- Chinese Death Star: The moon cited as the perfect launch pad for ballistic missiles
- Help wanted: Homeland Security plagued by vacancies at the top
- We are not amused: Queen’s protection officers warned to keep ‘sticky fingers’ off the royal cashews
- Unleash the crossbows: Gov. Scott Walker creates new hunting season
- Bubonic plague kills 20 in Madagascar
- G-20 diplomats fell for hacker attack promising nude photos of former French first lady Carla Bruni
- Minnesota guardsman charged with stealing private soldier data for fake IDs
- Florida appeals court rules universities can’t regulate guns
- Vladimir Putin defends Russian conservative values
- Tea Party Patriots call key GOP firing a declaration of war
Eclipse season on Mars, so Curiosity took photos
Question of the Day
WASHINGTON (AP) - On Mars, a partial eclipse of the sun isn’t quite as rare as on Earth. So NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover is snapping hundreds of pictures of the spectacle for the folks back home to ooh and aah over.
Two moons zip around the red planet and they’re closer and faster than our lumbering moon, so eclipses are more common. Scientists say there’s even somewhat of an eclipse season on Mars, and it’s that time of year when those Martian moons take turns taking bites of the sun.
Curiosity turned its cameras skyward to watch the action in three different eclipses, starting last week and continuing Wednesday, when a moon partially slipped between Mars and the sun.
The rover has been beaming back a stream of photos of the Martian landscape since landing near the equator last month.
Texas A&M University scientist Mark Lemmon said the eclipse pictures will help scientists track the fate of the larger Martian moon, Phobos, which is slowing down in its orbit around Mars. In 10 to 15 million years, Phobos will get so close to Mars it will break up and crash into the planet.
These moons aren’t mere curiosity factors. They get so close to Mars that “they change Mars’ shape ever so slightly” with their pull, Lemmon said.
Past rovers have taken pictures of solar eclipses from Mars, but not with such good cameras that take high resolution photos and so many shots that it produces a movie of sorts, Lemmon said.
And now that Curiosity has gazed skyward, it’s time for the Mini Cooper-sized spacecraft to focus on the ground. On Friday, Curiosity will test its first rock with a laser and other chemical testing kits on the end of its robotic arm.
Its first target is a pyramid-shaped dark rock, about 10 inches tall and 16 inches wide at the base. Two of the arm’s chemical-sniffing devices will snuggle up against the rock _ named for Jake Matijevic, a Mars rover engineer who died recently _ so scientists can figure out what it is made of.
“It’s just a cool looking rock sitting out there on the plains,” said Mars Science Laboratory scientist John Grotzinger. But it’s not that unusual and seems similar to rocks past rovers have tested before. That makes it a good start for the rover’s testing equipment.
It’s the type of rock that is scattered all over Mars probably blown out of a crater when it was hit by an asteroid or something, Grotzinger said.
Seth Borenstein can be followed at http://twitter.com/borenbears
By Matt Kibbe
The short-term deal will assure long-term overspending
- Obama's Afghanistan experts stumped on U.S. death toll, war costs during hearing
- Comma on!: Twitter erupts over Obama-Castro 'marriage'
- NAPOLITANO: A conspiracy so vast
- All-out war breaks out in GOP over budget pact
- Biden guarantees victory on immigration reform
- Obama takes 'selfie' at Mandela's funeral service
- Jane Fonda Foundation fails to make single contribution in 5 years: report
- White House improvises again on patchy Obamacare rollout
- MALCOLM/REIMER: Over-criminalization undermines respect for legal system
- GOP Rep. Tim Murphy rolls out mental health legislation
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
Born in 1930 in rural Missouri, Charles Vandegriffe, Sr., brings his time and place to the Communities.
Columns from Voices around the World talking about the events, people, politics and social issues that concern us wherever, and whoever, we are.
Chef Mary Moran discusses the food we eat, where it comes from and what it does for us.
An informed and often humorous take on the world of advertising, public relations and social media. 100% Pure. Not from concentrate.
Extraordinary day at Redskins Park
White House pets gone wild!
Let it snow