Well now, here is my very first post of my very first blog. Ever. Although really it’s not my first time writing what I think, so maybe it’s not a big deal after all. I am a research scientist here at SETI, working at the Carl Sagan Center. I study how the wind shapes the surfaces of planetary bodies in the Solar System, and how the surfaces tell us about wind patterns. The goal of my work is to be able to characterize past and present climates by studying how wind circulation patterns change over time.
A couple of months ago I started posting pretty pictures of Mars to Pinterest.com — in particular, 1280×960 frames of HiRISE images. HiRISE is a camera currently in orbit around Mars, and it has the ability to take images of the surface that have a resolution of 25 cm (~10 inches), which is amazing and leads to some really spectacular views of the martian landscape.
I find a pretty image every weekday night, late at night after my two little boys are asleep. Sometimes the images HiRISE puts up on its website are good enough, but usually I go hunting for my own pictures. Why? Because I focus on windblown features: dunes, ripples, dust devils, rocks streamlined by the wind, and many other things. It’s the thing I’m most passionate about, and I think the wind makes some of the most beautiful features on natural surfaces. So why not share some of them with the world? After all, NASA collected the images and now they belong to all of us. We may as well enjoy them.
This will be the official home of “A Piece of Mars”. Images I post on this blog will be place on my Pinterest board, as well as on Twitter (@LoriKFenton).
Here is last night’s image:
Here we see many signs of strong winds. Neat, straight, parallel dark streaks going from top to bottom are signs of strong wind gusts. More irregular, meandering dark streaks are the tracks of dust devils, which are buffeted along by local winds. And underneath it all are sand ripples, which build up over time as winds move sand along the ground. Mars is a windy place! (HiRISE PSP_006569_1135 NASA/JPL/Univ. of Arizona)