Pictured: a Martian dust devil twisting across the Martian Amazonis Planitia region. The 100-foot-wide column of swirling air was captured by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter last month as it passed over the northern hemisphere of Mars.
All week we’ve heard rumblings from NASA that big Mars science news would drop today, and sure enough that news is big: NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has quite possibly found liquid water flowing on the surface of Mars. Not water that flowed millennia ago, or water that once flowed but is now permanently ice. This water appears to be liquid to this day, at least part of the time. That is, during the warmest months on Mars this salty brine thaws and flows like liquid across the surface of the planet.
It's been a big week for those long-serving spacecraft we don't always hear so much about. Earlier this week news broke that Voyager 1 had crossed a benchmark boundary on the far fringes of the solar system, and now Odyssey, launched back in 2001, has surpassed the Mars Global Surveyor as the longest-running mission to Mars.
Youth and vigor have their advantages, but there is something to be said for longevity. NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter has been circling the red planet since 2001 and has just released the best map ever made of the Martian surface.
NASA has released the first crop of pictures chosen by you, the people, of interesting spots on Mars. Taken with the high-resolution camera aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the pictures show boulder fields, mesas, sand dunes, pockmarked craters and even ice sheets that provide a glimpse of Martian climate changes. Astronomy buffs like James Secosky, a retired teacher in Manchester, N.Y., told NASA where to point and shoot.
Springtime on Mars means the thaw of carbon dioxide ice in the northern hemisphere. And when the dry ice goes, the party's over for any trapped debris that then goes tumbling down Martian cliffs in spectacular images such as this.
A camera aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has taken nearly 13,000 observations of the red planet, but might only now begin to live up to its nickname of "the people's camera." The U.S. space agency has announced a new chance for you, dear reader, to suggest where that spacecraft should point its camera next.
Netizens can see both existing images and suggested targets on a new public suggestion website. They may then use a simple rectangle to designate their location of choice for MRO's HiRISE camera.