Friday Headlines, December 6, 2013
THE LATEST IN THE GEOSCIENCES
Curiosity rover’s 100,000th laser shot
Saturn’s polar hexagon
Saint Barbara’s Day
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.
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.
There are now some really awesome animations, courtesy of NASA and JPL, like this:
Obviously, the colors in the animation above have been altered. But what it looks like in natural color is completely mind-blowing:
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.