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NASA's Curiosity Mars rover takes selfie with 'Mont Mercou' – Phys.org

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NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover used two cameras to create this selfie in front of Mont Mercou, a rock outcrop that stands 20 feet (6 meters) tall. The panorama is made up of 60 images from the MAHLI camera on the rover’s robotic arm along with 11 images from the Mastcam on the mast, or “head,” of the rover. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

At the start of March, NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover began approaching an impressive rock formation that scientists dubbed “Mont Mercou,” a nickname taken from a mountain in France. Standing about 20 feet (6 meters) tall, the outcrop is captured in all its majesty in a new selfie, as well as in a pair of panoramas that offer a 3D view. The selfie shows Curiosity in front of Mont Mercou with a new drill hole nearby at a rock sample nicknamed “Nontron”—the mission’s 30th sample to date.

Curiosity’s drill powderized the sample before trickling it into instruments inside the rover so the science team could get a better understanding of the rock’s composition and what clues it might offer about Mars’ past. This area is at the transition between the “clay-bearing unit” Curiosity is departing and the “sulfate-bearing unit” that’s ahead on Mount Sharp, the 3-mile-tall (5-kilometer-tall) mountain that the rover has been rolling up since 2014. Scientists have long thought this transition might reveal what happened to Mars as it became the desert planet we see today.

France’s Mont Mercou is located near the village of Nontron in the southeast of the country. The team chose Nontron-related nicknames for this part of the Red Planet because Mars orbiters detected nontronite, a type of clay mineral found close to Nontron, in the region. Surface missions assign nicknames to landmarks to provide the mission’s team members a common way to refer to rocks, soils, and other geologic features of interest.

The selfie is composed of 60 images taken by the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) on the rover’s robotic arm on March 26, 2021, the 3,070th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. These were combined with 11 images taken by the Mastcam on the mast, or “head,” of the rover on March 16, 2021, the 3,060th Martian day of the mission.

Curiosity also provided a pair of panoramas using its Mastcam on March 4, 2021, the 3,049th Martian day of the mission. By shooting one panorama from about 130 feet (40 meters) away from the outcrop, then rolling to the side and shooting another from the same distance, the created a stereoscopic effect similar to those seen in 3D viewfinders. Studying the outcrop from more than one angle helps scientists get a better idea of the 3D geometry of Mount Mercou’s sedimentary layers. An anaglyph of the image can be viewed through red-blue glasses, which you can learn to make here.

In addition to the stereo view and the selfie, Curiosity took a 360-degree panorama of Mont Mercou and its surroundings with its Mastcam.


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Image: Mont Mercou on Mars


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NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover takes selfie with ‘Mont Mercou’ (2021, March 30)
retrieved 30 March 2021
from https://phys.org/news/2021-03-nasa-curiosity-mars-rover-selfie.html

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Meteorite found in B.C. could shed light on solar system's origin says physicist – Vancouver Sun

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Peter G. Brown, a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Western Ontario, says the meteorite made its fiery way to Earth on Oct. 3, after spinning out of its orbit in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, nearly 180 million kilometres away.

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LONDON, Ont. — A small, angular rock that one Canadian physicist says looks like a chunk of black cheese has the potential to help scientists understand how the early solar system formed.

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Peter G. Brown, a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Western Ontario, says the meteorite made its fiery way to Earth on Oct. 3, after spinning out of its orbit in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, nearly 180 million kilometres away.

It tore through the roof of a home in Golden, B.C., narrowly missing the head a sleeping woman.

Brown says the woman has loaned the rock to the university and, for the next month or so, it will become “a small piece of a larger puzzle” as scientists “disentangle how the early solar system formed.”

He says the 4.5 billion-year-old meteorite is older than anything on Earth but is formed of minerals found here, like iron and nickel, although in much larger proportions, giving it unusual weight for a rock its size.

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The exact chemistry is still being studied, but Brown says the findings will link the rock to specific asteroids spinning beyond Mars, while his goal is to use photos of the Oct. 3 fireball to compute the meteorite’s orbit, then merge the chemical and physical data to track the rock’s origin.

It will eventually be returned to the woman whose roof it punctured, but Brown says it will first have given scientists a peek at how the asteroid belt formed, how asteroids evolved and how all that played a role in the formation of the planets.

A hole from a meteorite that fell through the roof of Ruth Hamilton’s home.
A hole from a meteorite that fell through the roof of Ruth Hamilton’s home. Photo by Ruth Hamilton /THE CANADIAN PRESS

“This piece is sort of a primitive piece of the original material that formed in the early solar system,” Brown says in an interview from his office in London, Ont.

“The sheer quantity of information that’s hidden in the rock that we can tease out, in a lot of ways it’s like a really, really dense messenger of information about the early solar system.”

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The recovery of this meteorite and the associated photos of its fireball over southwestern Canada are fairly rare, Brown says.

It happens only once every five or ten years, but he says the data produced will be combined with similar events elsewhere in the world.

“We are building up a bigger statistical collection of these sorts of samples with spatial context but each one is unique, and it certainly makes the meteorite science a lot more valuable to know what the original orbit was of the object.”

“We learn a lot of new things about the solar system each time we do this,” Brown says.

Initial analysis of the meteorite could take a few weeks to a month, but more detailed examination “could go on for years,” he says.

  1. A meteorite rests on Ruth Hamilton's bed after it crashed through her ceiling while she slept on Oct. 4.

    B.C. woman nearly hit by meteorite that crashed through bedroom ceiling: ‘I’ve never been so scared in my life’

  2. This map shows the area where dozens of small meteors likely landed in and around Golden B.C. on Oct. 3.

    Golden B.C. residents asked to search for dozens of small meteorites in and around their town

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Meteorite Hits Canadian Woman's Home – Snopes.com

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A Canadian woman had an exceedingly unlikely experience when a meteorite smashed through her roof and landed on her bed during a meteor shower on the night of Oct. 3, 2021.

Ruth Hamilton, a resident of Golden, British Columbia, told Canadian news outlet CBC on Oct. 12 that she had been sleeping during the meteor shower, just before midnight, when her dog woke her up by barking. It seems that her dog saved her life.

“The next thing was just a huge explosion and debris all over my face,” Hamilton told CBC.

Hamilton told various news outlets that the rock crashed through her roof and landed on her pillow, where her head normally rests. She was unharmed.

“I just jumped up and turned on the light, I couldn’t figure out what the heck had happened,” she told Victoria News, adding that she then called 911 and with the help of local authorities, determined that the only place the rock could have come from was above.

“I’m just totally amazed over the fact that it is a star that came out of the sky, It’s maybe billions of years old,” Hamilton stated.

Peter Brown, Canada Research Chair at Ontario’s Western University, told The Golden Star newspaper that the chances of a meteorite landing on someone’s home were 100 billion to one.

“Every meteorite is older than the oldest rocks on earth,” Brown told the Sun. “If we can study them, we can learn about how planets in the solar system formed.”

The 2.8-pound rock that crashed into Hamilton’s home was identified as part of the Oct. 3 meteor shower by Alan Hildebrand, a planetary scientist at the University of Calgary.

Scientists are asking area residents to contact them and submit any videos or pieces of meteorites that landed on the ground during the event, which was highly visible in the night sky, per the Vancouver Sun. The Sun reported the path of the event “tracked through central and southern Alberta and southeastern B.C. before making landfall in Golden.”


Sources:

Palmer, Claire. “B.C. Woman Awakes to a Hole in Her Roof and a Space Rock on Her Pillow.” Victoria News, 8 Oct. 2021, https://www.vicnews.com/news/b-c-woman-awakes-to-a-hole-in-her-roof-and-a-space-rock-on-her-pillow/.

Carrigg, David. “Golden B.C. Residents Asked to Search for Dozens of Small Meteorites in and around Their Town.” Vancouver Sun, 13 October 2021, https://vancouversun.com/news/golden-b-c-residents-asked-to-search-for-dozens-of-small-meteorites-in-and-around-their-town.

CBC. “Woman Rocked Awake by Meteorite Chunk Crashing into Her Bedroom | CBC News.” 12 October 2021, https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/meteorite-crashes-into-womans-bedroom-golden-bc-1.6207904.

Palmer, Claire. “Researcher Says Golden’s Meteor on the Pillow Was a 100 Billion to 1 Shot.” The Golden Star, 13 Oct. 2021, https://www.thegoldenstar.net/news/researcher-says-goldens-meteor-on-the-pillow-was-a-100-billion-to-1-shot/.

Neuman, Scott. “A Meteorite Crashes through a Home in Canada, Barely Missing a Woman’s Head.” NPR, 14 Oct. 2021. NPR, https://www.npr.org/2021/10/14/1045990641/meteorite-canada-british-columbia-bed.

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How bacteria create a piggy bank for the lean times – Phys.org

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Cyanophycin biosynthesis looks like a windshield wiper in action: one domain is responsible for adding aspartate (Asp), a second domain is responsible for adding arginine (Arg), two nitrogen-rich amino acids, and the third domain holds on to the growing chain of cyanophycin. Credit: Schmeing lab

Bacteria can store extra resources for the lean times. It’s a bit like keeping a piggy bank or carrying a backup battery pack. One important reserve is known as cyanophycin granules, which were first noticed by an Italian scientist about 150 years ago. He saw big, dark splotches in the cells of the blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) he was studying without understanding either what they were or their purpose. Since then, scientists have realized that cyanophycin was made of a natural green biopolymer, that bacteria use it as a store of nitrogen and energy, and that it could have many biotechnological applications. They have tried producing large amounts of cyanophycin by putting the enzyme that makes it (known as cyanophycin synthetase) in everything from E. coli to tobacco, but without being able to make enough of it to be very useful.

Now, by combining two cutting-edge techniques, cryo-electron microscopy (at McGill’s Facility for Electron Microscopy Research) and X-ray crystallography, McGill researchers have, for the first time, been able to see the active enzyme in action.

“Until now scientists have been unable to understand the way bacterial cells store nitrogen in cyanophycin, simply because they couldn’t see the enzyme in action,” says Martin Schmeing, a Professor in McGill’s Department of Biochemistry and the senior author on a recent paper on the subject in Nature Chemical Biology. “By stitching 3D images of the at work into a movie, we were able to see how three different structural units (or domains), came together to create cyanophycin synthetase. It’s a surprising and very elegant example of a natural biomachine.”

The next steps in the research involve looking at the other enzymes used in the complete and degradation cycle of cyanophycin. Once the researchers are able to see them in action, this would potentially give them a complete structural understanding of the processes involved and would allow them to figure out how to turbocharge to make massive quantities of cyanophycin and related polymers for their green polymer biotech applications, such as in biodegradable water softeners and antiscalants or in the creation of heat-sensitive nanovesicles for use in targeted drug delivery.


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Chemists develop new blueprint for enzyme involved in cancer


More information:
Itai Sharon et al, Structures and function of the amino acid polymerase cyanophycin synthetase, Nature Chemical Biology (2021). DOI: 10.1038/s41589-021-00854-y

Citation:
How bacteria create a piggy bank for the lean times (2021, October 14)
retrieved 15 October 2021
from https://phys.org/news/2021-10-bacteria-piggy-bank.html

This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no
part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

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