Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

ASU instrument takes better look at Mars minerals

24.06.2009
A slow drift in the orbit of NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft that mission controllers started nine months ago is now giving an ASU instrument on the spacecraft a better and more sensitive view of minerals on the surface of Mars. The instrument is the Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS), an infrared and visual camera operated by ASU's Mars Space Flight Facility.

The maneuver to change Odyssey's orbit began Sept. 30, 2008, and ended June 9, 2009, with a five-and-a-half-minute thruster firing. The rocket burn fixed the spacecraft's track so that THEMIS looks down on the planet at an earlier time of day, 3:45 in the afternoon instead of 5 p.m.

Odyssey's two-hour orbit is synchronized with the Sun, so that the local solar time on the ground remains the same whatever part of Mars the spacecraft is flying over. As Odyssey travels on its north-to-south leg over the day side, the local time below the spacecraft is now 3:45 pm; similarly, the local time is 3:45 a.m. under the spacecraft as it flies the south-to-north leg of each orbit on the night side.

Warmer ground means better data

"The new orbit means we can now get the type of high-quality data for the rest of Mars that we got for 10 or 20 percent of the planet during the early months of the mission," says Philip Christensen of ASU's School of Earth and Space Exploration, part of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Christensen designed THEMIS and is the instrument's principal investigator.

One important finding based on early-mission THEMIS data was the discovery of chloride mineral deposits in the ancient southern highlands. These salt beds are possible relics of a warmer and wetter epoch on Mars and may have something to tell scientists about a Martian biosphere, past or present.

"Imaging Mars earlier in the afternoon means that THEMIS sees a warmer surface," explains Christensen. "And this makes a greater temperature difference with the nighttime measurements. The stronger contrast brings out more clearly the composition variations in the surface rocks."

In another operational change, Odyssey has begun in recent weeks to make observations other than straight downward-looking. This more-flexible targeting allows THEMIS to image some latitudes near the poles that never pass directly underneath the orbiter. In addition, the sideways views let THEMIS fill in more quickly gaps in coverage left by previous imaging, and they will also permit stereoscopic, three-dimensional images.

"At visual wavelengths, THEMIS has photographed about half the Martian surface," says Christensen. "We're really looking forward to filling the holes in the coverage."

Robert Burnham, robert.burnham@asu.edu
480-458-8207
School of Earth and Space Exploration

Robert Burnham | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.asu.edu

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation
12.12.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Quantenoptik

nachricht Telescopes team up to study giant galaxy
12.12.2017 | International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

Im Focus: Successful Mechanical Testing of Nanowires

With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong

Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

12.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Multi-year submarine-canyon study challenges textbook theories about turbidity currents

12.12.2017 | Earth Sciences

Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

12.12.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>