mars high resolution imaging science experiment

For NASA, Earth Day is Every Day!

With a fleet of spacecraft orbiting our home planet collecting data on everything from the air we breathe to natural disasters that impact our lives, Earth is always in focus. Join us as we celebrate our home with beautiful views from our unique vantage point of space.

On December 17, 1972, the crew of Apollo 17 snapped this iconic image of planet Earth. Dubbed the Blue Marble, this image was taken as Apollo 17 rocketed toward the moon. 

On the way to the moon or from the surface of Mars, our spacecraft have photographed the beauty of Earth from many vantage points. In this image, the most powerful telescope orbiting Mars captured this view of Earth and its moon, showing continent-size detail on the planet and the relative size of the moon. The image combines two separate exposures taken on November 20, 2016, by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on our Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. 

In this image taken on July 19, 2013, the wide-angle camera on our Cassini spacecraft captured Saturn’s rings and our planet Earth and its moon in the same frame.

Our Suomi-NPP satellite also observed the Earth at night. Earth’s “night lights” often have a gee-whiz curiosity for the public , but have also served as a tool for fundamental research for nearly 25 years. They have provided a broad, beautiful picture, showing how humans have shaped the planet and lit up the darkness. 

You can be mesmerized by the constant swirls in these visualizations of ocean currents. The swirling flows of tens of thousands of ocean currents were captured using the largest computations of their kind ever undertaken, using high-end computing resources at our Ames Research Center. 

We’ve all seen iconic photographs of Earth shot by astronauts. But even satellites and robotic spacecraft often get in on the act. The above image, called “Pale Blue Dot,” was taken Voyager 1 in February 1990 from a distance of 4 billion miles.

Our satellites do more than take pretty pictures of Earth. They do everything from measure rainfall to observe weather patterns. The ten satellites in the Global Precipitation Measurement Constellation have provided unprecedented information about rain and snow fall across the entire Earth. This visualization shows the constellation in action, taking precipitation measurements underneath the satellite orbits. 

In an homage to Apollo 17′s “Blue Marble” image, Suomi-NPP, a joint NASA-NOAA Earth-observing satellite, made this composite image, by making a number of swaths of Earth’s surface on January 4, 2012. 

What’s your favorite aspect of planet Earth? These kids have their own ideas. You can even “adopt” parts of the planet. Which one of the 64,000 locations will you get? 

Our home planet is constantly changing, which is why our fleet of Earth-observing satellites continuously monitor the globe, recording every moment of what they see. Luckily for us, many of the views are not only deeply informative but also awe-inspiring. 

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June 9, 2017 - Gigantic Mystery Hole At Martian South Pole.

“NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter recently imaged a vast pit
on Mars at south pole and scientists have no idea what caused it.”

- Science News.com.au

NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) discovered this gigantic hole in the
south pole of Mars, estimated to be hundreds of feet in diameter surrounded
by frozen carbon dioxide. The MRO has been in Martian orbit since March 2006.

The huge hole in the south pole of Mars is hundreds of feet in diameter and no one knows how deep into the red planet the huge hole goes. And what is the yellow stain in and around the hole? The gigantic mystery hole was discovered by the orbiter’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment, or HiRISE camera. It allows NASA to see Martian objects larger than one meter from about 124 miles (200 km) to 248 miles (400 km) above. The camera takes repeated images throughout the Martian seasons to monitor the terrain’s changes. Did something punch its way through the Martian crust? Or the ground is falling into a deep underground cavern? Or something came from below through the crust?

The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter often takes images of Martian sand dunes to study the mobile soils. These images provide information about erosion and movement of surface material, about wind and weather patterns, even about the soil grains and grain sizes. However, looking past the dunes, these images also reveal the nature of the substrate beneath.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona
Caption: Mike Mellon

13 Reasons to Have an Out of This World Friday (the 13th)

1. Know that not all of humanity is bound to the ground

Since 2000, the International Space Station has been continuously occupied by humans. There, crew members live and work while conducting important research that benefits life on Earth and will even help us eventually travel to deep space destinations, like Mars.

2. Smart people are up all night working in control rooms all over NASA to ensure that data keeps flowing from our satellites and spacecraft

Our satellites and spacecraft help scientists study Earth and space. Missions looking toward Earth provide information about clouds, oceans, land and ice. They also measure gases in the atmosphere, such as ozone and carbon dioxide, and the amount of energy that Earth absorbs and emits. And satellites monitor wildfires, volcanoes and their smoke.

Satellites and spacecraft that face toward space have a variety of jobs. Some watch for dangerous rays coming from the sun. Others explore asteroids and comets, the history of stars, and the origin of planets. Some fly near or orbit other planets. These spacecraft may look for evidence of water on Mars or capture close-up pictures of Saturn’s rings.

