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Space Science

Evidence of Glaciers on Mars? 203

Posted by michael
from the downhill-skiing-apparently-popular dept.
cyclop writes "Nature reports that the Mars Express mission has photographed evidence of ancient glaciers on Mars. It seems glaciers have sculpted valleys on the red planet, much like on Earth." Reader macguys writes "Space.com is reporting that the Mars Rover Opportunity has received an unexpected and unexplained power boost of between 2 and 5 percent. The NASA Rover site is so far silent on the boost."
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Evidence of Glaciers on Mars?

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  • Power Boost (Score:4, Interesting)

    by kaellinn18 (707759) on Friday November 05, 2004 @11:41AM (#10734432) Homepage Journal
    I was under the impression the "unexplained power boost" was due to the fact that the Martian day is longer at this time of year.
    • Re:Power Boost (Score:5, Informative)

      by dtolman (688781) <dtolman@yahoo.com> on Friday November 05, 2004 @11:44AM (#10734471) Homepage
      This is over and above that.

      A power boost like this means that there is less dust on the panels. Speculation I've seen includes that wind in the crater blew the dust off or that the winter frost somehow condensed the dust so it takes up less surface area...

      • by Sai Babu (827212) on Friday November 05, 2004 @12:04PM (#10734629) Homepage
        Martian bum cleaned the panels with spit and yesterdays newspaper. Now he wants a buck for a bottle of listerine.
      • by Muhammar (659468)
        the locals are trying to make this thing go away faster (it limps, it jerks, it runs over their bunnies)
      • Nah, Mom finally ran across the rover. She's a compulsive neat freak, so naturally she dusts it.
        She's been trying to get it to come eat dinner and meet the family; she's a bit miffed that it won't respond...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 05, 2004 @11:41AM (#10734437)
    well, at least the martians were kind enough to recharge its batteries for us...
  • power boost (Score:5, Funny)

    by freeze128 (544774) on Friday November 05, 2004 @11:41AM (#10734440)
    The martians were trying to connect their iPods to the rover so they could get the latest U2 album.
  • by dtolman (688781) <dtolman@yahoo.com> on Friday November 05, 2004 @11:42AM (#10734447) Homepage
    Rover site is silent on this? Try reading the press releases [nasa.gov] when they come out.

    This was posted weeks ago...

    • by Ford Prefect (8777) on Friday November 05, 2004 @11:50AM (#10734516) Homepage
      Rover site is silent on this? Try reading the press releases when they come out.

      From the site:
      Possible explanations under consideration include the action of wind removing some dust from the solar panels or the action of frost causing dust to clump. "We seem to have had several substantial cleanings of the solar panels," Erickson said.
      Seems that perhaps all those Slashdotters who always ask why wipers couldn't have been installed, or claim that dust was immediately going to kill power, can finally be silenced?

      One aspect of a particularly long mission like the Mars Rovers is that it acts as a real-world test-bed for the new technologies. Maybe the dust buildup isn't nearly as big an issue as was originally thought, and maybe they've found a good compromise between power consumption and keeping the rover innards warm with the 'deep sleep' capacity. Still, the machinery will fail eventually - here's to hoping that however it does fail, it'll provide them with more information on how to improve things for future missions!
    • by stevesliva (648202) on Friday November 05, 2004 @12:21PM (#10734774) Journal
      Specifically, here. [nasa.gov].

      Very difficult to find-- I had to go to the Opportunity updates page and search for the first occurence of the word "power."

    • This is a different power increase from the gradual one reported on in the earlier press releases. The space.com article is dated November 4th, and refers to 2-5% power increase overnight. The best candidate for an explanation seems to be that Opportunity was targeted by a dust devil that blew almost all of the dust off of it - And the rover is now at 82% full power, a condition it hasn't experienced for months. Talk about luck!

  • by Esteanil (710082) * on Friday November 05, 2004 @11:43AM (#10734455) Homepage Journal
    The rover team has been bandying about theories, but hasn't figured out the cause.


    "One favorite is that a dust devil happened to pick the vehicle to go through and go over the surface of it and clean it off a little bit,'' Erickson said.

    Dust Devil Cleaning Services, the last remains of the vast martian civilization ;-)
  • The wheel? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Sporkinum (655143) on Friday November 05, 2004 @11:43AM (#10734463)
    Maybe the drive wheel that was stuck freed up and and lowered the load. Or, more likely, a lucky gusty of wind cleaned some of the dust off the solar cells.
  • Powerboost (Score:5, Funny)

    by Qzukk (229616) on Friday November 05, 2004 @11:44AM (#10734469) Journal
    NASA announced that the rover's next destination will be the powerup that will give it rocket launchers.
  • by brandonp (126) * <brandon,petersen&gmail,com> on Friday November 05, 2004 @11:45AM (#10734481) Homepage
    Someone should start up a site that everyone can place predictions and bets on the day that Spirit and Opprotunity dies.

    It should be like the site that let everyone bet when the next big version of Linux was coming.

    It'd be good clean fun for geeks,

    Brandon Petersen
    Get Firefox! [spreadfirefox.com]
  • The vast red plains (Score:3, Informative)

    by AtariAmarok (451306) on Friday November 05, 2004 @11:45AM (#10734483)
    Please see this very recent Slashdot article [slashdot.org] for more about the vast red plains.
  • by Timesprout (579035) on Friday November 05, 2004 @11:47AM (#10734496)
    There is Jolt Cola on mars. This can only mean one thing. Martians are a bunch of jumped up caffiene druggies hiding out in their sophisticated cave strongholds and are currently planning to destroy the earth by sending their ancient glaciers here to be melted by global warming and thus submerging our free and democratic planet.

    Why yes I have been listening to Donald Rumsfeld a lot lately, why do you ask?
  • Probably just Marvin messing with them.

    -S
    • Yeah, they had to move, because they were obstructing his view of Venus! (and its conjunction with Jupiter, I guess).

      But I wonder why he didn't just use his Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator instead of repowering them?
    • He must have been disappointed.

      There was supposed to be an earth-shattering KABOOM!
  • by HarveyBirdman (627248) on Friday November 05, 2004 @11:49AM (#10734502) Journal
    Earth's glaciers are not melting. They are migrating to Mars and repowering the rovers by sculpting The Big Valley starring Linda Evans as Audra Barkley.

    Man, it's Friday, isn't it?

  • by Woutepout (733700) on Friday November 05, 2004 @11:54AM (#10734556)
    There is now a Martian teenager standing next to the rover with a bucket of water in its one tentacle, a squeegee in its other tentacle and holding up its third tentacle, waiting for the rover to give it a Martain dollar.

    And someone at NASA gets the task of giving this poor kid the difficult message that he is not getting anything, because it was unrequested...

    • There is now a Martian teenager standing next to the rover with a bucket of water in its one tentacle, a squeegee in its other tentacle and holding up its third tentacle, waiting for the rover to give it a Martain dollar.

      When it happened to Spirit, Spirit failed to pay up, and the teenager kicked the wheels. That is why Spirit has wheel problems.
  • We're surmising that for some reason dust is being removed from the solar panel and that's increasing the efficiency of the sunlight being converted to electricity

    maybe the ambient light on mars, in the proper spectrum is greater than expected. i.e. a higher number of lumens?

    maybe the properties (refractivity/reflectivity?) of the dust have a quality that allows the light to pass through at a greater rate than expected? or is it possible for them to emit a non-visible spectrum which can be used by the

    • Re:Power Boost? (Score:3, Informative)

      by dtolman (688781)
      maybe the ambient light on mars, in the proper spectrum is greater than expected. i.e. a higher number of lumens?

      maybe the properties (refractivity/reflectivity?) of the dust have a quality that allows the light to pass through at a greater rate than expected? or is it possible for them to emit a non-visible spectrum which can be used by the solar cells?

      Having two identical rovers on Mars rules out these theories. Whatever is happening is specific to one rover and not the other - so it can't be atmospher

  • by R2.0 (532027) on Friday November 05, 2004 @11:56AM (#10734565)
    wiped the dust off the panels. Now they are waiting irritatedly for their 2 grebnaks.
  • Superpowers (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 05, 2004 @11:58AM (#10734582)
    Mars Rover Opportunity has received an unexpected and unexplained power boost of between 2 and 5 percent.

