Friday Headlines: 12-6-13

Friday Headlines, December 6, 2013



Today’s round-up:

Curiosity rover’s 100,000th laser shot

Saturn’s polar hexagon

Saint Barbara’s Day


Curiosity’s 100,000th Shot

The Mars Curiosity Rover has been  exploring the surface of Mars for a little over a year. It came equipped with a laser on its Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument, with which it could study the chemical composition of soils and rocks.


On October 30th, the ChemCam was aimed at a rock with two layers, one coarse (lower) and one finer (upper). The laser was shot in a row of 10 pits (labeled 1 – 10 in the image). Each pit received 30 laser blasts. At some point in pit 1, the 100,000th laser shot was fired.


Cassini Images Bizarre Hexagon on Saturn

There have been lots of images of this hopping around the Internet this week. Saturn has a very unexpected pattern of clouds around its north pole.

One would expect the clouds to make a perfect, or close-to-perfect, circle around the pole, but instead, the clouds form a hexagon.

Cloud hexagon on Saturn. Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

There are now some really awesome animations, courtesy of NASA and JPL, like this:

Cassini’s view of Saturn’s north pole. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/Hampton University

Obviously, the colors in the animation above have been altered. But what it looks like in natural color is completely mind-blowing:

The hexagon on Saturn in natural color. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI


Saint Barbara’s Day – December 4

I include Saint Barbara here because she is often considered the patron saint of geologists. Well, of miners, actually, because she is associated with lightning and explosions. Because mining is part of geology, the entire geological community has embraced her (as much as geologists embrace anything) as their patron saint.

This week, on Wednesday, was Saint Barbara’s Day. I teach geology at a university and our department always plans our holiday party for Saint Barbara’s Day. This year, we celebrated Tuesday evening.

And I’m pleased to report, nothing was blown up.

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