Curiosity takes first nighttime and ‘black light’ photos

Rock illuminated at night using the UV LEDs. The bright material (gypsum?) "glows" in the UV images. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / MSSS

Rock illuminated at night using the UV LEDs. The bright material (gypsum?) “glows” in the UV images. Click for larger version. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / MSSS

Addendum: press release is now available here.

The images being taken by the Curiosity rover on Mars have been amazing enough so far, but with one thing in common – they are all daytime images. Now, though, Curiosity has taken its first nighttime photos! These initial images were taken a couple of days ago, on sol 165. This is also the location where Curiosity will soon do its first drilling.

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NASA uses laser to beam Mona Lisa to the Moon

The Mona Lisa image, before being cleaned up by Reed-Solomon coding, and after.Credit: Xiaoli Sun / NASA Goddard

The Mona Lisa image, before being cleaned up by Reed-Solomon coding, and after.
Credit: Xiaoli Sun / NASA Goddard

Using lasers to communicate at planetary distances is something that may sound like sci-fi, but it is a real technology being developed by NASA as a means of communicating with spacecraft faster and more efficiently than can be done now.

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New evidence for ancient Martian lake: possible subsurface biosphere?

Layers of sedimentary rocks on the bottom of McLaughlin Crater. Carbonate and clay deposits indicate this crater once contained a groundwater-fed lake. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / University of Arizona

There is new evidence from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft for an ancient Martian lake that may have been an ideal habitable environment, it was announced yesterday.

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Curiosity’s tracks on Mars: the view from orbit

HiRISE image from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, taken on January 2, 2013, showing the Curiosity rover and the tracks it has left behind in its travels so far.Click for larger version. Credit: NASA / JPL / University of Arizona.

HiRISE image from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, taken on January 2, 2013, showing the Curiosity rover and the tracks it has left behind in its travels so far. Click for larger version.
Credit: NASA / JPL / University of Arizona.

The Curiosity rover continues making progress as it travels across the terrain in Gale crater, getting ever closer to its primary target, Mount Sharp. This new photo from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, taken on January 2, 2013, shows the rover at its current position, with its tracks clearly seen behind it.

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Curiosity finds more evidence for watery past and prepares to drill first rock

An area of bedrock called "Sheepbed" which contains many of the whitish, calcium-rich veins.Credits: NASA / JPL-Caltech / MSSS

An area of bedrock called “Sheepbed” which contains many of the whitish, calcium-rich veins.
Click for larger version. Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / MSSS

The Curiosity rover is almost ready to drill into its first rock in a matter of days, and in the meantime has found more evidence that this region in Gale crater was once much wetter than it is now.

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Billions of planets in our galaxy

Astronomers now estimate that there are billions of planets in our galaxy alone.Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

Astronomers now estimate that there are billions of planets in our galaxy alone.
Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

The new year has barely begun, and already it has been a good one for exoplanets. In a previous update, it was reported that the Kepler space telescope has added hundreds of exoplanet candidates to its rapidly growing list. That is exciting enough, but another new study now, similar to other ones, estimates that there are billions of other planets in our galaxy alone.

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Ice on Titan’s lakes and seas: implications for possible life?

Artist's conception of possible ice floes on a Titanian sea.Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / USGS

Artist’s conception of possible ice floes on a Titanian sea.
Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / USGS

Apart from being composed of liquid methane instead of water, the rivers, lakes and seas of Saturn’s moon Titan are amazingly similar in appearance to those on Earth. The hydrological cycle is also very similar, with Titanian rain replenishing them.

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A mound with a view – another beautiful panorama from Curiosity

Mastcam panorama from sol 141, showing a rocky mound with part of the Mount Sharp foothills in the distance. Mount Sharp itself is out of view in this image. Click for larger version.
Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / Damien Bouic

As well as close-up images of the various fascinating features of the terrain, the Curiosity rover also continues to send back beautiful views of the landscape itself in Gale crater. One of the latest is this view from Yellowknife Bay on sol 141, where Curiosity is still doing its current investigations. Another wonderful panorama from Damien Bouic. The original largest version is here. All of Damien’s images, stitched together from the original Curiosity images, are here (the web site is in French).