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Mars and Saturn II – What’s New?
For both planets, the textbooks are being
rewritten, new developments this
For Mars, the main scientific
question is the existence of water
in the remote past
Mars Explorations Rovers (“Spirit” and
“Opportunity” are extensively studying two
regions on the surface of Mars, both chosen for
possibility of water
MER landing sites chosen to be
places that seemed to be sites of
• “Spirit”: Gusev crater:
crater with apparent
ancient river flowing into
• “Opportunity”: Meridiani
Planum: site with
signature of mineral
hematite, mineral which
forms in the presence of
water on Earth
Spirit and Opportunity
Landed in January
• Both spacecraft still operating
• Results to date
• Spirit has found no evidence of ancient
water on the surface (yet)
• Opportunity has found conclusive evidence
of ancient bodies of water at landing site
Opportunity landed in small crater with sedimentary rock
Aquatic past of Opportunity
landing site from detailed
analysis of rock outcropping
Scientific Conclusions from
Opportunity analysis
(1) Landing site described as once being “soaking
(2) Deposits of hydrated sulfur salts
(3) Presence of mineral jarosite (forms in presence
of water on Earth)
(4) Pockmarks in rocks believed due to mineral
pockets dissolved…rocks were submerged
(5) Ripple patterns in rocks indicating past lakes or
All this strongly indicates (proves?)
Opportunity landing site was
submerged in water for a long
period of time, long ago
Where is Opportunity now? At
edge of Endurance Crater
If Opportunity goes in, it may not be able to
come out
Spirit still functioning and
Spirit now less than half a mile from the
“Columbia Hills”, best chance for sedimentary
The next planetary adventure this
summer: Cassini arrives at Saturn
One of the fascinating things
about Saturn: its moon Titan
Interesting aspects
of Titan: (1) 2nd
largest moon in
solar system, (2)
only moon with a
After a voyage of seven years,
Cassini will fire its rockets and
enter orbit around Saturn on July 1
Earth-based observations at
infrared wavelengths reveal
surface details on Titan
There may be a
“hydrological cycle”
based on methane and
ethane on Titan
We’ll find out soon; the Huygens
probe lands in January