PASADENA, Calif. – After a journey of almost three years, NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has reached the Red Planet’s Endeavour Crater to study rocks never seen before.
On Aug. 9, the golf cart-sized rover relayed its arrival at a location named Spirit Point on the crater’s rim. Opportunity drove approximately 13 miles (21 kilometers) since climbing out of the Victoria Crater.
“NASA is continuing to write remarkable chapters in our nation’s story of exploration with discoveries on Mars and trips to an array of challenging new destinations,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. “Opportunity’s findings and data from the upcoming Mars Science Laboratory will play a key role in making possible future human missions to Mars and other places where humans have not yet been.”
Endeavour Crater, which is more than 25 times wider than Victoria Crater, is 14 miles (22 kilometers) in diameter. At Endeavour, scientists expect to see much older rocks and terrains than those examined by Opportunity during its first seven years on Mars. Endeavour became a tantalizing destination after NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter detected clay minerals that may have formed in an early warmer and wetter period.
“We’re soon going to get the opportunity to sample a rock type the rovers haven’t seen yet,” said Matthew Golombek, Mars Exploration Rover science team member, at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif. “Clay minerals form in wet conditions so we may learn about a potentially habitable environment that appears to have been very different from those responsible for the rocks comprising the plains.”
The name Spirit Point informally commemorates Opportunity’s twin rover, which stopped communicating in March 2010. Spirit’s mission officially concluded in May.
A special evening of activities is planned marking the 50th anniversary of the Geauga Park District. The event also serves as the public’s first viewing of its newest park, Observatory Park. Plans call for everything to get underway at 4:00 PM with a park dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony. Tours, entertainment, a hot dog dinner, and evening concert are planned. The evening culminates in a first-light ceremony at the new Oberle Observatory itself. Click here for the full schedule of events.
9:15 PM: “First Light Ceremony” Dedication and Ribbon-Cutting of the Oberle Observatory and Telescope. The Newtonian reflector boasts a universe-grabbing 25.5-inch mirror created by legendary local astronomer Norman Oberle. Sandy Oberle donated her late husband’s telescope to the Geauga Park District to continue his legacy by opening the heavens to the public. The ceremony will feature the Chagrin Valley Astronomical Society’s Ian Cooper and Sandy Oberle.
9:15 PM – Midnight: Stargazing hosted by the Chagrin Valley Astronomical Society.
NOAA Space Weather Bulletin August 4, 2011
NOAA Region 1261, very active over the past few days, produced the third of a sequence of Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) and Solar Radio Blackout Events early today. The net effect of that activity is convergent CMEs expected to disturb the geomagnetic field in the early hours, Universal Time (UTC) of August 5. G3 (Strong) Geomagnetic Storm conditions are likely as well as a distinct chance of S2 (Moderate) Solar Radiation Storm levels being surpassed.
Moving at an estimated speed of 1950 km/s, this CME is expected to sweep up two earlier CMEs already en route. Analysts at the GSFC Space Weather Lab say the combined cloud should reach Earth on August 5th at 13:55 UT (9:55 AM EDT) plus or minus 7 hours: “The impact on Earth is likely to be major. The estimated maximum geomagnetic activity index level Kp is 7 (Kp ranges from 0 – 9). The flanks of the CME may also impact STEREO A, Mars and Mercury/MESSENGER.” High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras. Please visit SpaceWeather.com for full details and latest news!
If we happen to have clear(ish) skies Friday night, Aug. 5, it might be worth stepping outside well after twilight and taking a look. You never know, we might get auroras!