Valles Marineris: The Grand Canyon of Mars

Valles Marineris: The Grand Canyon of Mars

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Mars will look good in Earth’s skies over the next few days – but not this good. To get a view this amazing, a spacecraft had to actually visit the red planet.

Running across the image center, though, is one the largest canyons in the Solar System.Named Valles Marineris, the grand valley extends over 3,000 kilometers long, spans as much as 600 kilometers across, and delves as much as 8 kilometers deep.By comparison, the Earth’s Grand Canyon in Arizona, USA is 800 kilometers long, 30 kilometers across, and 1.8 kilometers deep.

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The origin of the Valles Marineris remains unknown, although a leading hypothesis holds that it started as a crack billions of years ago as the planet cooled. Several geologic processes have been identified in the canyon. The featured mosaic was created from over 100 images of Mars taken by Viking Orbiters in the 1970s. Tomorrow, Mars and Earth will pass the closest in 11 years, resulting in the red planet being quite noticeable toward the southeast after sunset.

Image Credit: Viking Project, USGS, NASA

Source: APOD

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Nano Images That Look Like Other Things

Nano Images That Look Like Other Things

Nanotechnology is the science of small things. Nanostructures can be as small as 1/1000 th the diameter of a human hair. They can also look like other things.

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Mystery Feature Now Disappears in Titan Lake

Mystery Feature Now Disappears in Titan Lake

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What is that changing object in a cold hydrocarbon sea of Titan?

Radar images from the robotic Cassini spacecraft orbiting Saturn have been recording the surface of the cloud-engulfed moon Titan for years. When imaging the flat – and hence radar dark – surface of the methane and ethane lake called Ligeia Mare, an object appeared in 2013 July just was not there in 2007. Subsequent observations in 2014 August found the object remained – but had changed.

In an image released last week, the mystery object seems to have disappeared in 2015 January. The featured false-color image shows how the 20-km long object has come, changed, and gone.

Current origin speculative explanations include waves, bubbling foam and floating solids, but still no one is sure. Future observations, in particular Cassini’s final close flyby of Titan in 2017 April, may either resolve the enigma or open up more speculation.

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Source: APOD

Blood-red Nile River Seen From Space

Blood-red Nile River Seen From Space

The Nile River flows blood red in a new image released by the ESA, drawing comparisons to the biblical First Plague, in which the Egyptian waterway was turned to blood. But, the image from Sentinel-3A shows something else entirely, combining radiometer and colour data to map the region’s environmental features.

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The colour indicates the presence of vegetation along the river as it cuts through the surrounding desert.

The new Sentinel-3A satellite recently began providing data from orbit. This very early image recorded on 3 March 2016, takes us over the River Nile and Delta and the surrounding desert areas of northeast Africa and parts of the Middle East.

Very distinct is Egypt, a country connecting northeast Africa with the Middle East, home to millennia-old monuments still sitting along the lush Nile valley.

In the centre of the image, capital city Cairo with the Nile snaking northwards is clearly visible, along with the Red Sea just further east. Also evident are the islands of Cyprus further north in the Mediterranean Sea and parts of Crete on the very left.

One of the suite of sophisticated instruments that will measure Earth’s oceans, land, ice and atmosphere, Sentinel-3’s Sea and Land Surface Temperature Radiometer (SLSTR) measures the energy radiating from Earth’s surface in nine spectral bands, including visible and infrared.

The instrument improves on the capabilities of the Advanced Along-Track Scanning Radiometer carried by the Envisat satellite of 2002–12, including a wider swath of 1400 km, new channels and a partly higher spatial resolution.

Combining radiometer and colour data helps us to understand the state of vegetation better.

Launched last 16 February, Sentinel-3 will systematically measure Earth’s oceans, land, ice and atmosphere to monitor and understand large-scale global dynamics. It will provide essential information in near-real time for ocean and weather forecasting, among other major applications.

Over land, this innovative mission will provide a bigger picture by monitoring wildfires, mapping the way land is used, providing indices of vegetation state and measuring the height of rivers and lakes, complementing the high-resolution measurements of its sister mission, Sentinel-2.


 

This image is also featured on the Earth from Space video programme.
Source: ESA

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Unusual Clouds Over Hong Kong

Unusual Clouds Over Hong Kong

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What’s that in the sky?

Earlier this month, in the sky high above Hong Kong, China, not just one unusual type of cloud appeared – but two. In the foreground was a long lenticular cloud, a cloud that forms near mountains from uprising air and might appear to some as an alien spaceship. Higher in the sky, and further in the background, was a colorful iridescent cloud.

Iridescent clouds are composed of water droplets of similar size that diffract different colors of sunlight by different amounts. Furthest in the background is the Sun, blocked from direct view by the opaque lenticular, but providing the light for the colors of the iridescent.

Either type of cloud is unusual to see in Hong Kong, and unfortunately, after only a few minutes, both were gone.

Image Credit & Copyright: Alfred Lee
Source: APOD

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A Candidate for the Biggest Boom Yet Seen

A Candidate for the Biggest Boom Yet Seen

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It is a candidate for the brightest and most powerful explosion ever seen – what is it? 

The flaring spot of light was found by the All Sky Automated Survey for Supernovae (ASASSN) in June of last year and labelled ASASSN-15lh. Located about three billion light years distant, the source appears tremendously bright for anything so far away: roughly 200 times brighter than an averagesupernova, and temporarily 20 times brighter than all of the stars in our Milky Way Galaxy combined.

Were light emitted by ASASSN-15lh at this rate in all directions at once, it would be the most powerful explosion yet recorded. No known stellar object was thought to create an explosion this powerful, although pushing the theoretical limits for the spin-down of highly-magnetized neutron star — a magnetar — gets close.

Assuming the flare fades as expected later this year, astronomers are planning to use telescopes including Hubble to zoom in on the region to gain more clues. The above-featured artist’s illustration depicts a hypothetical night sky of a planet located across the host galaxy from the outburst.

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Illustration Credit: Jin Ma (Beijing Planetarium)
Source: APOD