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Monthly Archives: March 2015

From an NRAO press release, March 9, 2015:

From earthbound optical telescopes, the surface of Venus is shrouded beneath thick clouds made mostly of carbon dioxide. To penetrate this veil, probes like NASA’s Magellan spacecraft use radar to reveal remarkable features of this planet, like mountains, craters, and volcanoes.

Credit: B. Campbell, Smithsonian, et al., NRAO/AUI/NSF, Arecibo

Credit: B. Campbell, Smithsonian, et al., NRAO/AUI/NSF, Arecibo

Recently, by combining the highly sensitive receiving capabilities of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Green Bank Telescope (GBT) and the powerful radar transmitter at the NSF’s Arecibo Observatory, astronomers were able to make remarkably detailed images of the surface of this planet without ever leaving Earth. The radar signals from Arecibo passed through both our planet’s atmosphere and the atmosphere of Venus, where they hit the surface and bounced back to be received by the GBT in a process known as bistatic radar.

This capability is essential to study not only the surface as it appears now, but also to monitor it for changes. By comparing images taken at different periods in time, scientists hope to eventually detect signs of active volcanism or other dynamic geologic processes that could reveal clues to Venus’s geologic history and subsurface conditions.

Links: NRAO press release.

Adapted from a press release of Mars Odyssey’s THEMIS team, March 5. 2015:

NASA’s next Mars space probe, a lander named InSight (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport), is due to touch down on the Red Planet in September 2016. InSight carries two main instruments, a heat-flow probe and a seismometer, both being deployed using a robotic arm. The heat probe requires that the ground within reach of the arm be penetrable by the probe, which will hammer itself into the soil to a depth of three to five meters.


Credit: NASA/JPL

InSight was provisionally selected for funding through NASA’s Discovery Program for launch in 2016 and the spacecraft design is based on NASA’s successful Phoenix Mars lander mission. It will touch down in one place and stay there for its entire mission, projected to last two Earth years. Its landing place has been chosen carefully with help from a Mars-orbiting heat-sensitive camera on NASA’s Mars Odyssey orbiter.

Links: THEMIS press release, ASU press release, InSight mission home.