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NASA's Mars rover captures film of a 'dust devil' on the Red Planet – Daily Mail

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NASA’s Mars rover captures a faint almost ghostly ‘dust devil’ as it moves across the surface of the Red Planet

  • The Curiosity rover has been moving across the Gale crater on Mars since 2012
  • The crater is currently going through its windy season stirring up dusty soils
  • Heating surface caused a wind vortex that grabbed soil and created dust devils
  • One dust devil was captured on a series of images by the NASA Curiosity rover 

A new series of images sent to Earth by NASA‘s Curiosity rover on Mars show a spinning ‘dust devil’ as it skirts across the surface of the Red Planet.  

NASA Curiosity Rover has been moving across the Gale crater for the past eight years, conducting experiments and sending sending stunning still images to Earth.

Gale crater is going through its ‘windy season’, stirring up dust devils – caused by vortices of fast wind raising dust from the ground – captured by Curiosity. 

According to NASA researchers, being able to study weather phenomena on Mars that we can also see on Earth can help us understand seasons on the Red Planet. 

NASA hasn’t confirmed the size of the dust devil as it was too far away for accurate measurements, but orbiting spacecraft have seen some reaching 12 miles high. 

Top is a moving image shared by NASA showing the dust devil - highlighted with a red circle. Below is the Curiosity rover that sent the images of the spinning vortex back to Earth

Top is a moving image shared by NASA showing the dust devil - highlighted with a red circle. Below is the Curiosity rover that sent the images of the spinning vortex back to Earth

Top is a moving image shared by NASA showing the dust devil – highlighted with a red circle. Below is the Curiosity rover that sent the images of the spinning vortex back to Earth

It’s almost summer on Mars and because of this the surface of the Gale crater is heating up – this heating runs from early spring through to the Martian mid-summer.

When the surface warms enough, it causes convection and in turn vortices made up of fast winds that whip around low pressure cores – much like on Earth.

When the wind is strong enough – as has happened this year – they can pick up soil from the surface and create dust devils that can be seen across multiple still images sent back to Earth by the Curiosity rover.

‘We often have to process these images, by enhancing what’s changed between them, before dust devils clearly show up,’ wrote NASA scientist Claire Newman.

‘This dust devil was so impressive that – if you look closely – you can just see it moving to the right, at the border between the darker and lighter slopes, even in the raw images.’

Dust devils happen the same way on Earth as on Mars and form best when the terrain is relatively flat and dry and the air is warmer at the surface than above it. 

They are actually very common on Mars – but actually seeing on in motion is rare as they are relatively short-lived and Curiosity only sends back still images.

We know about them because Curiosity and orbiting spacecraft have spotted the tracks these dust devils leave behind them – rather than one in motion. 

To capture a dust devil movie the team had to get Curiosity to take a lot of images of the same region for between five and 30 minutes.

Then back on Earth the team worked to stitch the images together to creation a moving video that allowed them to track its path.

Monitoring their motion can provide information about a dust devil’s movement, where they initiate and how they evolve.

‘Looking at how fast they’re moving and in what direction also tells us about the background wind speed and direction at their location,’ said Newman. 

‘We also made sure to take meteorological measurements with throughout each movie, in case we image a vortex that’s close enough for us to also measure its pressure drop, impact on local temperatures, or even UV radiation if it’s dusty enough to partially block out the Sun.’

NASA has captured images of spinning dust devils on the Red Planet from space - but this is a still image rather than showing it in motion. This one reached 12 miles high

NASA has captured images of spinning dust devils on the Red Planet from space - but this is a still image rather than showing it in motion. This one reached 12 miles high

NASA has captured images of spinning dust devils on the Red Planet from space – but this is a still image rather than showing it in motion. This one reached 12 miles high

Dust devils also form on Earth. This is the moment a team of workers in Java, Indonesia, tried to 'kill' one with tools after it started wreaking havoc in the flour at a food processing plant

Dust devils also form on Earth. This is the moment a team of workers in Java, Indonesia, tried to 'kill' one with tools after it started wreaking havoc in the flour at a food processing plant

Dust devils also form on Earth. This is the moment a team of workers in Java, Indonesia, tried to ‘kill’ one with tools after it started wreaking havoc in the flour at a food processing plant

Monitoring dust devils isn’t the primary mission of the atmospheric team, their goal is to drill and sample material as part of a ‘wet chemistry’ experiment.

