Cloudy days on Mars

Clouds above Moreux crater in the Protonilus Mensae region. Click for larger version. Credit: ESA / G. Neukum (Freie Universitaet, Berlin, Germany) / Bill Dunford
Clouds above Moreux crater in the Protonilus Mensae region. Ancient streambeds can also be seen. Click for larger version. Credit: ESA / G. Neukum (Freie Universitaet, Berlin, Germany) / Bill Dunford

Mars can seem amazingly Earth-like in many ways, and that includes weather. Bill Dunford recently posted some new images from the Mars Express spacecraft, providing some great views of Martian clouds as they drift over the landscape below. The one above is a beautiful example and all of them can be seen here. While Martian clouds don’t get as big and puffy as they can on Earth, they are still a reminder that Mars is a place, a world with its own unique history while at the same time reminding us of home.

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Interesting ‘ribbon rock’ seen by Curiosity rover

ChemCam image of "ribbon rock" taken on sol 514. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
ChemCam image of “ribbon rock” taken on sol 514. Click for larger version. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

While a lot of attention has been paid the last few days to the odd rock which “appeared” beside the Opportunity rover, the other rover, Curiosity, has found its own interesting little chunk of a Martian puzzle. While not as publicized, it has been the subject of a lot of discussion among mission followers. What are the ribbon-like bands? Could they be feldspar laths? Another type of lath? Something else entirely? Curiosity has taken Mastcam and ChemCam images, but no other information is available yet.

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Curiosity rover confirms ancient Martian lake

View from Yellowknife Bay in Gale crater, looking west-northwest. This area of sedimentary deposits is now known to be the former bottom of a freshwater lake. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
View from Yellowknife Bay in Gale crater, looking west-northwest. This area of sedimentary deposits is now known to be the former bottom of a freshwater lake. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Some exciting new results from the Curiosity rover mission on Mars were announced yesterday at this year’s American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco. Basically, as previously suspected, Curiosity landed in an ancient lakebed inside Gale crater, and those habitable conditions apparently lasted for a longer time than previously thought.

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Getting closer to Mount Sharp…

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Click for larger version. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

As the Curiosity rover keeps making its way closer to Mount Sharp, we are starting to see the foothills, mesas, buttes and valleys in more detail. All of these Mastcam images are from sol 467. The scenery could easily be mistaken for the American southwest, but no, this is Mars. These are just the foothills; Mount Sharp itself is about 4.8 kilometres (3 miles) tall and just out of view to the left. What a stark, yet beautiful, landscape. All of Curiosity’s raw images can be seen here.

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