3. The spacecraft, rockets and systems developed to send astronauts to low-Earth orbit as part of our Commercial Crew Program is also helping us get to Mars

Changes to the human body during long-duration spaceflight are significant challenges to solve ahead of a mission to Mars and back. The space station allows us to perform long duration missions without leaving Earth’s orbit. 

Although they are orbiting Earth, space station astronauts spend months at a time in near-zero gravity, which allows scientists to study several physiological changes and test potential solutions. The more time they spend in space, the more helpful the station crew members can be to those on Earth assembling the plans to go to Mars.

4. Two new science missions will travel where no spacecraft has gone before…a Jupiter Trojan asteroid and a giant metal asteroid!

We’ve selected two missions that have the potential to open new windows on one of the earliest eras in the history of our solar system – a time less than 10 million years after the birth of our sun!

The first mission, Lucy, will visit six of Jupiter’s mysterious Trojan asteroids. The Trojans are thought to be relics of a much earlier era in the history of the solar system, and may have formed far beyond Jupiter’s current orbit.

The second mission, Psyche, will study a unique metal asteroid that’s never been visited before. This giant metal asteroid, known as 16 Psyche, is about three times farther away from the sun than is the Earth. Scientists wonder whether Psyche could be an exposed core of an early planet that could have been as large as Mars, but which lost its rocky outer layers due to a number of violent collisions billions of years ago.

5. Even astronauts eat their VEGGIES’s

NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough collected the third and final harvest of the latest round of the Veggie investigation, testing the capability to grow fresh vegetables on the International Space Station. 

Understanding how plants respond to microgravity is an important step for future long-duration space missions, which will require crew members to grow their own food. Crew members have previously grown lettuce and flowers in the Veggie facility. This new series of the study expands on previous validation tests.

6. When you feel far away from home, you can think of the New Horizons spacecraft as it heads toward the Kuiper Belt, and the twin Voyager spacecraft are beyond the influence of our sun…billions of miles away 

Our New Horizons spacecraft completed its Pluto flyby in July 2015 and has continued on its way toward the Kuiper Belt. The spacecraft continues to send back important data as it travels toward deeper space at more than 32,000 miles per hour, and is nearly 3.2 billion miles from Earth.

In addition to New Horizons, our twin Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft are exploring where nothing from Earth has flown before. Continuing on their more-than-37-year journey since their 1977 launches, they are each much farther away from Earth and the sun than Pluto. In August 2012, Voyager 1 made the historic entry into interstellar space, the region between the stars, filled with material ejected by the death of nearby stars millions of years ago.

7. Earth has a magnetic field that largely protects it from the solar wind stripping away out atmosphere…unlike Mars

Findings from our MAVEN mission have identified the process that appears to have played a key role in the transition of the Martian climate from an early, warm and wet environment to the cold, arid planet Mars is today. MAVEN data have enabled researchers to determine the rate at which the Martian atmosphere currently is losing gas to space via stripping by the solar wind. Luckily, Earth has a magnetic field that largely protects it from this process. 

8. There are humans brave enough to not only travel in space, but venture outside the space station to perform important repairs and updates during spacewalks

Spacewalks are important events where crew members repair, maintain and upgrade parts of the International Space Station. These activities can also be referred to as EVAs – Extravehicular Activities. Not only do spacewalks require an enormous amount of work to prepare for, but they are physically demanding on the astronauts. They are working in the vacuum of space in only their spacewalking suit. 

When on a spacewalk, astronauts use safety tethers to stay close to their spacecraft. One end of the tether is hooked to the spacewalker, while the other end is connected to the vehicle. Spacewalks typically last around 6.5 hours, but can be extended to 7 or 8 hours, if necessary.

9. We’re working to create new aircraft that will dramatically reduce fuel use, emissions and noise…meaning we could change the way you fly! 

The nation’s airlines could realize more than $250 billion dollars in savings in the near future thanks to green-related technologies that we are developing and refining. These new technologies could cut airline fuel use in half, pollution by 75% and noise to nearly one-eighth of today’s levels!

10. You can see a global image of your home planet…EVERY DAY

Once a day, we will post at least a dozen new color images of Earth acquired from 12 to 36 hours earlier. These images are taken by our EPIC camera from one million miles away on the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR). Take a look HERE.

11. Employees of NASA have always been a mission driven bunch, who try to find answers that were previously unknown

The film “Hidden Figures,” focuses on the stories of Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson and Dorothy Vaughan, African-American women who were essential to the success of early spaceflight. 

Today, we embrace their legacy and strive to include everyone who wants to participate in our ongoing exploration. In the 1960’s, we were on an ambitious journey to the moon, and the human computers portrayed in Hidden Figures helped get us there. Today, we are on an even more ambitious journey to Mars. We are building a vibrant, innovative workforce that reflects a vast diversity of discipline and thought, embracing and nurturing all the talent we have available, regardless of gender, race or other protected status. Take a look at our Modern Figures HERE.

