News

What happened to early Mars’ atmosphere?

3 September 2015 Astronomy Now

Scientists may be closer to solving the mystery of how Mars changed from a world with surface water billions of years ago to the arid Red Planet of today. A new analysis of the largest known deposit of carbonate minerals on Mars suggests that the original Martian atmosphere may have already lost most of its carbon dioxide by the era of valley network formation.

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NASA marks 20 years of continuous Mars exploration

4 July 2017 Stephen Clark

NASA’s Mars Pathfinder probe dropped to the surface of Mars for an airbag-cushioned landing 20 years ago Tuesday, bouncing 15 times across an ancient flood plain before deploying a mobile robot to usher in two decades of uninterrupted Martian exploration.

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Ceres’ temporary atmosphere linked to solar activity

7 April 2017 Astronomy Now

Scientists have long thought that Ceres may have a very weak, transient atmosphere, but mysteries lingered about its origin and why it’s not always present. Now, researchers suggest that this temporary atmosphere appears to be related to the behaviour of the Sun, rather than Ceres’ proximity to the Sun.

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Europe’s ExoMars spacecraft begins lowering its orbit

20 March 2017 Stephen Clark

The ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter, a Russian-launched, European-built spacecraft that arrived at Mars in October, is starting to dip into the upper reaches of the red planet’s atmosphere in a year-long “aerobraking” campaign place the observatory in the right position to hunt for methane, an indicator of potential biological activity.

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Mars rover’s drill out of action

18 December 2016 Stephen Clark

The rock-coring drill fixed to the end of the Curiosity rover’s robot arm has suspended operations to allow engineers on the ground to diagnose, and officials hope correct, a problem traced to the mechanism that pushes the drill bit onto rocks to collect powder samples.