A site that offers opinion, analysis, and commentary on today`s topics, trends and events. Plus a little of this, and a lot of that...

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Layers at the Base of Mount Sharp

An amazing view from Mars...

The scenery at Gale Crater, the new home for the Mars Curiosity rover, looks like a post card of the western deserts of the United States. This view of Mount Sharp as it rises over 3 miles above the floor of the crater, gives a glimpse into some of the similarities of our planets, but the picture dosen`t tell the whole story. 

     As Jeffrey Marlow explains in his article, {Today's Weather on Mars: Cold, Very Cold}  "The pictures tell one story, but the weather station data aboard the Mars Science Laboratory leaves a very different impression. Gale Crater may look like the dusty, basaltic basins of the American southwest, but one look at the thermometer will send you running for the winter coat.

     Over the first 30 sols, air temperature has ranged from approximately -103 degrees Fahrenheit (-75 Celcius) at night to roughly 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 Celcius) in the afternoon. Two factors conspire to cause such a wide daily range (most day-night fluctuations on Earth are about 10 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit). The martian atmosphere is very thin; with fewer molecules in the air to heat up and cool down, there's more solar power to go around during the day, and less atmospheric warmth at night, so the magnitude of temperature shifts is amplified. There is also very little water vapor; water is particularly good at retaining its heat, and the dryness makes the temperature swings even more pronounced."

     A cold and barren desert? Yes, without question. But certainly a majestic world in it`s own right.