Areography

Atlas Pro has created a really cool video on areography–the “geography” of Mars. It’s a brief but thorough survey of the surface of Mars and well worth a watch.

I really want a print of the map presented at 3:00.

Lightning

A new study suggests lightning may be weak or nonexistent in Martian dust storms. Researchers vibrated basalt grains at various atmospheric pressures to test their ability to build up charge.

Lightning in a dust storm plays a role in my forthcoming book, Air: Generation Mars, Book One. Hard science fiction is a moving target. Still, the fictional strike in question is weak and only damaging to electrical equipment, so I think it’s plausible.

 

Lava tubes

“This would be the first time any of the children saw the surface. The colonists had built underground, using existing caves and lava tubes where possible, building and burying structures where necessary. This was to protect themselves from solar and cosmic radiation. On Earth, the atmosphere and magnetic field serve this purpose. But Mars has little of either, so dirt and rock filled the role.”
– from Scratching the Surface: Generation Mars, Prelude

A new paper explores lava tubes in the Hellas Planitia as possible habitats for humans.

Climbing on Mars

Pacific Spaceflight is field testing ideas for Mars suits.
 
“We bet a lot of early Mars climbing will be like nineteenth-century mountaineering—scrambling/third class/5.0 stuff where robots can’t go, or aid climbing with some crazy rack of tools.”

Curiosity’s path

This is incredibly cool. Sean Doran has used imagery from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and ESA’s Mars Express to create a massive image of the landscape Curiosity has traveled through. The detail here is astonishing.

 

Unexplained oxygen fluctuations

Oxygen levels above Gale Crater appear to fluctuate seasonally and scientists don’t yet know why.

Where is Dawn Colony?

A while back I posted about how the writing of science fiction is a race with the progress of science. Here’s a perfect example: where is Dawn Colony? I’ve been hesitant to place it at a specific location on Mars because the more specific I get, the more likely it is I’ll be wrong. Perhaps they live near the southern end of one of the study areas mentioned in this article.

I’m open to other suggestions.