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.
On Aug. 5 or Aug. 6, depending on which part of the country you’re in, the Curiosity spacecraft careening toward Mars will hit the Red Planet’s atmosphere, deploy a supersonic parachute and either land safely on the planet’s surface or perish. It’s dramatic stuff, and NASA has produced this Hollywood-style YouTube video, complete with animation and suspenseful music, to preview the landing, evoke that drama and put viewers on the edge of their seats.
As engineers explain, it will take seven minutes for Curiosity to travel from the edge of Mars’ atmosphere to the surface, going from a speed of 13,000 mph to zero. “If any one thing doesn’t work just right, it’s game over,” engineer Tom Rivellini says.
Because Mars is so far away, it actually takes 14 minutes for the spacecraft’s signal to reach Earth. So by the time we learn the spacecraft has hit the top of Mars’ atmosphere, Curiosity will have either have survived the landing or perished for a full seven minutes.
Using results from the High Accuracy Radical Velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) at the European Southern Observatory, the scientists say there are likely tens of billions of planets in the Milky Way galaxy alone that may be able to sustain life.
They estimate that one hundred of those planets are in the sun’s immediate neighborhood — which in space-speak is 30 light years away.
**The fastest known technology allows us to travel 1 light year in ~100 years
The generally accepted (though perhaps shortsighted) definition of a planet that can sustain life is one that has a mass between one and 10 times that of Earth, as well as a rocky surface, and the ability to sustain liquid water — meaning the planet’s surface temperature is neither too hot that water would evaporate nor too cold that it would freeze.
Although there are no planets that meet those criteria in our own solar system, the report suggests that they are common around other stars.
Surfing in Southern California means you hang out in water normally 55-65 degrees. Pretty cold and worth a wetsuit most of the time. Every once in a while the wind gets going and blows away the entire surface of the ocean, revealing the frigid lower layer. As that current comes up (upwelling) the water drops drastically, like 10 degrees or more.
It happened once last summer, in the middle of August. The water went from 65 to 50 overnight. I couldn’t believe it and, of course, nobody was in the water. Except for me, that is, I put on some booties and enjoyed the least crowded day all summer.
It turns out that these upwellings happen an awful lot in one particular spot.
So where’s the coldest surf spot in Orange County?
Blackies in Newport seems to be, thanks to the Newport Submarine Canyon trenched just offshore…. which explains why a wind/ water upwelling event like we had yesterday Sunday March 18, 2012, with 25-40 knots winds for a 24 hour period, turned the water from colder to coldest, at around 50 degrees at first light this morning…. But we’re over it. Can’t we just get our normal cold water back?
Granted, much of that room is in caves just below the planet’s surface, and much of that life will likely be microbes rather than little green men. But here’s the kicker — fully 3% of Mars has the right conditions to support life, the researchers say.
…if you run the same numbers on Earth, just 1% of the planet’s volume can support life.
Mars’ surface is too cold and too low-pressure to support liquid water…But Lineweaver’s study looked at geological data from decades of Mars missions — and concluded that it would be warm and pressurized enough for life to live just below the surface. Warmth from the planet’s core provides the heat, and soil packed in from above creates the necessary air pressure.
So are there vast empires of microbes — or even something bigger — lurking just below that dusty red surface? We should know more next August when NASA’s Curiosity Rover arrives on Mars. This next-generation space robot comes equipped with a laser beam that can blast rocks, and a robotic arm that can examine the results.
The beautiful circle surrounding the moon in this image is caused by ice crystals suspended in the air. Known as a paraselenic circle, this rare phenomenon comes from moonlight reflecting in complex ways off the crystals. While the circle is commonly only seen in sections, in some cases, such as this one, it can stretch around the entire sky.
Those dark spots sitting underneath this water strider aren’t exactly shadows. They’re patches of darkness created from distorted light as the little insect walks on the water’s surface.
A shallow pond’s surface acts somewhat like a stretched elastic skin. Water striders (of the family Gerridae) are able to “walk” on top of this skin because the surface tension produces a small upward thrust that holds their tiny weight.
The insect’s feet depress the water’s surface, producing a dip that bends light rays away from it. This creates a zone where no light can reach. Reflected rays all get pulled together, creating an intensely bright rim around each darkened patch.
This image, taken in Strasbourg, France, features grey clouds framing an astounding rainbow with seven fainter rainbows trailing below it.
This infrequent effect, called a supernumerary rainbow, comes about when the raindrops generating a rainbow are particularly uniform in size. As the different light waves spread out, they interfere with one another and form areas of darkness or brightness. These appear as pastel fringes below a regular rainbow.