MAVEN Finds Out Where All The Atmosphere Went On Mars.

Launched in 2013, the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) spacecraft is one of the little know spacecraft orbiting our red neighbor.

MAVEN at the Limb of Mars, Artist's Concept

MAVEN’s primary mission is to determine the role that loss of atmospheric gas to space played in changing the Martian climate through time.  And, more importantly, where did the atmosphere and the water go?

File:Structure of the magnetosphere-en.svg

Although it doesn’t sound very exciting, the mission has ramifications for our planet.  Is what happened on Mars likely to happen to us?  Since I still like to breath, it is a pretty important question to answer.  However, because we have a greater mass, our atmosphere is more protected than Mars.

Although some people believe that Mars lost it’s atmosphere because it’s core isn’t spinning, that isn’t the case.  The core of Venus isn’t spinning and it has way too much atmosphere.  So, it is most likely due to the size of Mars and that it doesn’t have enough mass to keep an atmosphere for long periods of time.

It seems that the Sun is to blame for most of Mars atmosphere bleeding off into space.  Maven found that solar-wind particles in the ionosphere  hit molecules in the upper atmosphere, the interactions make the particles neutral and allow them to move into lower altitudes, past the shield of the ionosphere, then re-emerge as ions again.  This process is known as  ‘sputtering.’  Atoms are knocked away from the atmosphere due to impacts from energetic particles from the solar wind.

Now that MAVEN is fully operations, after doing a duck and cover for comet Sliding Spring, more answers will help us understand what we need to do to make Mars more habitable for future manned missions and potential colonization.

 

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +, or by email.

Norman

Duck And Cover For Martian Probes.

The comet Sliding Spring flew past Mars yesterday giving us our first view of a comet from a different planet.

Hubble Space Telescope picture of comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring as observed on March 11, 2014. At that time the comet was 353 million miles from Earth. When the glow of the coma is subtracted through image processing, which incorporates a smooth model of the coma's light distribution, Hubble resolves what appear to be two jets of dust coming off the nucleus in opposite directions. This means that only portions of the surface of the nucleus are presently active as they are warmed by sunlight, say researchers. Credit: NASA, ESA, and J.-Y. Li (Planetary Science Institute)

The images weren’t available in time for this post, but the Hubble image above shows how it looked earlier in the year.

Siding Spring went past Mars at 125,000mph (56km per second) and missing the planet by 86681 miles (139,500 km).  Earlier projections didn’t have enough data, so there was a possibility that the comet would actually hit Mars.

There are currently eight active spacecraft operating either on the surface, Opportunity and Curiosity, and . The orbiting Mars Odyssey, Mars Express, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, MAVEN, Mars Orbiter Mission and the newly arrive Indian MRO spacecraft.

http://space.jpl.nasa.gov/cgi-bin/wspace?tbody=499&vbody=1001&month=10&day=19&year=2014&hour=00&minute=00&rfov=90&fovmul=-1&bfov=30&porbs=1&showsc=1&showac=1

The simulated image above from the JPL/NASA simulator at http://space.jpl.nasa.gov/ show all the orbiters hiding behind the planet.  Due to the close flyby, the comet is going to leave a lot of debris as it passes by.  Any dust or debris traveling at that speed can severely damage these craft, so everyone moved their craft to the far side of the planet to wait for the all clear.

Comet debris can last for a very long time so this is something that may become happen every Martian year.  We see the residue of comets regularly in the form of meteor showers.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

Look! Its A Flying Saucer!

NASA’s Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) looks like a flying saucer, but doesn’t quite act like one.

A saucer-shaped test vehicle holding equipment for landing large payloads on Mars is shown in the Missile Assembly Building at the US Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kaua‘i, Hawaii.  The vehicle, part of the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator project, will test an inflatable decelerator and a parachute at high altitudes and speeds over the Pacific Missile Range this June.

In a test scheduled for this month 15-foot-wide LDSD is supposed to be launched by a helium balloon to a height of 120,000 feet, and then blasted up to 180,000 feet by a solid-fueled rocket engine.

Just like that ride a Magic Mountain where they haul you up and then just drop you straight down.

Image: Saucer rocket

As it descends at supersonic speeds, it would inflate an “inner tube” device to increase its diameter to 20 feet to increase atmospheric drag and (hopefully) slow the descent enough for the deployment of a super-strong parachute.  Sort of a better version of how Curiosity landed on Mars.

The problem with Mars, and a whole host of other landing sites, is the lack of atmosphere.  Less atmosphere, less drag.  Even if the gravity is less, most of the spacecraft sent are speeding along at several thousand miles/km per hour and currently cannot carry enough fuel to slow down.

If the test is successful, then NASA won’t need to make any more bouncing balls to land craft on our red neighbor.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

Drill Baby Drill…Just Not For Oil.

After almost a year, Curiosity is once again putting holes into the Martian surface to find out what lies below.

It is almost a year since Curiosity last turned its drill on Mars

Most of the delay was because of the more than three miles (5km) journey the rover too to get closer to its primary target Aeolis Mons.

The path for the last few months has been very rocky and treacherous and the going has been slow.  Not to mention that the 400 or so scientists vying for time with the Curiosity keep stopping it to pick up whatever data they can.

Since 23 January, the rover has more or less stayed in one place, snuggled up next to a reddish rock nicknamed John Klein, in a region called Yellowknife Bay.  And it may stay there for a while longer, starting in April, Mars will be behind the Sun as seen from Earth, and no spacecraft on or around Mars will be able to radio home.

Selfie

Still, more exciting news from Mars should be coming from the rover after this month of radio silence. Of course no scientific journey of unmanned exploration would be complete without a selfie.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

Bus Tracks On Mars

Curiosity’s trip has been captured in an interesting image.

The school bus sized rover has left a trail that the orbiting Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s HiRISE camera captured.

The rover is currently making its way to the Kimberley area.  It was named after the Western Australian region.

'Australia' on Mars

Oddly enough, Curiosity took this image of a rock that looks strikingly like Australia.

https://i0.wp.com/curiosityrover.com/rovertrack.jpg

Curiosity will remain at the Kimberly for several weeks scooping samples of regolith (a layer of loose, heterogeneous material covering solid rock that includes dust, soil, broken rock, and other related materials) and drilling into rocks to access the pristine material below the surface for analysis in the rover’s on board chemistry suite.

Although the path as been winding and strange, Curiosity is making good headway.  Stay tuned for further updates.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

Blood Moon Rising.

As I said yesterday, April is going to be a busy month.

 

File:Visibility Lunar Eclipse 2014-04-15.png

April 14-15 (depending on where in the world you are Carmen San Diego), a total lunar eclipse will be visible in the Pacific Ocean region, including Australia, as well as North and South America.

Animation april 15 2014 lunar eclipse appearance.gif

It will be the first of two total lunar eclipses in 2014, and the first of a tetrad (four total lunar eclipses in series), the other total eclipses will occur on October 8, April 8, 2015, and September 28, 2015.

Lunar eclipse chart close-2014Apr15.png

Once the Moon is in total eclipse, it looks red.  Hence the name Blood Moon.  However, this is normally how the Moon looks in total eclipse, so it doesn’t have anything to do with the doomsday prophecies running around the Internet.  Unfortunately, April has another doomsday prediction that I will discuss tomorrow.

Astronomy: Roen Kelly

What makes this total eclipse even more event worthy is the fact that Mars will appear right next to the Moon during its eclipse and should be spectacular as Mars is just coming out of its opposition with the Earth.

Time to break out the cameras or cellphone and take some images.  I will try to make some instructions for taking images of the Moon that should help anyone interested.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman