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ESA Grabs Glimpses of Mars’ Groovy Moon

This animation is comprised of three images acquired by ESA’s Mars Express spacecraft on Sept. 12, 2017 with its High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC). It shows parts of the grooved and pitted surface of Phobos, the larger of Mars’ two natural satellites.

The original images were captured in greyscale; I added color based on other images of Phobos taken by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in March 2008.

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Ice May Be Buried Beneath These Ancient Martian Hills

HRSC image of a portion of Phlegra Montes on Mars, acquired by ESA’s Mars Express on Oct. 8, 2014. Credit: ESA/DLR/FU BERLIN, CC by-SA 3.0 IGO

The southern portion of Phlegra Montes on Mars, acquired by ESA’s Mars Express on Oct. 8, 2014. Credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin, CC by-SA 3.0 IGO

Scientists have been hunting for evidence of water on Mars ever since we started looking at the Red Planet through telescopes. But Mars does have water, and lots of it; solid water in the form of ice locked up in its polar caps and buried under its surface. And, if observations made by ESA’s Mars Express are indicative of similar processes seen on Earth, these ancient hills may also hold hidden deposits of underground ice.

Read the rest of my article on Discovery News here.

Mars Express Gets the Delta Blues

The remains of a delta have been found within this Martian crater.

ESA’s Mars Express orbiter has imaged yet more evidence of a watery past on Mars with what appears to be the remains of a river delta, seen here, located just within the 40-mile (65-km) -wide Eberswalde Crater.

Formed over 3.7 billion years ago, Eberswalde Crater was in the top 4 list of possible landing sites for the Mars Science Laboratory, slated to launch this November. In the end Gale Crater was selected, but Eberswalde is still a fascinating place to study from orbit since it’s been suspected that the crater was once filled with liquid water. The discovery of this delta sure helps to confirm that theory! Read the rest of this entry

Martian Motion

Can’t see the video below? Watch on YouTube here.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

The Planetary Society’s Emily Lakdawalla got a chance to hone her animation skills further with this cool sequence showing clouds drifting over the surface of Mars, made from images taken by the Mars Express orbiter back in October 2010. Awesome!

The region shown here is known as Noachis Terra, in Mars’ southern hemisphere.

The key to making this animation work so well was the use of “tweening”, which helps smooth out the motion between original image frames acquired by the spacecraft’s cameras.

This video represents a milestone for me – I learned how to “tween” an animation! “Tweening” is short for “inbetweening,” a word coined by animators to describe the generation of frames in between two key frames,” stated Emily on The Planetary Society’s blog. “The need is similar with animating space images, because individual photos from space are almost never taken at a high enough frame rate to appear to animate smoothly.

“Making these few seconds of video was a somewhat arduous process, but I think the result was worth it,” she continued. “The process can be broken down into two big tasks: generating the individual animation frames from the raw data, and generating a tweened animation from individual animation frames.”

Well the result was, in my opinion, well worth the effort… it looks awesome! Great job Emily!

Check out the original post here.

Credit: ESA / DLR / FU Berlin (G Neukum); animation by Emily Lakdawalla

“A boulder as big as a house”

A large boulder sits on the surface of Mars' moon

A high-res image of Mars’ moon Phobos, acquired on January 9 by ESA’s Mars Express, shows a large boulder on the irregularly-shaped moon’s southern hemisphere. It rests near the edge of a large crater…when I rotated the image it looked as if it should just start rolling backwards and slide right over the edge! (The crop above was rotated 90º counter-clockwise.) This is the largest boulder visible on the southern end of Phobos in the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) images. Craters and grooves cover the rest of the 13-mile-wide moon.

Illustration of Mars Express flyby

During its 8,974th orbit of the red planet, Mars Express passed by Phobos at a distance of 62 miles (100 km) on January 9, 2011, at a speed of about 1.43 miles (2.3 km) a second. At that speed the orbiter had only about nine seconds to image Phobos using five of its nine imaging sensors. Images were downloaded and received at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) on January 18 and were processed and released to the public two days later. See more images and information from the flyby here.

Image ESA / DLR / FU Berlin (G. Neukum)

The High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) experiment on the European Space Agency’s Mars Express mission is led by the Principal Investigator (PI) Prof. Dr Gerhard Neukum, who was also responsible for the technical design of the camera.

Mars Express, so called because of the rapid and streamlined development time, represents ESA’s first visit to another planet in the Solar System. Launched June 2, 2003, it established orbit around Mars on December 25, 2003.

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