We can now “fly over” topographically accurate landscapes of Mars thanks to Mars Express, the European Space Agency (ESA) mission to explore the red planet. Launched in June 2003 and arriving six-and-a-half months later, the Mars Express spacecraft has orbited the planet almost 12,500 times, better revealing Mars’ turbulent climatic history. It’s expected to continue orbiting and gathering data until the end of 2014.
From Slate’s Phil Plait:
I saw quite a few landmarks in there, including Olympus Mons, the tallest volcano in the solar system; Valles Marineris, the longest rift valley in the solar system (it’s wider than the Grand Canyon is long!); an elongated crater I’ve written about before (at the 2:20 mark, and shown at the top of this article); and the ridiculously gorgeous and very weird swirls in the terrain at the Martian north pole (though the south pole of the planet is even more jaw-droppingly beautiful).
I was also intrigued by a crater shown at the 1:50 mark, which looks like it got filled by a landslide off a nearby hill. Mars isn’t what you might call geologically active, but it does commonly suffer landslides and avalanches when the frozen carbon dioxide ice under the surface sublimates (turns directly from a solid into a gas), which can dislodge material. If that happens at the top of a hill or cliff, material can cascade down dramatically. I strongly suspect that’s what we’re seeing in this video.
Taken with the satellite’s High Resolution Stereo Camera, the video was released by the DLR German Aerospace Center.
In the archives: more satellites, more maps, and more Mars.
What is beneath the world’s largest ice sheet? Compiled by the British Antarctic Survey and made from “millions of new measurements, including substantial data sets from NASA’s ICESat satellite and an airborne mission called Operation IceBridge,” this animated map of the changing Antarctic Ice Sheet reveals the bedrock terrain below with a level of detail never seen before.
Read more about decades of data: Peeling Back the Ice of Antarctica by Wired’s Adam Mann.
Via jtotheizzoe, watch Return of the Cicadas by Samuel Orr, a beautifully shot film that shows the insect’s unique 17-year life cycle in detail.
With soil temperatures along the East Coast now above the mid-60’s, the Brood II cicadas are up and chirping! Check out WNYC/Radiolab’s real-time Cicada Tracker map to see where they have been observed:
The video above is a jaw-droppingly superb look at the rise of the magicicada from its underground lair, their mass ascent to the trees, their monstrous metamorphosis into adults, and their brief mission to avoid being eaten and reproduce…
More cicada stuff:
If any of you on the East Coast have photos or video of abandoned shells, climbing juveniles, or chirping adults, I’d love to see them! Tweet me or email them to itsokaytobesmart at gmail dot com.
Sir David Attenborough with cicadas and so many insect videos(!) in the archives.
In this Science on the SPOT: Preserving the Forest of the Sea, watch Kathy Ann Miller, PhD, curator of the University Herbarium at the University of California - Berkeley, as she shares the wide variety of seaweeds in the collection.
We love when someone gives a personalized video tour of their work, especially when it mixes nature, science and beautiful, art-like specimens all together. Kathy and her team are digitizing samples of 80,000 kinds of seaweed collected from the North American west coast, so that they can be shared online with researchers from around the globe. You can read more about the project here.
PS. Need a DNA primer? Watch this vid.
The New York Times’ video profile of Max Mulhern’s “Aqua Dice” shows how the artist’s love for the sea and his interest in unknown outcomes came together into one project.
Fate adrift, these two giant sea dice were constructed out of plywood, pine, PVC and epoxy. Technically illegal — “you’re not allowed to put an object on the water that’s unattended, and you’re not allowed to go to sea if there’s not a constant watch on-board,” explains Mulhern, — they are designed to collapse on impact so as not to be a danger to any other vessels, and are brightly painted. They also have GPS in both of them, customized by technology students, to track where ocean currents are taking the dice and how far apart they are from each other.
“I’ve spoken to a lot of ocean scientists and they’re thinking that the dice will separate quickly,” he said. “What I like about that is the dual possibilities: there’s one throw and two outcomes, two possible destinations — and destinies.”
Whether you love art, love sailing or love the unknown, you can track the dice (and even bet as to where they’ll eventually land) on Mulhern’s site, on this map, or follow the journey on Facebook.
via Visual News.