higher resolution imaging of a small portion of the section.  The plan also includes MAHLI and APXS observations of the target “Volksrust” to characterize typical bedrock in this location, as well as a number of environmental monitoring observations to investigate the spectral characteristics and dust content of the atmosphere.  On the second sol, Curiosity will drive toward our next outcrop and prepare for more contact science and imaging.  Can’t wait to see what the next stop will hold!

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.

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<![CDATA[Dawn Spacecraft Contribution and Fate]]> Mon, 30 Oct 2017 00:00:00 -0700 Halloween day prompts a chilling question: If you were a spacecraft, which fate would you prefer? Would you choose to remain in a stable orbit forever around Ceres or would you prefer to crash into Saturn and burn?

The Cassini spacecraft crashed into Saturn and was engulfed in flames in September 2017, while Dawn’s fate, projected for 2018, will be to remain in a stable orbit around Ceres once it runs out of hydrazine fuel. Until then, Dawn will continue to explore and transmit the latest and greatest observations about the rocky, icy, dwarf planet.

Ceres Photos

Dawn acquired these two images of Ceres on February 19 at a distance of 28,000 miles in its RC2 orbit. Photo Credit: NASA,JPL,CALTECH,/UCLA,MPS.DLR, and IDA.

The Dawn spacecraft was launched by NASA in September 2007, and was the first spacecraft to orbit both Vesta and Ceres. Dawn entered Vesta's orbit in 2011 and has now been in orbit around the dwarf planet, Ceres, since March 2015, capturing a great deal of new photos and enriching scientific study. Scientist Mike Bland of the USGS Astrogeology team makes use of these high resolution images and has made some very interesting observations about Ceres’ surface morphology. Don’t be the last one to find out what Mike’s observations are in the excerpt.

Excerpt: NASA’s Dawn spacecraft entered Ceres orbit in March of 2015 and has (to date) attained global imaging at resolutions as high as 410 m/pixel. In contrast to some pre-Dawn predictions [1], these images reveal a heavily cratered surface. The persistence of pristine crater morphologies over geologic time provides direct constraints on Ceres’ near-surface composition and structure, and requires a relatively high-viscosity near-surface more consistent with a thick, frozen rock regolith (more rock than ice) than the relatively pure water ice shell suggested by theoretical interior models [2, 3]. Other more exotic compositions with high viscosity are also possible. Read more.

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<![CDATA[Name Approved for Crater on Mars: Kotido]]> Tue, 24 Oct 2017 00:00:00 -0700 Kotido for a crater on Mars. For more information, see Mars map MC-11 in the Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature.]]> <![CDATA[Sols 1852-1853: Feeding SAM some sand]]> Fri, 20 Oct 2017 00:00:00 -0700

MSL drove over 20 meters on Sol 1850, to an area with lots of bedrock exposed.  We had several nice targets to choose from, but were limited in what we could plan because we want to prepare for a SAM evolved gas analysis (EGA) of sand from "Ogunquit Beach," which requires significant power.  We are planning only 2 sols today, to get synced back up with "Mars time" on Monday, so will not be driving this weekend. 

Despite the power constraints, we were able to plan a lot of activities today.  Sol 1852 will start with Navcam searches for clouds and dust devils, followed by Mastcam mosaics of the expected path ahead (southward).  Then ChemCam and Right Mastcam will observe bedrock target "Balfour" and a block named "Ripon."  Late that afternoon, MAHLI will acquire a full suite of images of Balfour before APXS is placed on it for an overnight integration.  We considered brushing Balfour before examining it with MAHLI and APXS, but to save time/power we decided not to.  The ChemCam laser often cleans dust off of the surface of rock targets, so we're hoping that will suffice on Balfour.

On Sol 1853, the long-awaited drop-off of Ogunquit Beach sample to SAM is planned!  This activity was delayed by the drill anomaly and the testing that followed, so we are excited to be planning it today.  If all goes well, the SAM EGA will be planned on Monday.

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.

