Its been a busy week for Martian discoveries. And all of the stories here are from the Martian geologists that aren’t Curiosity. Remember Opportunity, a rover that landed on the red planet, over nine years ago. Well, despite its initial 90 martian day working lifespan, after 3300 martian days it’s still running, and still producing some great new science.
With all of Curiosity’s success in finding clues as to past water on Mars, Opportunity has discovered this rock, called Esperance. It has lower calcium and iron than any other rock so far analysed by the rover, and far higher quantities of aluminium and silica. Chemically, this means its highly likely to be a clay rich rock. And clay rich rocks can only form where there is high pH (ie. not acid) water.
Opportunity meanwhile, is off on a 2.2km trek for some winter sun, moving 25m on its first day as it trundles off in search of more science!
But its not just the old rover’s that continue to function, the satellites are producing some stunning results and images of their own.
The Mars Express Probe is a satellite put into Martian orbit by the British/Europeans ten years ago, it had carried the ill-fated lander Beagle 2. But it has produced some hypnotic images of the North pole of Mars and its hypnotising, rotating swirls, which move in the opposite direction to the wind. Warm sunlit air melts ice on the downwind slope, and deposits it on the shady upwind slope.
And finally, because we all love things rolling down hills. Take a look at some of these images from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance orbiter, launched in 2005. In the first image, its believed sleds of dry-ice have slid down Martian sand dunes. And in the second, its a rock, falling down a hill. But remember, if that doesn’t sound cool enough for you, its a rock, falling down a hill, ON ANOTHER PLANET. I highly recommend you check out the links for all the cool stories behind whats going on in these great images.