Category Archives: Mars Express

The Martian Aurora


Mars is not the first planet that comes to mind when talking about auroral activity. Thanks to ESA;s Mars Express now I know why.

Locations of 19 auroral detections (white circles) made by the SPICAM instrument on Mars Express during 113 nightside orbits between 2004 and 2014, over locations already known to be associated with residual crustal magnetism. The data is superimposed on the magnetic field line structure (from NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor) where red indicates closed magnetic field lines, grading through yellow, green and blue to open field lines in purple.

The auroral emissions are very short-lived, they are not seen to repeat in the same locations, and only occur near the boundary between open and closed magnetic field lines.


Image: Based on data from J-C. Gérard et al (2015)

Let’s Fly Over Atlantis Chaos

Thanks to the ESA Mars Express we can do that!

ESA’s description:
The video showcases a myriad of features that reflect a rich geological history. The tour takes in rugged cliffs and impact craters, alongside parts of ancient shallow, eroded basins. See smooth plains scarred with wrinkled ridges, scarps and fracture lines that point to influence from tectonic activity. Marvel at ‘chaotic’ terrain – hundreds of small peaks and flat-topped hills that are thought to result from the slow erosion of a once-continuous solid plateau. This entire region may once have played host to vast volumes of water – look out for the evidence in the form of channels carved into steep-sided walls.

Copyright ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (CC BY-SA 3.0 IGA)

Phobos Flyby

Mark your calendars, tomorrow (29 December 2013) ESA’s Mars Express spacecraft will flyby the Martian moon Phobos at just 45 km / 28 miles! That’s close!

So close in fact, the Mars Express will be pulled “a few tens of centimeters” off course. ESA scientists will be ready, they will be measuring the small changes in the frequency of the radio signals and turn them into measurements of gravity, mass, and density at different locations on the moon. Cool stuff!

The closest approach will be at 07:09 UTC, let’s see that’s 02:09 EST. For perspective this animation is at x 1000 speed.

ESA’s Mars Express page

Video source

Becquerel Crater

A Mars Express view ot Becquerel Crater.  Credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum)
A Mars Express view ot Becquerel Crater. Credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum)

I saw this image and my first though was: “what the heck am I looking at?

This Mars Express image of Becquerel crater is pretty much the visual definition of surreal Oh sure, there’s a ‘simple’ explanation (below) but I’m still having to stare at it. Well done Mars Express, it is a remarkable image.

There are larger versions and one image from a different vantage point at the ESA space in Images site, take a look if you have a minute or two.

Here’s the ESA caption:

A striking scene in and around Becquerel crater – the largest crater in this view – reveals both the power of wind and water in the turbulent history of Mars. A mound of light-coloured sulphate deposits formed from evaporating water sits inside the crater amid a sea of dark wind-blown deposits. The darker material has blown towards the south-southwest (top left) of the image in a wide swath and across tiny craters there – their raised rims protect the material immediately downwind from being swept away.

The mosaic is composed of four images taken by the High Resolution Stereo Camera on ESA’s Mars Express, with an average ground resolution of 17 m per pixel. The image centre lies at about 22°N/352°E; North is to the right. The individual images were taken on 22 July 2006 (orbit 3253), and 26 February, 2 and 7 March 2008, corresponding to orbits 5332, 5350, and 5368, respectively.