Thursday, May 30, 2024

Planet Mars: Fly across Nili Fossae Area | Europe's Mars Express

Planet Mars: Fly across Nili Fossae Region | Europe's Mars Express

The Martian surface is covered in all manner of scratches and scars. Its many marks include the fingernail scratches of Tantalus Fossae, the colossal canyon system of Valles Marineris, the oddly orderly ridges of Angustus Labyrinthus, and the fascinating features captured in the "cat scratches" of Nili Fossae by the European Space Agency's Mars Express spacecraft—celebrating over 20 years at Mars!

Nili Fossae comprises parallel trenches hundreds of meters deep and several hundred kilometers long, stretching out along the eastern edge of a massive impact crater named Isidis Planitia.

The Mars Express mission was launched on June 2, 2003, from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, on board a Russian Soyuz rocket. In addition to being Europe’s first mission to Mars, Mars Express is the first fully European mission to any planet.

This new video features observations from Mars Express's High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC). It first flies northwards towards and around these large trenches, showing their fractured, uneven appearance, before turning back to head southwards. It ends by zooming out to a ‘bird’s eye’ view, with the landing site of NASA’s Perseverance rover, Jezero Crater, visible in the lower-middle part of the final scene.

The trenches of Nili Fossae are actually features known as ‘graben’. They form when the ground sitting between two parallel faults fractures and falls away. As the graben seem to curve around Isidis Planitia, it is likely that they formed as the Martian crust settled following the formation of the crater by an incoming space rock hitting the surface. Similar ruptures—the counterpart to Nili Fossae—are found on the other side of the crater, and named Amenthes Fossae.

Scientists have focused on Nili Fossae in recent years due to the impressive amount and diversity of minerals found in this area, including silicates, carbonates, and clays (many were discovered by Mars Express’s OMEGA instrument). These minerals form in the presence of water, indicating that this region was very wet in ancient martian history. Much of the ground here formed over 3.5 billion years ago, when surface water was abundant across Mars. Scientists believe that water flowed not only across the surface here but also beneath it, forming underground hydrothermal flows that were heated by ancient volcanoes.

Due to what it could tell us about the planet’s ancient and water-rich past, Nili Fossae was considered as a possible landing site for NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover, before it was ultimately sent to Gale Crater in 2012. Another mission, NASA’s Perseverance rover, was later sent to land in the nearby Jezero Crater, visible at the end of this video.

Mars Express has visited Nili Fossae before, imaging the region’s graben system back in 2014. The mission has orbited the Red Planet since 2003, imaging the Martian surface, mapping its minerals, studying its tenuous atmosphere, probing beneath its crust, and exploring how various phenomena interact in the martian environment. 

Disclaimer: This video is not representative of how Mars Express flies over the surface of Mars. See processing notes below.

Processing notes: The video is centered at 23°N, 78°E. It was created using Mars Chart (HMC30) data, an image mosaic made from single-orbit observations from Mars Express’s HRSC. This mosaic was combined with topography derived from a digital terrain model of Mars to generate a three-dimensional landscape. For every second of the movie, 62.5 separate frames are rendered following a pre-defined camera path. The vertical exaggeration is three-fold. Atmospheric effects—clouds and haze—have been added, and start building up at a distance of 50 km.

Credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin & NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

Duration: 2 minutes, 23 seconds

Release Date: May 30, 2024

#NASA #ESA #Space #Astronomy #Science #Planet #Mars #NiliFossae #Geology #Grabens #MarsExpress #MarsExpressSpacecraft #HRSC #Europe #DLR #FUBerlin #Berlin #Germany #Deutschland #Russia #Россия #Roscosmos #Роскосмос #STEM #Education #Visualization #HD #Video

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