What did Mars look like 4 billion years ago? The team at NASA’s Conceptual Image Lab have an idea based on the existing evidence:
Billions of years ago when the Red Planet was young, it appears to have had a thick atmosphere that was warm enough to support oceans of liquid water - a critical ingredient for life. The animation shows how the surface of Mars might have appeared during this ancient clement period, beginning with a flyover of a Martian lake. The artist’s concept is based on evidence that Mars was once very different. Rapidly moving clouds suggest the passage of time, and the shift from a warm and wet to a cold and dry climate is shown as the animation progresses. The lakes dry up, while the atmosphere gradually transitions from Earthlike blue skies to the dusty pink and tan hues seen on Mars today.
The animation was released in anticipation of November 18th’s Cape Canaveral launch of MAVEN, Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution mission. MAVEN will explore the planet’s lost atmosphere.
Previously: flying over a topographically accurate landscapes of Mars, and more NASA.
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.
One of the great innovations of the twentieth century is likely not well-known, but this video from the Ri Channel is looking to change that:
This is X-ray crystallography.
Discovered in 1913 by William and Lawrence Bragg, x-ray crystallography is a technique that reveals the atomic and molecular structure of a crystal. When a narrow beam of x-rays is shown through the crystal, it diffracts into a pattern of rays through the other side.
"To date 28 Nobel Prizes have been awarded to projects related to the field" and 100 years after its discovery, the Curiosity Rover is using x-ray crystallography to analyze soil on Mars.
Science! And if you haven’t seen these yet, we’ve shared some of our favorite science videos for kids over at RiChannel.org, where they know great science videos.