12. A lot of NASA-developed tech has been transferred for use to the public 

Our Technology Transfer Program highlights technologies that were originally designed for our mission needs, but have since been introduced to the public market. HERE are a few spinoff technologies that you might not know about.

13. If all else fails, here’s an image of what we (Earth) and the moon look like from Mars  

From the most powerful telescope orbiting Mars comes a new view of Earth and its moon, showing continent-size detail on the planet and the relative size of the moon. The image combines two separate exposures taken on Nov. 20 by our High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on our Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

In the image, the reddish feature near the middle of the face of Earth is Australia.

From the most powerful telescope orbiting Mars comes a new view of Earth and its moon, showing continent-size detail on the planet and the relative size of the moon.

The image combines two separate exposures taken on Nov. 20, 2016, by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The images were taken to calibrate HiRISE data, since the reflectance of the moon’s Earth-facing side is well known. For presentation, the exposures were processed separately to optimize detail visible on both Earth and the moon. The moon is much darker than Earth and would barely be visible if shown at the same brightness scale as Earth.

The combined view retains the correct positions and sizes of the two bodies relative to each other. The distance between Earth and the moon is about 30 times the diameter of Earth. Earth and the moon appear closer than they actually are in this image because the observation was planned for a time at which the moon was almost directly behind Earth, from Mars’ point of view, to see the Earth-facing side of the moon. 

In the image, the reddish feature near the middle of the face of Earth is Australia. When the component images were taken, Mars was about 127 million miles (205 million kilometers) from Earth.

With HiRISE and five other instruments, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been investigating Mars since 2006.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona/ Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter

Time And Space

Mars Gullies Likely Not Formed by Liquid Water

New findings using data from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter show that gullies on modern Mars are likely not being formed by flowing liquid water. This new evidence will allow researchers to further narrow theories about how Martian gullies form, and reveal more details about Mars’ recent geologic processes.

Scientists use the term “gully” for features on Mars that share three characteristics in their shape: an alcove at the top, a channel, and an apron of deposited material at the bottom. Gullies are distinct from another type of feature on Martian slopes, streaks called “recurring slope lineae,” or RSL, which are distinguished by seasonal darkening and fading, rather than characteristics of how the ground is shaped.

Water in the form of hydrated salt has been identified at RSL sites.

The new study focuses on gullies and their formation process by adding composition information to previously acquired imaging.

Researchers from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, examined high-resolution compositional data from more than 100 gully sites throughout Mars. These data, collected by the orbiter’s Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM), were then correlated with images from the same spacecraft’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera and Context Camera (CTX).

The findings showed no mineralogical evidence for abundant liquid water or its by-products, thus pointing to mechanisms other than the flow of water – such as the freeze and thaw of carbon dioxide frost – as being the major drivers of recent gully evolution.

The findings were published in Geophysical Research Letters.
Gullies are a widespread and common feature on the Martian surface, mostly occurring between 30 and 50 degrees latitude in both the northern and southern hemispheres, generally on slopes that face toward the poles. On Earth, similar gullies are formed by flowing liquid water; however, under current conditions, liquid water is transient on the surface of Mars, and may occur only as small amounts of brine even at RSL streaks. The lack of sufficient water to carve gullies has resulted in a variety of theories for the gullies’ creation, including different mechanisms involving evaporation of water and carbon dioxide frost.

“The HiRISE team and others had shown there was seasonal activity in gullies – primarily in the southern hemisphere – over the past couple of years, and carbon dioxide frost is the main mechanism they suspected of causing it. However, other researchers favored liquid water as the main mechanism,” said Jorge Núñez of APL, the lead author of the paper.

“What HiRISE and other imagers were not able to determine on their own was the composition of the material in gullies, because they are optical cameras. To bring another important piece in to help solve the puzzle, we used CRISM, an imaging spectrometer, to look at what kinds of minerals were present in the gullies and see if they could shed light on the main mechanism responsible.”

Núñez and his colleagues took advantage of a new CRISM data product called Map-projected Targeted Reduced Data Records. It allowed them to more easily perform their analyses and then correlate the findings with HiRISE imagery.

“On Earth and on Mars, we know that the presence of phyllosilicates – clays – or other hydrated minerals indicates formation in liquid water,” Núñez said. “In our study, we found no evidence for clays or other hydrated minerals in most of the gullies we studied, and when we did see them, they were erosional debris from ancient rocks, exposed and transported downslope, rather than altered in more recent flowing water. These gullies are carving into the terrain and exposing clays that likely formed billions of years ago when liquid water was more stable on the Martian surface.”

Other researchers have created computer models that show how sublimation of seasonal carbon dioxide frost can create gullies similar to those observed on Mars, and how their shape can mimic the types of gullies that liquid water would create. The new study adds support to those models.

APL built and operates CRISM, one of six instruments with which the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter project has been examining Mars since 2006. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the Caltech in Pasadena, California manages the project for the NASA Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Denver built the orbiter and supports its operations.

IMAGE….The highly incised Martian gullies seen in the top image resemble gullies on Earth that are carved by liquid water. However, when the gullies are observed with the addition of mineralogical information (bottom), no evidence for alteration by water appears.
The pictured area spans about 2 miles (3 kilometers) on the eastern rim of Hale Crater. The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter took the visible-light image. Color-coded compositional information added in the lower version comes from the same orbiter’s Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM). Color coding in light blue corresponds to surface composition of unaltered mafic material, of volcanic origin. Mafic material from the crater rim is carved and transported downslope along the gully channels. No hydrated minerals are observed within the gullies, in the data from CRISM, indicating limited interaction or no interaction of the mafic material with liquid water. These findings and related observations at about 100 other gully sites on Mars suggest that a mechanism not requiring liquid water may be responsible for carving these gullies on Mars. (Gullies on Mars are a different type of feature than seasonal dark streaks called recurring slope lineae or RSL; water in the form of hydrated salt has been identified at RSL sites.)
The HiRISE image is a portion of HiRISE observation PSP_002932_1445. The lower image is from the same HiRISE observation, with a CRISM mineral map overlaid.

‘Victoria Crater’ at Meridiani Planum

This image from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows “Victoria crater,” an impact crater at Meridiani Planum, near the equator of Mars. The crater is approximately 800 meters (half a mile) in diameter. It has a distinctive scalloped shape to its rim, caused by erosion and downhill movement of crater wall material. Layered sedimentary rocks are exposed along the inner wall of the crater, and boulders that have fallen from the crater wall are visible on the crater floor. The floor of the crater is occupied by a striking field of sand dunes.

Since January 2004, the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has been operating at Meridiani Planum. Five days before this image was taken, Opportunity arrived at the rim of Victoria crater, after a drive of more than 9 kilometers (over 5 miles). The rover can be seen in this image, at roughly the “ten o'clock” position along the rim of the crater.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/Cornell/Ohio State University

This image from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows Victoria crater, an impact crater at Meridiani Planum, near the equator of Mars. The crater is approximately 800 meters (half a mile) in diameter. It has a distinctive scalloped shape to its rim, caused by erosion and downhill movement of crater wall material. Layered sedimentary rocks are exposed along the inner wall of the crater, and boulders that have fallen from the crater wall are visible on the crater floor. The floor of the crater is occupied by a striking field of sand dunes.

NASA Confirms Evidence That Liquid Water Flows on Today’s Mars

These dark, narrow, 100 meter-long streaks called recurring slope lineae flowing downhill on Mars are inferred to have been formed by contemporary flowing water. Recently, planetary scientists detected hydrated salts on these slopes at Hale crater, corroborating their original hypothesis that the streaks are indeed formed by liquid water. The blue color seen upslope of the dark streaks are thought not to be related to their formation, but instead are from the presence of the mineral pyroxene. The image is produced by draping an orthorectified (Infrared-Red-Blue/Green(IRB)) false color image (ESP_030570_1440) on a Digital Terrain Model (DTM) of the same site produced by High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (University of Arizona). Vertical exaggeration is 1.5.

Credits: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

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@nasa shows where Matt Damon would have been stranded on Mars    

All of the images were taken with the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment, or HiRISE — the main imaging instrument on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. To find the exact location of the fictional Ares 3 site, the author of The Martian, Andy Weir, provided the precise coordinates he wanted to the HiRISE team.

Mars: Victoria Crater

“Victoria Crater,” about 800 meters (one-half mile) in diameter, has been home ground for NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity for more 14 of the rover’s first 46 months on Mars. This view shows the rover’s path overlaid on an image of the crater taken by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Opportunity first reached the crater’s rim on Sept. 27, 2006, during the 951st Martian day, or sol, of the rover’s work in the Meridian Planum region of Mars. The rover then explored clockwise about one-fourth of the way around the rim before returning to a point close to its first overlook. On the mission’s 1,293rd sol (Sept. 13, 2007), Opportunity began a sustained exploration of the interior of the crater, entering at an alcove called “Duck Bay” on the western side of Victoria. This traverse map includes Opportunity’s route though Sol 1,365 (Nov. 26, 2007). The scale bar is 300 meters (984 feet) long.
 Caption: NASA/JPL

A dramatic, fresh impact crater dominates this image taken by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on Nov. 19, 2013-NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona