Mars is one of the brightest planets in our solar system. It’s also among the hottest and coldest, so it’s not surprising that scientists have made this planet a target of exploration.
NASA’s Spirit, Opportunity and Curiosity rovers have been exploring the Red Planet for years. Now British YouTubers ‘ElderFox Documentaries’ have taken thousands of images and stitched them into an ultra high-definition video.
Chryse Planitia is a low area on Mars where scientists believe water once existed. It was the site of a landing by Viking 1 in 1976, but now researchers have found that it may be on the margins of a massive flood.
Scientists think that a three-kilometer asteroid crashed into an ocean on Mars about 3.4 billion years ago, creating a megatsunami that swept across the planet. The resulting water once flowed down valleys into Chryse Planitia.
But the flood didn’t end there. It flooded into the planet’s northern plains, bringing fine sediments with it.
This evidence is crucial for a better understanding of the early energetic impacts that may have heavily fractured Mars’ crust and remobilized groundwater at the time of impact4. The presence of buried impact basins like Chryse could be a key indicator of these events, which triggered catastrophic floods and outflow channels or induced regional hydrothermal systems5,6,51,52.
The Meridiani Planum, named for its location near the Martian prime meridian, contains a variety of geologic units that span the Early Noachian to Late Amazonian Epochs. It also features a number of impact craters.
In 2004 NASA’s Opportunity rover took a number of images of the Meridiani Planum that suggested that liquid water once existed on the planet’s surface. These images showed polygonal fractures in the rocks that resemble those formed by flowing water on Earth.
This led to a lot of interest in the possibility of water existing on Mars. However, it’s important to remember that many of these landscape features are evidence of erosion.
A team of scientists recently published a study that examines the origin of the hematite deposits at Meridiani Planum. It found that the deposits formed during a time when Mars had more consistent conditions than it does today.
These findings are a great step forward in the understanding of the planet’s history. They show that the hematite deposits are more likely to have been formed through groundwater upwelling and evaporation than ponding within an enclosed basin. This means that the sediments may have been present on Mars for much longer than previously thought.
Russell Crater is an incredibly interesting spot on Mars that’s full of intriguing features. From the huge dune ridge to long dark trails where whirlwinds whip up dirt and debris.
The surface of Mars is regularly smashed by dust devils, which are well-formed whirlwinds that can whip up dirt in large amounts. These whirlwinds are thought to be one of the planet’s most important atmospheric mechanisms, as they can transport sediment into craters and other areas.
In ancient times, it’s believed that water ran on the surface of Mars, carving channels and moving sediment as it went. This image from the orbiter shows a spectral analysis that highlights chemical alteration on the planet’s surface due to the water.
Another curious sight is the “brain terrain” – it’s thought that a strange textured landscape that resembles a human brain is caused by water sublimating from buried below the surface. This is an interesting area that needs more data to prove this as fact.
A Southwest Research Institute scientist examined 11 Mars years of HiRISE images to understand the seasonal processes that create linear gullies on the slopes of Russell Crater’s megadune. She found that the gullies can be traced to active processes in which chunks of carbon dioxide ice or dry ice slide down the dune, kicking up sand and other material along the way.
The southern hemisphere is home to some of the planet’s most impressive landscapes. It contains a large uplifted continent called Tharsis and several giant volcanoes that rise from the ground.
The surface of Mars consists of low, young plains that cover most of the northern hemisphere, and rugged highlands that dominate the southern hemisphere. The difference in the terrain between these two hemispheres is one of the greatest mysteries about Mars.
A new image from the European Space Agency’s Mars Express orbiter shows ribbons of red and white dancing across a frosty Martian landscape near the planet’s south pole. The ribbons are caused by sublimation, a process that transforms carbon dioxide ice into gas.
This sublimation can also create large irregular features on the polar region that look like empty lakes gouged into the surface. Scientists are monitoring the sublimation process to understand how these elements form on the surface and change over time.
On the Martian surface outside the polar caps, there are a number of dark areas that appear red-ochre in Earth-based telescopic images. These are known as maria (Latin for “sea”) because they were once thought to be covered by expanses of water.
A rare shot of a dust devil whirling over a Martian surface was captured by the NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s HiRISE camera in October. The camera is the most powerful one ever sent to another planet, sending high-resolution photos back to astronomers here on Earth.
On a typical spring or summer day, dust devils can begin to appear in the Martian atmosphere and continue erupting as the ground heats. Normally, the devils will last only minutes before disappearing as the ground cools.
As a result, they aren’t visible in regular images, but they do make up a significant portion of the planet’s wind pattern. They usually only appear in the region where the ground is warmest, and their crisscrossing paths often expose darker material beneath them.
They’ve also been shown to clean off solar panels on Mars rovers, including Opportunity and Spirit, which allowed them to last longer than expected. So scientists are excited that Perseverance’s microphone may be able to help them understand more about these vortices.
The mic is part of the rover’s SuperCam suite of tools, which can zap rocks and analyze their molecular makeup to see if they contain ancient microbial life. The microphone can detect tiny impacts from dust grains, like a crackly, radio static-like noise, but only when the dust is in motion. The team analyzed the sound data along with other sensor and atmospheric information from Perseverance’s weather sensors and left navigation camera to get an idea of the size of the dust devil and its speed.
The surface of Mars is awash with debris left behind by space exploration. This includes defunct rocket stages, jettisoned garbage bags, fragments from the explosion of various space equipment and paint flakes.
Space debris is a big problem because it contaminates otherwise pristine planetary bodies. This is particularly true of the Moon and Mars.
These pieces of space junk range in size from tiny flecks of paint and dust to defunct satellites, which are now too large to safely orbit Earth. According to the UN, there are currently more than 900,000 objects in orbit that have no use and endanger future missions and terrestrial communications.
In order to protect the Earth from the harmful effects of space debris, the UN has developed guidelines on how to mitigate their impact. The most effective mitigation strategies include ensuring all objects do not enter Earth’s orbit, removing the largest objects before they leave and avoiding collisions between satellites.
While these measures are a good start, they are not enough. A retired NASA senior scientist, Donald Kessler, argued that we have reached a threshold where if we don’t act now, we could trigger a runaway chain reaction of collisions and create space debris that is impossible to clean up. This is known as the “Kessler syndrome.”
Asteroids are the rocky bodies that make up the bulk of the Solar System, orbiting the Sun at a variety of heliocentric distances. They are the parents of most meteorites.
Asteroid sizes vary from a few hundred meters to more than 50 km in diameter. They also differ by their composition. Some are made of a single mineral, while others are composed of a mix of minerals.
During the early days of the solar system, asteroid collisions sent pieces of Mars’s surface crashing onto Earth as meteorites. That’s because Earth’s gravity is much weaker than that of Mars.
In addition, Mars’s atmosphere is much thinner than that of Earth, so it’s easier for a piece of a Martian rock to escape its gravity and hit the ground. This process is called ejection.
Mars regularly gets dust devils, strong whirlwinds that whip up dirt on the planet’s surface. This image shows long dark trails where these whirlwinds have blown up the material that’s underneath typical surface dirt and dust.