Archive for the ‘Events’ Category

Curiosity Sends High-Resolution Color Images from Gale Crater

Sunday, August 12th, 2012

Source – NASA/JPL Mars Science Laboratory:

NASA’s Curiosity rover has shipped back to Earth high-resolution color images of its surroundings on Mars, sharpening our views of an intriguing channel, layered buttes and a layer of cobbles and pebbles embedded in a finer matrix of material. The images show a landscape closely resembling portions of the southwestern United States, adding to the impression gained from the lower-resolution thumbnail images released earlier this week.

The 79 images that went into the large mosaics were taken on Aug. 8, 2012 PDT (Aug. 9, EDT) by Curiosity’s 34-millimeter Mastcam. The black areas indicate high-resolution images not yet returned by the rover.

The full-resolution images are available at: “http://www.nasa.gov/msl and http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/multimedia/images/.

Curiosity sent lower-resolution versions of these images earlier in the week. The latest versions, sent while Curiosity was undergoing a software “brain transplant” and pausing in its acquisition of new science data, are 1,200 by 1,200 pixels.

In one version of the large mosaic, the colors portrayed are unmodified from those returned by the camera. The view is what a cell phone or camcorder would record, since the Mastcam takes color pictures in the exact same manner that consumer cameras acquire color images. The second version shows the colors modified as if the scene were transported to Earth and illuminated by terrestrial sunlight. This processing, called “white balancing,” is useful for scientists to be able to recognize and distinguish rocks by their color in more familiar lighting.

Smaller mosaics of some of the areas most interesting to science team members are also available. One shows a section on the crater wall north of the landing site, where a network of valleys believed to have formed by water erosion enters Gale Crater from the outside. This is the first view scientists have had of a fluvial system – one relating to a river or stream – from the surface of Mars.

A second section of the mosaic looks south of the landing site, towards Mount Sharp, a peak that is about 3.4 miles (5.5 kilometers) high and taller than Mt. Whitney in California. This provides an overview of the eventual geologic targets Curiosity will explore in the next two years. Close by is a rock-strewn, gravelly surface. Farther away is a dark dune field, and beyond that lie the layered buttes and mesas of the sedimentary rock of Mount Sharp.

Another section of the mosaic shows an area excavated by the blast of the Mars Science Laboratory’s descent stage rockets. With the loose debris blasted away by the rockets, details of the underlying materials are clearly seen. Of particular note is a well-defined, topmost layer that contains fragments of rock embedded in a matrix of finer material.

Curiosity continues to be very healthy, with all instruments and engineering subsystems operating as planned. There are no science or instrument activities planned on Sol 5. Last night, the new flight software, which is optimized for surface operations, was tested for the first time and successfully executed all planned Sol 5 rover activities. The test demonstrated that the new software is ready to support the upcoming surface operations mission phase. After an afternoon nap, Curiosity then returned to operating on its previous flight software, as planned. The rover’s primary main computer will be permanently transitioned to the new flight software on Aug. 13.

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Veronica McGregor/Guy Webster
818-354-9452/818-354-6278
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
veronica.mcgregor@jpl.nasa.gov / guy.webster@jpl.nasa.gov

NASA Unveils Xbox Kinect ‘Mars Rover Landing’ Game (Free)

Monday, August 6th, 2012

I have not tried this yet.

Source – NASA Video Gallery:

Danielle Roosa, granddaughter of Apollo 14 astronaut Stuart Roosa, demonstrates NASA and Microsoft’s free Kinect interactive Xbox video game, ‘Mars Rover Landing.’ The new game lets players try their skill at landing the Curiosity rover on Mars. The game is available free of charge in the Xbox Live Marketplace and Kinect Central.

Stop-Motion Video From Curiosity’s Descent

Monday, August 6th, 2012

Source – NASA Video Gallery:

Curiosity’s Descent
This stop-motion video shows 297 frames from the Mars Descent Imager aboard NASA’s Curiosity rover as it descended to the surface of Mars. These thumbnail images were received on Earth on Aug. 6, 2012, and cover the last two and a half minutes of descent.

Touch Down…… For NASA New Rover on Mars…

Monday, August 6th, 2012

Source – NASA:

NASA Lands Car-Size Rover Beside Martian Mountain

PASADENA, Calif. — NASA’s most advanced Mars rover Curiosity has landed on the Red Planet. The one-ton rover, hanging by ropes from a rocket backpack, touched down onto Mars Sunday to end a 36-week flight and begin a two-year investigation.

The Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) spacecraft that carried Curiosity succeeded in every step of the most complex landing ever attempted on Mars, including the final severing of the bridle cords and flyaway maneuver of the rocket backpack.

“Today, the wheels of Curiosity have begun to blaze the trail for human footprints on Mars. Curiosity, the most sophisticated rover ever built, is now on the surface of the Red Planet, where it will seek to answer age-old questions about whether life ever existed on Mars — or if the planet can sustain life in the future,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “This is an amazing achievement, made possible by a team of scientists and engineers from around the world and led by the extraordinary men and women of NASA and our Jet Propulsion Laboratory. President Obama has laid out a bold vision for sending humans to Mars in the mid-2030’s, and today’s landing marks a significant step toward achieving this goal.”

