This Week in Space: Mars rover revelations and a gassy moon

NASA
Mount Sharp

After finding evidence last week that microbial life may once have been sustainable on Mars , Curiosity has been keeping very busy. In fact, a news briefing from earlier today indicates that the dust sample the rover sent home might have even more information to provide. Read on and find out why.

Mars rover sends back pictures of Mount Sharp [JPL]

After a brief respite from the deluge of Mars coverage in the form of Mercury mosaics last week, Curiosity has come back swinging with a gorgeous panoramic view of Mount Sharp.

The panoramas are compiled from “dozens of telephoto images” taken by the rover’s Mast Camera (Mastcam) instrument back in September of last year. According to NASA, the mountain rises 3 miles above the location from where Curiosity took the picture, which makes Mount Sharp “higher than any mountain in the 48 contiguous states of the United States.”

Both the raw color version of the image as well as its white-balanced counterpart can be viewed on GigaPan with the ability to zoom in and pan across the large mosaics. [via The Verge]

Mars rover team reports further evidence of water on Mars [NASA]

Enough pretty pictures; let’s get down to some science. As the analysis of the powder from the rover’s drilling continues, NASA scientists have reported that they have “found more hydration of minerals near the clay-bearing rock than at locations Curiosity visited earlier.”

By using the Mastcam’s hydration-detecting tool and infrared imaging, researchers have been able to map out bright veins that represent hydrated minerals.

As Curiosity continues its already fruitful trek inside the Gale Crater, don’t be surprised to see the empirical evidence stacking up that life on Mars may have been much more than science fiction.

Undiscovered gas detected in the atmosphere of Titan [Geophysical Research Letters]

Let’s move a little further out in the solar system for this next story. Cassini, the spacecraft currently orbiting Saturn, recently picked up an “unidentified emission peaking around 3.28 micrometers” on Titan, Saturn’s biggest moon.

According to a report from Geophysical Research Letters, the emission is comparable to the methane bands which surround the moon, which is why the gas had been hidden until now.

The report goes on to suggest that the emission might be caused by aromatic compounds. The implications of this discovery are not yet clear, but in my opinion, any new gas is good gas. Especially when it exists hundreds of millions of miles from Earth. [via Science Mag]

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