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<![CDATA[New Naming Method Approved for Use on Mars]]> Mon, 16 Oct 2017 00:00:00 -0700 Categories page in the Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature.]]> <![CDATA[Seven New Names Approved for Paterae on Mars]]> Mon, 16 Oct 2017 00:00:00 -0700 Olympus Paterae, Apollo Patera, Athena Patera, Dionysus Patera, Hermes Patera, Hera Patera, and Zeus Patera. For more information, see the map of MC-9 in the Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature.]]> <![CDATA[Sols 1848-1849: How far we’ve come]]> Mon, 16 Oct 2017 00:00:00 -0700 Sol 1846 Navcam

Today felt like any other planning day: a straightforward plan involving remote sensing, a drive, post-drive imaging, and some untargeted observations on the second sol.  Just a typical day in the office.  Maybe even an easy one.  It wasn’t until I sat down to write this blog that I fully processed how far we’ve come and just how awesome Curiosity’s “office” is.  I was looking through the drive imagery and came across this Navcam frame (posted above), which looks down on the Murray Buttes and Bagnold Dune Field, across Aeolis Palus and the northern rim of Gale crater.  It’s pretty spectacular to see just how much we’ve explored in 5 years.  But that was just a quick glance over Curiosity’s shoulder (or the RTG, which hangs off the back of the rover), because our sights were mostly set on the terrain ahead of us to choose where to go next. 

I was the Geology Science Theme Lead today, and it felt like any other planning day.  We came in to assess how the weekend activities completed, what targets we had in front of us, and which route we wanted to take to get to the next interesting feature on Vera Rubin Ridge.  The two-sol plan begins with a preload test of the rover’s drill.  Then Curiosity will acquire ChemCam and Mastcam observations of some nodular purple bedrock (target “Buck Reef”), and a unique gray-white vein or clast (target “Boomplaas”).  We also planned some Mastcam imaging of sedimentary structures exposed in cross-section (target “Eccles”) and to document the previously-acquired ChemCam AEGIS target.  Then Curiosity will drive ~15-20 m further south to investigate some mottled outcrop that we first noticed from orbit.  After the drive, we’ll take Mastcam and Navcam images to prepare for contact science in the next plan.  Data volume was a challenge today, so we had to think carefully about which images we need to have down in time to make decisions on Wednesday. On the second sol, Curiosity will wake up early to acquire a number of environmental monitoring observations to monitor clouds, dust, and wind.  Later on the second sol we planned another ChemCam AEGIS observation to automatically target bedrock in our new location.  Not bad for a typical day in the office! 

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.

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<![CDATA[Rare Photos by Early NASA Astronauts for Sale]]> Mon, 16 Oct 2017 00:00:00 -0700 Did you know famous NASA photographs captured by astronauts are objets d’art these days and are auctioned and sold for a considerable price tag? Skinner Auctioneers and Appraisers in Marlborough, Massachusetts will allow people to leave bids online starting later this week. The live auction of these vintage photographs will take place on November 2. Familiar images to most people, include astronaut John Glenn's 1962 photo of the sun illuminating the Earth (shown below), the first ever photo of the Earth from space taken by a person.

Buzz Aldrin’s 1969 photo of his own boot print on lunar soil is another famous image for sale. Other photos include a shot of the original seven project Mercury astronauts, the Nile River and the Red Sea from space, and a print of Eugene Cernan, the last man on the moon.

Michelle Lamunière, a specialist in fine photography at Skinner, says the 445 images for sale from 1961 to 1972, are each worth anywhere from $300 to $9,000. Many of the photographs have original NASA marks, captions, identifying numbers and Kodak paper watermarks. The images are not reprints but original, gelatin silver or chromogenic prints produced by NASA following the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions. The good news is that although you may not score an original, you can always revisit famous photographs at NASA.

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<![CDATA[Job Opening: Physical Scientist]]> Thu, 12 Oct 2017 00:00:00 -0700 The USGS Astrogeology Science Center is hiring a permanent developer of planetary tools and/or cartographic products who can independently maintain a portfolio of externally funded projects related to NASA and international spaceflight missions. For more information visit our Careers page.

