The Blue Martian Sunset

Ever since the Curiosity rover landed, NASA had been awash with new photos of the Martian landscape. Naturally, most have been black and white picks of the oxidized soil immediately around the rover’s landing area. But more have been arriving lately that show a feature unique to Mars. That feature is the Blue Sunset.

Scientists working for NASA claim that this phenomena is due to the particulate matter that is present in the Martian atmosphere. This red dust – which is composed of oxidized minerals, mainly iron – is what gives Mars its distinct color, but also provides for a fractal effect which shifts light towards the blue end of the spectrum. The same basic principle is true for sunsets seen from Earth, where our oxygen and nitrogen and ozone atmosphere causes the light to shift to the red end of the spectrum.

These patterns of Red Shift and Blue Shift are actually a very common element when it comes to astronomy. When observing galaxies in the night sky, scientists are able to tell that they are moving away because the light that they emit, and which is intercepted by our telescopes is shifted to the red end of the spectrum. Based on how much shift is occurring, scientists are bale to measure just how fast they are moving, relative to us.

When it comes time to hurl some objects into space ourselves, such as interstellar space craft, we can expect to see some of this close up. Out there, relativistic effects caused by high speeds will make the stars ahead of the ship look reddish, while stars seen to the rear will appear blue. Cool how that works huh?

To illustrate this Blue Sunset, NASA has released a compilation, time-elapse video which was taken two years ago by the Exploration Rover. It shows the sun setting in full, all the while emitting that cool, blue glow. Enjoy and stay tuned for more news on the Martian front!

Scientifically Inaccurate Mars Movies

In honor of the Mars Curiosity Rover’s recent landing, the good folks over at IO9 ask the question: “Why is it we can land a rover on Mars, but Hollywood still can’t make a scientifically accurate movie about Mars?” Yeah, I’d say that ranks right up there with Homer Simpson’s age old question: “How come you guys can put a man on the Moon but you still can’t make my shoes not stink?”

While the hosts go through a list of famous Hollywood movies that feature Mars, they ask guest host Phil Plait, the blogger behind the site Bad Astronomy (a segment at Discovery Magazine online), to debunk the junk science upon which so many of them are based. The list is long, but I’m thinking Mission to Mars for the win! Boy that movie sucked!

In between all that, there’s even some helpful tips for how to go about terraforming a planet like Mars for real. I’m thinking my group and I would do well to listen since our project concerns just that. Also, the image they put up when discussing the lengthy process terraforming would actually involve was taken from the Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson! A psychic moment happened for me there because I swear that it was as they were saying “We need a miniseries where that’s done” (i.e. gradual terraforming), I was thinking of that exact series!

So yeah… HBO, Netflix, one you other cable providers, get on that!

Curiosity Has Landed!

Yesterday, at precisely 10:23 pm Greenwich Mean Time, NASA announced the successful landing of the Mars Curiosity Rover! After blazing through Mars’ atmosphere at over 21,000 km/h, Curiosity’s unique landing system deployed and brought the rover in for a nice, controlled landing.

Needless to say, pandemonium ensued at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, where the landing was being monitored. All those on hand began jumping, hooting, hollering and hugging each other, much as they used to do whenever a successful launch was made or men touched down on the moon. Times may have changed, but the basic goal remains the same: to conquer the unknown and take the next big leap. And when that happens, you can expect the people who work so hard to make that happen to get a little giddy 😉

In addition, the HiRISE team (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment), caught this beautiful and perfectly-timed photo from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). The photo shows Curiosity at left deploying its chute and descending to the surface.

Immediately after touching down, Curiosity began sending photos back to NASA of Mars surface. The first two were of its landing zone in Mars’ Gale Crater, shown here:

To mark this momentous occasion, President Obama had this statement to make:

“Tonight, on the planet Mars, the United States of America made history.

The successful landing of Curiosity – the most sophisticated roving laboratory ever to land on another planet – marks an unprecedented feat of technology that will stand as a point of national pride far into the future. It proves that even the longest of odds are no match for our unique blend of ingenuity and determination.

Tonight’s success, delivered by NASA, parallels our major steps forward towards a vision for a new partnership with American companies to send American astronauts into space on American spacecraft. That partnership will save taxpayer dollars while allowing NASA to do what it has always done best – push the very boundaries of human knowledge. And tonight’s success reminds us that our preeminence – not just in space, but here on Earth – depends on continuing to invest wisely in the innovation, technology, and basic research that has always made our economy the envy of the world.

I congratulate and thank all the men and women of NASA who made this remarkable accomplishment a reality – and I eagerly await what Curiosity has yet to discover.”

Yes, this is certainly is history in the making. Needless to say, Curiosity is expected send back some interesting finds as it wanders the Martian surface, takes soil samples, and scans them to determine what secrets and mysteries the surface holds. In time, all this information could become intrinsic to settlement and terraforming, the creation of human civilization on a planet other than Earth! Exciting times we live in!

In the meantime, check out this compilation video of the landing paired with footage take from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab:

Via: Universe Today