November 28, 2014

17.04.11: HiRISE on the Hunt.

The inverted streams of the Aeolis Region. (Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona).

Pull out those 3-D glasses, its alien anaglyph time. HiRISE, NASA’s very own high flying Martian orbiter, has been returning some mind blowing pics since entering orbit in 2006. Equipped with a 0.5 meter diameter camera with the resolution usually reserved for a spy satellite, the HiRISE site now boasts an avalanche of 3-D panoramas that provide for an amazing Sunday morning perusal. (Click the image above and watch hours disappear!)

But there’s more to be had than just pretty pictures. Recently, researchers at the University of Arizona have had reason to believe that we’re seeing seasonal changes, as subsurface water mixed with salt and brine causes flow along the Martian surface. That’s right; seasonal change, a term once reserved for pre-Space Age observations of the Red Planet are creeping into the lexicon of space scientists once again. Dubbed Transient Slope Lineae, TSL’s look rather like terrestrial land slumps to this humble desktop observer and the active presence of H2O may add some credence to those tantalizing “dew drops” spotted on the struts of the Phoenix Lander.

Is water still flowing on Mars? Later this year, NASA plans to send an ambitious mission entitled the Mars Science Laboratory, an SUV sized lander that will be deployed in sky hook fashion and may well answer some of these key questions… between it and HiRISE and a flotilla of missions both at Mars and proposed, expect a renaissance for Mars Science!      

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