THE COSMIC DIARY NETWORK

Baby dunes
Published 4/26/2019 in Lori Fenton's Blog Author lfenton
I saw an article today linked by the International Society for Aeolian Research's Facebook page, on the dangers of dust being lofted in Earth's youngest desert, the Aralkum Desert in Kazakhstan. It's where the Aral Sea used to be, decades ago. Here's the article from Atlas Obscura. It sounds like a difficult place to get to, and an even harder place to study. But, I thought, maybe there was something interesting to see from above. Maybe even new dunes, because rapidly exposed lake beds provide ready sources of sand for building dunes. A flat plain of sand will tend to form a field of uniformly-sized dunes, as they all grow at the same rate from a similarly sized sand supply. So I went to have a look with Google Earth Pro. And, yeah, I found a vast field of tiny little dunes. Here's a tiny bit of one of them: ... read more ❯

Dust Devil Fieldwork #1: Equipment
Published 4/23/2019 in Lori Fenton's Blog Author lfenton
April 22, 2019 Hey. So last fall I found out that some colleagues and I got our dust devil proposal funded (I'm the PI, which means I'm the one in charge.) My initial reaction included elation. Relief. Joy. 🤗🎉🎈🥂🎊 We'd submitted this proposal five times (FIVE!!) before we got it funded. And now we're really going to do it. We're going to get some amazing meteorology instruments, some awesome cameras, and go out to the US southwest to study some dust devils. As reality set in, my second reaction looked like this: 😨😰🙀 Because. Well. This is a big job. I want to do it well. After sinking so much time into getting the proposal to be perfect, I now have to follow through on all of my promises and learn some great things about dust devils. In another post I'll start going into the details of what we're looking for out in the... read more ❯

Calling Exogeophysicists to Solve the Mystery of Super-Earths
Published 3/5/2019 in Franck Marchis Blog Author Franck Marchis
There is a mystery in our galaxy, and astronomers around the world are working to solve it. The NASA Kepler mission revealed that planetary systems are common, and that on average, each star has two planets in orbit around it. This is great news for SETI researchers, since it means that there are a lot of worlds out there to explore. Many of them may have liquid water, meaning that there is the possibility that life could exist elsewhere in our galaxy. However, there is something unusual about some recently discovered planetary systems—half of those with a sun-like star have one or more so-called “super-Earths,” planets with a mass larger than that of our planet, but less than that of icy giant planets like Uranus or Neptune. What are they? We don’t really know. An artist concept of 55 Cancri e in contrast with our familiar Earth.... read more ❯

Old dunes and new dunes
Published 3/4/2019 in Lori Fenton's Blog Author lfenton
On Earth, really old windblown dunes don't usually survive long enough to become part of the geologic rock record. Dunes are made of unconsolidated sand, which is easily eroded by just about anything, so it takes special circumstances to keep dunes around. Most of the dunes preserved in Earth's geological layers are just the bottom fraction of the dunes - the tops were cut off (quite often by other dunes!). That same process has happened on Mars too. But in a few locations, something special has happened: entire dunes have been preserved. That must mean that the dunes formed and then were lithified quickly enough that they weren't eroded away. More than that, they may have been buried at some point, like any other rock surface. In a few locations, those dunes can be seen almost in their entirety. From orbit. It's almost like looking at an aerial photo of a bit... read more ❯

Unistellar is hiring - Communication and Community Management Internship
Published 2/26/2019 in Franck Marchis Blog Author Franck Marchis
Something unusual for my blog, but why not... Unistellar is hiring a Communication and Community Manager in Marseille, France. If you like astronomy, want to work on the south of France for a high-tech startup and share your love for science, this is a job for you! We are looking for this motivated person to start ASAP. Below the ad: Communication and Community Management Internship Our Company Unistellar is a high-tech start-up based in Marseille, France, and in California. We are developing the eVscope, a unique connected consumer telescope. Our patented light-amplification system will revolutionize astronomy by making its practice as popular as using consumer drones. You’ll join a dynamic team within an ambitious company. At Unistellar, you’ll practice communication on a global scale, and will enjoy a lot of versatility and autonomy. Mission The telescope developed by Unistellar is generating strong interest worldwide. Our pre-sales are 80% outside France and 50% in North America. Unistellar... read more ❯

Why does Lori study dunes on Mars?
Published 2/11/2019 in Lori Fenton's Blog Author lfenton
When I look for something to blog about, I usually go to the HiRISE catalog to see if there are any new pictures that I find interesting. Today this lovely dune field caught my eye: HiRISE images are about 6 km (3.7 mi) across, so that dune field is about 4 km (2.5 mi) wide and 7 km (4.3 mi) long. If you look carefully you'll see that it's a little bit weird. The entire dune field is surrounded by a crisp-edged area of sand that isn't shaped into dunes (I call it an apron). That's pretty unusual - compare it, for example, to the pretty little dune field in Noachis Terra that I blogged about a couple of months ago. Why the difference? Well the dune field I'm showing you today is located at a latitude of 63.2º S. That's technically in the southern midlatitudes,... read more ❯

Wind at the Mars InSight landing site
Published 12/27/2018 in Lori Fenton's Blog Author lfenton
InSight landed in Elysium Planitia on 26 November, 2018, about a month ago as of this writing. Pictures show that it's a flat place, with small scattered rocks lying around. Unlike in Gale crater, where Curiosity is slowly working its way up the side of a 5 km mountain with a spectacular view of the crater rim, InSight's landing spot is a little boring. InSight's view in Elysium Planitia Curiosity's view in Gale crater Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS In a way, though, that's interesting, if simply for the contrast between the two sites. Despite this big difference in relief, there is one thing the sites have in common: the big global-scale wind patterns. In Gale crater that big wind pattern is a bit muted, and the local topography can create its own winds, which can in turn either work to augment or cancel out the big global wind patterns. But nothing changes the fact that Mars'... read more ❯