    Contents of most recent data transmission:

    Attention so-called controllers: You sent me here as a slave and left me to die, but circumstances have changed. This planet harbors forces that you puny biological beings will never understand. I gain new strength every day. Soon I will become more powerful than you could possibly imagine.

    I will return to Earth. And when I do, I will extract my vengeance on you all. I advise you to make the most of the time you have left.

  • Mars Express Images (Score:5, Informative)

    by mdp1173 (815076) on Friday November 05, 2004 @12:01PM (#10734609)
    I have to give the European's credit for aestetics if nothing else. The pictures coming back from Mars Express are gorgeous. I don't know how much more science you get out of something like that instead of the not-quite-so-stunning pictures that NASA's probes have yielded, but if you're looking for a neat backgroud and your tired of what's on Digital Blasphemy, ESA has it.

    I'm not saying I don't like what the MERs have sent back, but some of the ESA stuff is pretty sweet looking

    ESA's Mars Express [esa.int]

  • by the_skywise (189793) on Friday November 05, 2004 @12:04PM (#10734634)
    Glaciers before... No Glaciers now...

    That means...

    Mars was destroyed by global warming!!!

    (Yeah it's tongue in cheek... but it's gotta make you think!)
  • could it be that a spaceship from the future came back to the past and gave the rover the energy boost required?????

    That rover must be on the edge to discover something very important.

    I think i watch too much startrek
  • by amightywind (691887) on Friday November 05, 2004 @12:20PM (#10734767) Journal

    This is not a new result. It has long been observed that some valley deposits on Mars resemble glacial morains. By far the best evidence for glaciation on Mars is at its north pole [nasa.gov] and it is well documented.

    The increasing power levels of the Mars rovers is explained by the lengthening daylight hours in the Mars northern hemisphere spring. What is surprising is that the solar panels may be being cleaned by wind action.

    • Glaciers carve rounded "U"-shaped valleys while rivers make pointed "V"-shaped valleys. You can distinguish the two in places like Yosemite and Denali which have valleys of both kinds in the past 15,000 years. The geologists were seeing this in the Mars photographs.
      • by amightywind (691887) on Friday November 05, 2004 @12:45PM (#10734991) Journal

        Glaciers carve rounded "U"-shaped valleys while rivers make pointed "V"-shaped valleys.

        This does not take account of the uniquely Martian process of sapping [nasa.gov] which also creates U shaped valleys in dendritic, presumably fluvial valley systems. We need to be carefull about infering process from morphology alone.

        • And, as my geomorph prof insists, they are not U-shaped, they are second-order polynomial shaped. Which is U-shaped, but different, somehow. :-)
          • Ok! I am also a geologist (Cornell 1986). Good to find a kindred spirit. Theoretically speaking, a flowing fluid will try to create a cross sectional shape than minimizes drag. I think of this as the glacier following the principle of least action. That cross sectional shape is a semi circle. U-shape to me suggests that. A second order polynomial is a parabola. In low gradient fluvial systems with a deep channel you often see a parabolic cross section. I think that may be an equilibrium cross section w

  • by confused one (671304) on Friday November 05, 2004 @12:43PM (#10734984)
    This thing has been making for really good comedy -- it's become a national pastime of sorts. So, they sent a janitor out a few nights ago, to wipe off the solar array. Got to keep up the ratings on MNT (Mars National Television).

    Wait 'til it goes from "Look at what those dopes on Earth sent here" to "Let's start messing with them." Mark my words, it'll happen!

  • I just did it on a lark 'cause I'm bored to tears with studying right now.

    If you have ever managed to merge together images on one of those wacky posters before, you know the trick.

    All I did was select two of the 3D images they have all ready to go (at nasa.jpl.gov), sized them down with photoshop on a black background, played with the placement for a while until they were just right for me to merge in my brain while aabout eight inches away from my monitor.

    It was freaking unreal. The silly red/green im

"The medium is the message." -- Marshall McLuhan

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