This involves transforming less volatile organic chemistry into forms that can be detected by the equipment onboard the Curiosity rover. 

While drilling and checking the samples, cameras on Curiosity could be used to monitor and capture images of the dust devil.

They also examined the dust seen above the rover in the crater. 

‘The dust measurements will help us to track the regional dust activity on Mars that has been seen from the surface and orbit in recent years,’ Newman wrote.

Curiosity is currently the only moving rover on the Red Planet, but Perseverance is currently in flight between the worlds and is due to land on Mars early in 2021. 

Full details of the discovery can be found on the NASA Mars Mission updates blog

THE NASA MARS CURIOSITY ROVER WAS LAUNCHED IN 2011 AND HAS IMPROVED OUR UNDERSTANDING OF THE RED PLANET

The Mars Curiosity rover was initially launched from Cape Canaveral, an American Air Force station in Florida on November 26, 2011. 

After embarking on a 350 million mile (560 million km) journey, the £1.8 billion ($2.5 billion) research vehicle touched down only 1.5 miles (2.4 km) away from the earmarked landing spot.

After a successful landing on August 6th, 2012, the rover has travelled about 11 miles (18 km). 

It was launched on the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) spacecraft and the rover constituted 23 per cent of the mass of the total mission. 

With 80 kg (180 lb) of scientific instruments on board, the rover weighs a total of 899 kg (1,982 lb) and is powered by a plutonium fuel source. 

The rover is 2.9 metres (9.5 ft) long by 2.7 metres (8.9 ft) wide by 2.2 metres (7.2 ft) in height. 

The Mars curiosity rover was initially intended to be a two-year mission to gather information to help answer if the planet could support life, has liquid water, study the climate and the geology of Mars an has since been active for more than 2,000  days

The Mars curiosity rover was initially intended to be a two-year mission to gather information to help answer if the planet could support life, has liquid water, study the climate and the geology of Mars an has since been active for more than 2,000  days

The Mars curiosity rover was initially intended to be a two-year mission to gather information to help answer if the planet could support life, has liquid water, study the climate and the geology of Mars an has since been active for more than 2,000  days

The rover was initially intended to be a two-year mission to gather information to help answer if the planet could support life, has liquid water, study the climate and the geology of Mars.  

Due to its success, the mission has been extended indefinitely and has now been active for over 2,000 days.

The rover has several scientific instruments on board, including the mastcam which consists of two cameras and can take high-resolution images and videos in real colour. 

So far on the journey of the car-sized robot it has encountered an ancient streambed where liquid water used to flow, not long after it also discovered that billions of years ago, a nearby area known as Yellowknife Bay was part of a lake that could have supported microbial life.

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Paradox-Free Time Travel Is Theoretically Possible, Researchers Say – WBFO

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“The past is obdurate,” Stephen King wrote in his book about a man who goes back in time to prevent the Kennedy assassination. “It doesn’t want to be changed.”

Turns out, King might have been onto something.

Countless science fiction tales have explored the paradox of what would happen if you do something in the past that endangers the future. Perhaps one of the most famous pop culture examples is Back to the Future, when Marty McFly went back in time and accidentally stopped his parents from meeting, putting his own existence in jeopardy.

But maybe McFly wasn’t in much danger after all. According a new paper from researchers at the University of Queensland, even if time travel were possible, the paradox couldn’t actually exist.

Researchers ran the numbers, and determined that even if you make a change in the past, the timeline would essentially self-correct, ensuring that whatever happened to send you back in time would still happen.

“Say you travelled in time, in an attempt to stop COVID-19’s patient zero from being exposed to the virus,” University of Queensland scientist Fabio Costa told the university’s news service.

“However if you stopped that individual from becoming infected — that would eliminate the motivation for you to go back and stop the pandemic in the first place,” said Costa, who co-authored the paper with honors undergraduate student Germain Tobar.

“This is a paradox — an inconsistency that often leads people to think that time travel cannot occur in our universe.”