Curiosity landed at 10:32 p.m. Aug. 5, PDT, (1:32 a.m. EDT Aug. 6) near the foot of a mountain three miles tall and 96 miles in diameter inside Gale Crater. During a nearly two-year prime mission, the rover will investigate whether the region ever offered conditions favorable for microbial life.

“The Seven Minutes of Terror has turned into the Seven Minutes of Triumph,” said NASA Associate Administrator for Science John Grunsfeld. “My immense joy in the success of this mission is matched only by overwhelming pride I feel for the women and men of the mission’s team.”

Curiosity returned its first view of Mars, a wide-angle scene of rocky ground near the front of the rover. More images are anticipated in the next several days as the mission blends observations of the landing site with activities to configure the rover for work and check the performance of its instruments and mechanisms.

“Our Curiosity is talking to us from the surface of Mars,” said MSL Project Manager Peter Theisinger of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “The landing takes us past the most hazardous moments for this project, and begins a new and exciting mission to pursue its scientific objectives.”

Confirmation of Curiosity’s successful landing came in communications relayed by NASA’s Mars Odyssey orbiter and received by the Canberra, Australia, antenna station of NASA’s Deep Space Network.

Curiosity carries 10 science instruments with a total mass 15 times as large as the science payloads on the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity. Some of the tools are the first of their kind on Mars, such as a laser-firing instrument for checking elemental composition of rocks from a distance. The rover will use a drill and scoop at the end of its robotic arm to gather soil and powdered samples of rock interiors, then sieve and parcel out these samples into analytical laboratory instruments inside the rover.

To handle this science toolkit, Curiosity is twice as long and five times as heavy as Spirit or Opportunity. The Gale Crater landing site places the rover within driving distance of layers of the crater’s interior mountain. Observations from orbit have identified clay and sulfate minerals in the lower layers, indicating a wet history.

The mission is managed by JPL for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The rover was designed, developed and assembled at JPL. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

For more information on the mission, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/mars and http://marsprogram.jpl.nasa.gov/msl.

Follow the mission on Facebook and Twitter at: http://www.facebook.com/marscuriosity And http://www.twitter.com/marscuriosity.

Guy Webster / D.C. Agle 818-354-6278 / 818-393-9011
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
guy.webster@jpl.nasa.gov / agle@jpl.nasa.gov

Dwayne Brown 202-358-1726
NASA Headquarters, Washington
dwayne.c.brown@nasa.gov

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Live Web Cast of the 2012 Transit of Venus

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

Source – NASA TV:



Live Video app for Facebook by Ustream

The 2012 Transit of Venus will not be repeated until the year 2117

Friday, June 1st, 2012

Source – Science@NASA:

On June 5th, 2012, Venus will pass across the face of the sun, producing a silhouette that no one alive today will likely see again.

Transits of Venus are very rare, coming in pairs separated by more than a hundred years. This June’s transit, the bookend of a 2004-2012 pair, won’t be repeated until the year 2117. Fortunately, the event is widely visible. Observers on seven continents, even a sliver of Antarctica, will be in position to see it.

The nearly 7-hour transit begins at 3:09 pm Pacific Daylight Time (22:09 UT) on June 5th. The timing favors observers in the mid-Pacific where the sun is high overhead during the crossing. In the USA, the transit will be at its best around sunset. That’s good, too. Creative photographers will have a field day imaging the swollen red sun “punctured” by the circular disk of Venus.

2012 Map of the transit of Venus:

NASA Venus Transit Observing Challenge

Super Moon of May 2012

Saturday, May 5th, 2012

Source – ScienceCasts: The Super Moon of May 2012:

Another “super-Moon” is in the offing. The perigee full Moon in May will be as much as 14% bigger and 30% brighter than other full moons of 2012.

NASA / JPL What’s Up For May 2012

Saturday, May 5th, 2012

Source – NASA /JPL Solar System Exploration:

View sunspots and a solar eclipse through solar-safe ‘scopes this month.

ScienceCasts: A Wonderful Night in April

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

Source – Science@NASA:

If you have to chose just one night in April to go out and look at the stars, NASA scientists say it should be April 21st. This week’s ScienceCast explains what makes that one night so special.

The Lyrid meteor Shower on the night of 21st/22nd April

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

The Lyrid Meteor Shower – so called as the radiant (from where the meteor trails seem to radiate from) lies in the constellation Lyra peaks in the early morning of the 22nd April and is a reliable, though not spectacular, shower with perhaps up to 15 meteors seen per hour. Observations of the Lyrid meteors have been made for at least 2,600 years! Happily, this year the peak of activity is only one day after the new moon so there will be no moonlight to hinder our observations should it be clear. Observations made after 1 am are expected to be the most productive. The dust particles that cause the shower have been released by the comet Thatcher, discovered in 1861. Occasionally we pass through a dense clump of particles as happened in 1982 when over 90 meteors were seen per hour. So its worth waking up to have a look if around 1-2 am should it be expected to be clear. Look to the East as shown in the chart.


The Radiant of the Lyrid meteor Shower
Stellarium/IM
Click On Image for larger Picture

Reprinted with the permission of

Ian Morison
Gresham Professor of Astronomy
http://www.jb.man.ac.uk/astronomy/nightsky/

Professor Ian Morison Lectures can be viewed at
http://fora.tv/search_video?q=Morison