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<![CDATA[Astro Making a Difference in STEM Education]]> Fri, 06 Oct 2017 00:00:00 -0700 USGS Astrogeology Science Center is on board for the development of STEM curricula for middle and elementary school students to facilitate interest in learning about planetary science, technology and engineering. In 2015, NASA funded the Planetary Learning that Advances the Nexus of Engineering, Technology, and Science (PLANETS) project, a partnership involving multiple agencies, to get the wheels turning. Research scientist and educator Moses Milazzo and other subject matter experts (SMEs), at the Astrogeology Science Center, created a model for improved collaboration between SMEs, curriculum developers, professional development experts, and educators to strengthen the process. Science materials for two out-of-school time modules were designed for middle school students during 2016 and 2017, and a third module for elementary school students is underway. Find out more information on how Astrogeology and others are making a difference in education in the excerpt below.

 

SEM Collaboration

USGS and affiliates working together to make STEM optimal.

Excerpt: Planetary Learning that Advances the Nexus of Engineering, Technology, and Science (PLANETS) was selected as one of 27 new projects to support the NASA Science Mission Directorate’s Science Education Cooperative Agreement Notice. Our goal is to develop and disseminate out-of-school time (OST) curriculum and related educator professional development (PD) modules that integrate planetary science, technology, and engineering. We operate as a partnership between planetary science Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), curriculum developers, science and engineering teacher professional development experts and OST teacher networks. The PLANETS team includes the Center for Science Teaching and Learning (CSTL) at Northern Arizona University (NAU); the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Astrogeology Science Center (Astrogeology); and the Boston Museum of Science (MOS). As part of this overarching project, we will create a model for improved integration of SMEs, curriculum developers, professional development experts, and educators during all stages of curriculum development. Continue Reading.]]>
<![CDATA[Flagstaff Festival of Science - Fall 2017]]> Mon, 02 Oct 2017 00:00:00 -0700 Join us September 22 - October 1, 2017 for the Flagstaff Festival of Science, a FREE 10-day event with field trips, guided hikes, star parties, open houses, hands-on exhibits, presentations and archaeological excavations. Astrogeology Science Center scientists Ken Herkenhoff, Tim Titus, Mike Bland, and Greg Vaughn will give talks on some of the exciting work being done!

We'll also be out at Science in the Park, September 23, 10 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. We look forward to seeing you there!

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<![CDATA[First Names for Pluto]]> Thu, 21 Sep 2017 00:00:00 -0700 Tombaugh Regio, Sputnik Planitia, Tenzing Montes, Hillary Montes, Al-Idrisi Montes, Djanggawul Fossae, Sleipnir Fossa, Virgil Fossae, Adlivun Cavus, Hayabusa Terra, Voyager Terra, Tartarus DorsaBurney, and Elliot. For more information, see the map of Pluto in the Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature.]]> <![CDATA[Sol 1822: Onward and upward!]]> Wed, 20 Sep 2017 00:00:00 -0700 Sol 1819 Mastcam VRR

On Sol 1821, Curiosity successfully completed contact science activities at “Pennessewassee” and “Passadumkeag.”  Perhaps in an effort to get to more easily pronounceable rock targets, today’s tactical team planned a nice long drive towards our next waypoint on Vera Rubin Ridge.

The Sol 1822 plan begins with a Navcam movie to look for clouds above the northern rim of the crater.  Then Curiosity will turn her attention towards the bedrock targets in front of her, using both Mastcam and ChemCam to assess the spectral character of yesterday’s DRT target “Passadumkeag” and to assess the composition and sedimentary structures exposed at “Hypocrites Ledge.”  We’ll also use Mastcam to monitor the movement of fines on the rover deck.  Then Curiosity will gear up for a drive of ~40 m, as we work our way towards the next waypoint (located in the top center of the Mastcam image shown above).  Downlink data volume was a challenge today, so the team had to think carefully about the priorities of post-drive imaging to prepare for possible touch-and-go contact science and other remote sensing in tomorrow’s plan.  The afternoon post-drive imaging block also contains some extended Navcam coverage for additional geologic context and targeting, as well as two Navcam observations to search for clouds and monitor the wind direction near the zenith.  With drives like these, we’re really reminded that we have a mountain-climbing robot 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.

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<![CDATA[Five Names Approved for Titan: Salusa, Niushe, Harmonthep, Corrin, and Ochumare]]> Fri, 15 Sep 2017 00:00:00 -0700 The IAU Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature has approved five names on Titan: Salusa Labyrinthus, Niushe Labyrinthus, Harmonthep Labyrinthus, Corrin Labyrinthus, and Ochumare Regio. For more information, see the map of Titan in the Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature.

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