A variation is known as the “grandfather paradox” — in which a time traveler kills their own grandfather, in the process preventing the time traveler’s birth.

The logical paradox has given researchers a headache, in part because according to Einstein’s theory of general relativity, “closed time-like curves” are possible, theoretically allowing an observer to travel back in time and interact with their past self — and potentially endangering their own existence.

But these researchers say that such a paradox wouldn’t necessarily exist, because events would adjust themselves.

Take the coronavirus patient zero example. “You might try and stop patient zero from becoming infected, but in doing so you would catch the virus and become patient zero, or someone else would,” Tobar told the university’s news service.

In other words, a time traveler could make changes — but the original outcome would still find a way to happen. Maybe not the same way it happened in the first timeline; but close enough so that the time traveler would still exist, and would still be motivated to go back in time.

“No matter what you did, the salient events would just recalibrate around you,” Tobar said.

The paper, “Reversible dynamics with closed time-like curves and freedom of choice,” was published last week in the peer-reviewed journal Classical and Quantum Gravity. The findings seem consistent with another time travel study published this summer in the peer-reviewed journal Physical Review Letters. That study found that changes made in the past won’t drastically alter the future.

Best-selling science fiction author Blake Crouch, who has written extensively about time travel, said the new study seems to support what certain time travel tropes have posited all along.

“The universe is deterministic and attempts to alter Past Event X are destined to be the forces which bring Past Event X into being,” Crouch told NPR via email. “So the future can affect the past. Or maybe time is just an illusion. But I guess it’s cool that the math checks out.”

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Starship SN8 prepares for test series – First sighting of Super Heavy – NASASpaceflight.com

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Starship SN8 prepares for test series – First sighting of Super Heavy – NASASpaceFlight.com

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Chang'e-4 lander finds radiation levels on the moon 2.6 times higher than at space station – Firstpost

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As the US prepares to return humans to the Moon this decade, one of the biggest dangers future astronauts will face is space radiation that can cause lasting health effects, from cataracts to cancer and neurodegenerative diseases.

Though the Apollo missions of the 1960s and 1970s proved it was safe for people to spend a few days on the lunar surface, NASA did not take daily radiation measurements that would help scientists quantify just how long crews could stay.

This question was resolved Friday after a Chinese-German team published in the journal Science Advances the results of an experiment carried out by China’s Chang’E 4 lander in 2019.

“The radiation of the Moon is between two and three times higher than what you have on the ISS (International Space Station),” co-author Robert Wimmer-Schweingruber, an astrophysicist at the University of Kiel told AFP.

“So that limits your stay to approximately two months on the surface of the Moon,” he added, once the radiation exposure from the roughly week-long journey there, and week back, is taken into account.

There are several sources of radiation exposure: galactic cosmic rays, sporadic solar particle events (for example from solar flares), and neutrons and gamma rays from interactions between space radiation and the lunar soil.

Scientist-astronaut Harrison Schmitt collecting lunar rake samples during the first Apollo 17. Schmitt was the lunar module pilot for the mission. The Lunar Rake is used to collect discrete samples of rocks and rock chips of different sizes. Image courtesy: NASA

Radiation is measured using the unit sievert, which quantifies the amount absorbed by human tissues.

The team found that the radiation exposure on the Moon is 1,369 microsieverts per day – about 2.6 times higher than the International Space Station crew’s daily dose.

The reason for this is that the ISS is still partly shielded by the Earth’s protective magnetic bubble, called the magnetosphere, which deflects most radiation from space.

Earth’s atmosphere provides additional protection for humans on the surface, but we are more exposed the higher up we go.

“The radiation levels we measured on the Moon are about 200 times higher than on the surface of the Earth and five to 10 times higher than on a flight from New York to Frankfurt,” added Wimmer-Schweingruber.

NASA is planning to bring humans to the Moon by 2024 under the Artemis mission and has said it has plans for a long term presence that would include astronauts working and living on the surface.

For Wimmer-Schweingruber there is one work-around if we want humans to spend more than two or three months: build habitats that are shielded from radiation by coating them with 80 centimeters (30 inches) of lunar soil.

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