The images presented here, acquired by the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) operated by the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) on board the European Space Agency (ESA) Mars Express spacecraft, show part of the Memnonia Fossae region on Mars.
A diameter of 2200 kilometres and a depth of up to nine kilometres: these are the dimensions of the largest impact crater on Mars – Hellas. Only the Moon's South Pole-Aitken Basin and the Valhalla structure on Jupiter's moon, Callisto, have a similar size.
The dwarf planet Ceres is becoming an increasingly mysterious – and exciting – celestial body as the planetary researchers working on the Dawn mission acquire more and more details. The contrast-enhanced true colours show a bluish material around several craters and mountain slopes.
In December 2015, the Mars mission InSight was put on hold, but it has now been provisionally scheduled to launch to the Red Planet at the next opportunity – in May 2018. Technical difficulties with one of the two main experiments – the seismometer – had led to the US space agency, NASA, cancelling the launch that had been planned for March 2016. Now, a decision has been made – the mission has been given a reprieve, and a new launch date in two years' time.
When looking at the large-scale topography along the equator of Mars, what truly stands out are the many, extremely wide drainage channels leading north without many lateral inflows. The smaller valley systems are not so noticeable in these images. They often have multiple branches and meander across the terrain. Such valley systems can be found on Earth. Arda Valles in the Martian highlands is a good example of such a drainage system.
Sailing in the regions that polar researcher Arved Fuchs is currently navigating in his ship 'Dagmar Aaen' is a not an easy task. The 'Ocean Change' expedition is travelling around the Antarctic Peninsula, stopping off at a number of research stations to investigate how climate change is impacting the local environment.
The last prolonged silence had already indicated that contact with the Philae lander will be increasingly unlikely, and the conditions on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko have become more hostile. "Unfortunately, the probability of Philae re-establishing contact with our team at the DLR Lander Control Center (LCC) is almost zero, and we will no longer be sending any commands; it would be very surprising if we received a signal now," said Stephan Ulamec Philae Project Manager of the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR).
The dwarf planet Ceres would be quite an uncomfortable place if one were to actually stand on its surface – with a rather 'chilly' temperature of minus 60 degrees Celsius by day, which gets colder during the night. Hard, frozen ground and craters spanning kilometres – in all shapes and sizes.
Directly to the west of the gigantic graben system of Valles Marineris on Mars, lies a no less impressive region called Noctis Labyrinthus – the Labyrinth of the Night. It consists of a labyrinth of intersecting valleys and canyons up to six kilometres deep. Extending over 1200 kilometres east to west, it is almost the same length as the River Rhine.
A comet is largely composed of water ice and water vapour predominates in its 'atmosphere' – the coma that forms as it nears the Sun. However, very few examples of water ice have previously been observed on the surface of a comet.
Currently just 385 kilometres away from the surface, the Dawn spacecraft is orbiting Ceres and acquiring images that show the dwarf planet at an unprecedented resolution of just 35 metres per pixel. These images allow scientists to look at a surface strewn with craters, fractures, domes and bright areas.
One of the most striking features of a global view of Mars is the dichotomy between the topographically diverse highlands in the southern hemisphere and the flat, expansive lowland plains of its northern counterpart. Many landscape features shaped by erosion can be observed in the transitional zone between the highlands and lowlands, which explains the particular geological interest in this region.
The dwarf planet Ceres measured a mere nine pixels across on an image acquired by NASA's Dawn orbiter on 1 December 2014. Since then, the planetary researchers at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) have received thousands of images showing the dwarf planet and its unusually varied surface.
The latest images acquired by the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC), operated by the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) on board the European Space Agency (ESA) Mars Express spacecraft, show a runout of the Aurorae Chaos region – an eastern continuation of the massive Valles Marineris graben system on Mars.
Indonesia is on fire – the island state is currently facing a bitter struggle against forest and peat fires on Sumatra and Borneo, most likely caused by illegal 'slash and burn' farming to clear the land for palm oil or timber plantations. The extremely dry conditions resulting from the El Niño weather phenomenon exacerbate this problem.
During Mars' geological 'Middle Ages' – the Hesperian Period – which began 3.7 billion years ago and lasted until approximately 3.1 billion years ago, strong volcanic activity was present on our neighbouring planet. Volcanoes spewed low viscosity lava that poured out in masses over the surface and gave rise to extensive plains.
"In your face, Neil Armstrong!" – as he says these words, NASA astronaut Mark Watney senses for the first time that he might have only a very small chance of getting out of his predicament alive. Watney is 'The Martian' in the film of the same name (release date in Germany: 8 October) who, in a not too distant future, finds himself stranded on the Red Planet.
The primary task of the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) on board ESA's Mars Express spacecraft is to acquire high-resolution image data for the mapping of Mars. For this purpose, the optical system is normally directed perpendicular to the surface of the planet.
Nine seconds is not a lot – those who are nine seconds late for an appointment are, so to speak, on time. But when it comes to the rotation of a planet around its own axis, nine seconds is not insignificant. On Mercury, this means that a spot at the equator would, in four years, not be where one would expect it to be; it would have shifted by 700 metres.
The lower the Dawn space probe flies over the dwarf planet Ceres with its on-board camera, the more puzzling – and exciting – the celestial body appears. “Some of the things we are seeing have never been seen anywhere else in the Solar System,” says Ralf Jaumann from the German Aerospace Center (DLR). “Except for on Earth.” Dawn is now looking down onto the surface of Ceres from an altitude of just 1470 kilometres. The first images acquired from its High Altitude Mapping Orbit (HAMO) show a ‘pyramid’ with unusual landslides, unstable crater walls and chains of mountains. “We can only speculate about these things at the moment.” Where the bright stripes along the pyramid-shaped mountain come from and whether the surface of the dwarf planet is comprised of different materials are questions that the planetary researchers are still trying to answer.