NASA releases a full 360-degree panorama of Mars surface – feels like you’re there

NASA has released an amazing panorama shot of Mars:

 

This full-circle scene combines 817 images taken by the panoramic camera (Pancam) on NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity. It shows the terrain that surrounded the rover while it was stationary for four months of work during its most recent Martian winter.

Its release this week coincides with two milestones: Opportunity completing its 3,000th Martian day on July 2, and NASA continuing past 15 years of robotic presence at Mars.

 

And, Panoramas.dk has turned it into a it’s-like-you’re-there 360-degree view. Make sure to visit Panorama.dk, the shot will make you feel like you are on the surface of Mars.

 

A screenshot of 90-degrees of the panorama:

 

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Astronomers discover black hole with 140 trillion times more water than Earth

Two teams of astronomers have discovered the largest and farthest reservoir of water ever detected in the universe. The water, equivalent to 140 trillion times all the water in the world’s ocean, surrounds a huge, feeding black hole, called a quasar, more than 12 billion light-years away.

“The environment around this quasar is very unique in that it’s producing this huge mass of water,” said Matt Bradford, a scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “It’s another demonstration that water is pervasive throughout the universe, even at the very earliest times.”

A quasar is powered by an enormous black hole that steadily consumes a surrounding disk of gas and dust. As it eats, the quasar spews out huge amounts of energy. Both groups of astronomers studied a particular quasar called APM 08279+5255, which harbors a black hole 20 billion times more massive than the sun and produces as much energy as a thousand trillion suns.

Astronomers expected water vapor to be present even in the early, distant universe, but had not detected it this far away before. There’s water vapor in the Milky Way, although the total amount is 4,000 times less than in the quasar, because most of the Milky Way’s water is frozen in ice.

 

And, the instruments they used:

Bradford’s team made their observations starting in 2008, using an instrument called “Z-Spec” at the California Institute of Technology’s Submillimeter Observatory, a 33-foot (10-meter) telescope near the summit of Mauna Kea in Hawaii. Follow-up observations were made with the Combined Array for Research in Millimeter-Wave Astronomy (CARMA), an array of radio dishes in the Inyo Mountains of Southern California.

The second group, led by Dariusz Lis, senior research associate in physics at Caltech and deputy director of the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory, used the Plateau de Bure Interferometer in the French Alps to find water.

 

Source: NASA – Astronomers Find Largest, Most Distant Reservoir of Water

 

 

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MESSENGER sends first data back to Earth – uncovers ice on Mercury

For several years scientists have been begging to test their theories about Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun. You see, the radar signals come back showing ice exists on the planet, but how could ice exist on a planet so incredibly hot?

NASA sent the spacecraft MESSENGER to orbit the planet and figure the mystery out (among other things). It turns out that ice exists at the planet north and south poles and possibly underneath some “dirt-shielding”.

All of this was uncovered by Professor David Paige, who has previous experience with Mars and the Moon, as he explains in his own words:

 

“I was able to use the Mercury laser altimeter in conjunction with a three-dimensional ray-tracing thermal model that I built to study ice on the moon, Paige said. “Using these models, I calculated the average temperature on the surface of the planet and concluded that the surface temperatures were too warm to permit the long-term stability of ice. The only possibility was some sort of thin layer of cover that allowed the ice to survive.”

This thin, dark layer is called a regolith and is probably made of organic substances like the Earth’s soil, rich in hydrocarbon compounds that may have come from the comets and meteorites that struck the planet over time. The comets and meteorites may have also contributed the water that seeped under the soil cover to form the icy patches.

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MESSENGER (Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry and Ranging) is the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury. Its goal is to collect better data about the composition and atmosphere of the planet, and it just completed its first year of information gathering.

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While the mix of water and organic compounds on another planet may raise the possibility of extraterrestrial life for some scientists, this is not what excites Paige. For him, the discovery of ice on Mercury is the triumph of science.

“We’re getting a good agreement between models and observations,” Paige said. “What we thought was true is true. The most exciting part of this? We may not know lot of things, but on Mercury we have things under control.”

via UCLA Today

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