Google+ Mars Travel: October 2012

Closeup of Bright Object in 'Rocknest'

Today's Image of Mars is a closeup of a mysterious bright object located at Rocknest on Mars taken by MSL Curiosity's Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI). The image shows an area spanning only 4cm across, which should give you a better idea of how big these bright particles are. MSL took this image after it had taken a scoop of the terrain.

Click this image to see the high resolution image from NASA. 
The MSL team was originally worried that the bright objects could be a part of the rover that had fallen off, as this has already happened once before, but after further image analysis it was determined that these bright particles are natural to Mars. 

Bright Object Embedded in MSL Curiosity's Path

Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity took this 5cm wide image of the soil just beneath the surface sampled by the rover on 12 Oct 2012 (sol 66 of MSL's mission). This image showed a bright object embedded in the soil at the top center. Can you see it? 

Click to see high resolution version from NASA.

Because the object is embedded in the soil scientists on the MSL team have determined that the bright object is native to Mars. This comes after MSL saw a similar bright object on the ground next to it. It was determined that that bright object was a piece of the rover that had fallen off. What's different about this is that it appears to be native to Mars, which begs the question, what is this bright object?

In the days to come MSL will be examining the area throroughly, which will enable us to better determine what this object is. Stay tuned to find out!

Mars Photo of the Day - 14 Oct 2012

Today's Image of Mars is an annotated photo of the rock Jake Matijevic, which MSL Curiosity recently examined with two different instruments. The image was taken on 21 Sep 2012, or Sol 46 of MSL's mission on Mars. 

Click to see original high resolution image from NASA.

The purple circles represent areas where the rover's Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer trained its gaze. The red dots are where Curiosity's ChemCam zapped the rock with its laser and examined the chemical composition of the vapors. Understanding the chemical makeup of rocks like Jake Matijevic will give scientists a better idea of the environment in which they were created.

Mars Photo of the Day - 10 Oct 2012

Today's Image of Mars shows an area at the base of Gale Crater's Mount Sharp where Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity will eventually explore. The darkest colored materials are deposits small grained, windblown sand. The blue areas represent unaltered igneous rock, whereas the lighter brownish-red colors are indicative of the same type of rock altered by what most scientists believe was water. 

MSL Curiosity's mission is to search for signs that Mars could have once supported life as we know it; examining minerals that have been altered by the presence of water will help us to determine that. Studying the chemical composition of these rocks will provide us with unparalleled insight into the past environment on Mars. 

Clicking on this image will take you to the original high resolution image. [HiRISE caption for the image]

Frost in Argyre Basin on Mars

Just like on Earth, a frost can develop on Mars. What you see below is a swath of land within the 1800km wide, 5km deep Argyre Basin, which was created from an enormous impact in the early part of Mars' history. The prominent crater partially captured in this image from Mars Express' High Resolution Stereo Camera is the 138km wide Hooke Crater.

Click to see original high resolution image from Mars Express. [See their article]
The frost you see in this image is actually carbon dioxide ice, which scientists believe only forms at ground level when it freezes out of the atmosphere. The reason why only the frost is only abundant in the southern (left) lowlands of this image is because of the angle of the sun at the time this image was taken. This image was taken at 1630 local time on Mars, when the Sun was at a 20 degrees above the horizon. It only had enough time to melt the frost off the north facing crater walls, but wasn't yet able to melt any in the low lying area to the south.

Understanding when and for how long frost can cover the surface of Mars will save future explorers from facing potential surprises! Imagine waking up in your space capsule only to look out the window and see the ground covered in ice!

Live Streaming: SpaceX Resupply of ISS

Watch below for live streaming coverage of the first commercial resupply of the International Space Station (ISS).

At 2035ET on 7 Oct 2012, the SpaceX's Falcon 9 is set to lift off carrying a Dragon capsule with 882 pounds of cargo for the ISS.

This live video feed comes from SpaceFlightNow.

 for live text updates on the launch!

Watch live streaming video from spaceflightnow at

Mars Rock vs Earth Rock - Can You Tell the Difference?

The below image shows us just how difficult it can be to differentiate the surface of Mars from Earth's. This image was taken by MSL Curiosity on 2 Sep 2012, it's 27th sol (Martian day) since it's operation in Gale Crater

Which one is which?

Click to see larger, annotated version from NASA.