Slowly warming up to the Red Planet

love this image.

A relatively fresh impact crater found just northeast of the Chryse basin. Image from NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

So much so that it’s part of the changing background on my laptop and the banner photo on my Facebook page. I love it so much that my opinion of Mars is slowly starting to change from meh to how cool is that. Of course, I also blame that on my astrogeology course where we’ve spent about a week and a half covering Martian geology. 
Never thought I’d hear myself say this, but I’m actually sad that we’re wrapping up our tour of the Red Planet this week and moving on to Venus. Just means I’m gonna have to spend more time digging through all the cool images found on the HiRISE site
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Meteorite Monday: Space Rocks, an encore edition

I’ve decided to take a quick break from my finals studies and put together a quick Meteorite Monday. This post is one that I wrote back in June 2010 when this blog was hosted on Tumblr. It was my first meteorite themed post and one that I transferred over when I made the leap to WordPress. It’s definitely not my best, but I think it’s interesting to see how my writing has evolved over the past year. While I wouldn’t say my writing is anything special, I do feel like it’s come a long way since then.

Enjoy the repost!

This summer I get to do my very first independent research project. I’ll be helping one of my geology professors finish classifying a meteorite with the use of an electron microprobe. This is my first time doing such a project and as such I have a lot to learn. But that’s the exciting part of doing science: the continual learning process. So, as such I figured it was time for me to learn about meteorites. Or meteors. Or meteoroids. Each name means something different. And according to my instructor, the classification has been changing lately. So, in my efforts to learn the basics about these ancient pieces of space debris, I will be posting what I’ve learned in my blog. To start, those confusing names.

It turns out the terms meteor, meteorite and meteoroide are not interchangeable. They seem to refer to the phases of change space debris goes through as it enters the earth’s atmosphere. This rock can come from the moon, comets, asteroids or even other rocky planets (most notably Alan Hills 84001 from Mars- that deserves a post of it’s own). Some of it can be left over material from the formation of the solar system, almost 4.5 billions years old. While their origins differ they pretty much go through the same process upon encountering the earth’s atmosphere.

The difference between the three names used to be simple. The flash of light produced by the entering debris was a meteor. Any chunks of rock that broke off were the meteoroids. And any piece that didn’t disintegrate in the earth’s atmosphere and made it’s way to the surface was a meteorite.

However, a paper recently published in Meteoritics & Planetary Science by Alan E. Rubin and Jeffrey N. Grossman proposed a complete overhaul of the definitions. They suggest that a meteoroid becomes a “10 micrometer to 1 meter sized natural object traveling through interplanetary space”. A meteorite is a natural object that is larger than 10 micrometers whose parent was any rocky celestial body. The meteorite had to travel under it’s own natural means with enough velocity to escape the gravitational pull of its parent body. It then has to hit something that is larger than itself, natural or artificial, and survive the impact. What is most interesting is that the meteorite doesn’t have to hit a foreign object. If it hits the surface of it’s parent body, it’s still considered a meteorite*.

So, those are the differences between the terms. I think in the next post about meteorites, I’ll cover the classification system. And as a side note, this is my first time writing about anything of this nature. In the very unlikely chance that someone from academia (or anyone at all) reads this, please be kind with criticism. I’ll happily accept feedback if done in a professional manner.

Ontario Lacus

Ontario Lacus
No, you’re not looking at the imprint of Big Foots’ foot, but one of the latest shots of a lake on Titan. This beauty, Ontario Lacus, is the largest lake in the Southern hemisphere. I would explain more about the lake, but I’d be stealing words from the fine folks at JPL that put together the image. One thing I did notice that they didn’t mention was the meandering stream on the central west coast of the lake. It’s neat to see the fluvial process alive on Titan and acting the same way it does on earth. Unfortunately the link on Cassini’s site goes directly to the image and not the site itself, so here’s the description of the image:

Lord of the Rings

I know the title is a bit cliche when talking about Saturn, but it’s so appropriate. This is a raw image from the Cassini Mission that was taken just today. It’s not the most spectacular of images produced, but it’s beautiful none-the-less. These are the sorts of images that make me excited about science and space science in particular. When humans aren’t bickering with each other and work towards a common goal (science related or not) we are capable of great things. In short, this image makes me optimistic for the future and what humanity can truly accomplish.

Space Rocks

This summer I get to do my very first independent research project. I’ll be helping one of my geology professors finish classifying a meteorite with the use of an electron microprobe. This is my first time doing such a project and as such I have a lot to learn. But that’s the exciting part of doing science: the continual learning process. So, as such I figured it was time for me to learn about meteorites. Or meteors. Or meteoroids. Each name means something different. And according to my instructor, the classification has been changing lately. So, in my efforts to learn the basics about these ancient pieces of space debris, I will be posting what I’ve learned in my blog. To start, those confusing names.

It turns out the terms meteor, meteorite and meteoroide are not interchangeable. They seem to refer to the phases of change space debris goes through as it enters the earth’s atmosphere. This rock can come from the moon, comets, asteroids or even other rocky planets (most notably Alan Hills 84001 from Mars- that deserves a post of it’s own). Some of it can be left over material from the formation of the solar system, almost 4.5 billions years old. While their origins differ they pretty much go through the same process upon encountering the earth’s atmosphere.

The difference between the three names used to be simple. The flash of light produced by the entering debris was a meteor. Any chunks of rock that broke off were the meteoroids. And any piece that didn’t disintegrate in the earth’s atmosphere and made it’s way to the surface was a meteorite.

However, a paper recently published in Meteoritics & Planetary Science by Alan E. Rubin and Jeffrey N. Grossman proposed a complete overhaul of the definitions. They suggest that a meteoroid becomes a “10 micrometer to 1 meter sized natural object traveling through interplanetary space”. A meteorite is a natural object that is larger than 10 micrometers whose parent was any rocky celestial body. The meteorite had to travel under it’s own natural means with enough velocity to escape the gravitational pull of its parent body. It then has to hit something that is larger than itself, natural or artificial, and survive the impact. What is most interesting is that the meteorite doesn’t have to hit a foreign object. If it hits the surface of it’s parent body, it’s still considered a meteorite*.

So, those are the differences between the terms. I think in the next post about meteorites, I’ll cover the classification system. And as a side note, this is my first time writing about anything of this nature. In the very unlikely chance that someone from academia (or anyone at all) reads this, please be kind with criticism. I’ll happily accept feedback if done in a professional manner.