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.

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.