On Sunday, August 5, the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) rover, known as Curiosity, will make its dramatic descent onto Mars's surface. Once it lands, the rover will check its instruments to make sure everything's functioning properly—and then it will get right to work. Caltech's Ken Farley and Bethany Ehlmann will be among the 300 scientists working here on Earth, taking the information Curiosity sends home and trying to figure out what it all means.
After journeying more than 340 million miles over the course of eight months, NASA's Mars Science Laboratory (MSL)—the most capable robotic mission ever sent to the Red Planet—is quickly approaching its destination. The spacecraft is scheduled to touch down on the evening of August 5. A feature-length story about this Mission to Mars appears in the Summer issue of E&S magazine.
In 1969, an exploding fireball tore through the sky over Mexico, scattering thousands of pieces of meteorite across the state of Chihuahua. More than 40 years later, the Allende meteorite is still serving the scientific community as a rich source of information about the early stages of our solar system's evolution. Recently, scientists from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) discovered a new mineral embedded in the space rock—one they believe to be among the oldest minerals formed in the solar system.
Mike Brown, the Richard and Barbara Rosenberg Professor and professor of planetary astronomy at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), has been named a co-winner of the 2012 Kavli Prize in Astrophysics for his efforts to understand the outer solar system—work that led to the demotion of Pluto.
Last year, images from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured sand dunes and ripples moving across the surface of Mars—observations that challenged previously held beliefs that there was not a lot of movement on the red planet's surface. Now, technology developed by a team at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) has allowed scientists to measure these activities for the very first time.
An entirely new globe of the moon—the first in over 40 years—is now available, thanks, in part, to Caltech alumni. Using images from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera, a team at Sky & Telescope magazine, including senior contributing editor Kelly Beatty (BS '73), developed the updated model.
Many of us see a man in the moon—a human face smiling down at us from the lunar surface. The "face," of course, is just an illusion, shaped by the dark splotches of lunar maria (smooth plains formed from the lava of ancient volcanic eruptions). Like a loyal friend, the man is always there, constantly gazing at us as the moon revolves around Earth. But why did the moon settle into an orbit with the man facing Earth?
With the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) well on its way to Mars, the newest members of its science team have been announced. Two Caltech professors—Kenneth Farley and Bethany Ehlmann—are among 18 researchers who have been selected as funded participating scientists on the mission.
Saturn's largest moon, Titan, is an intriguing, alien world that's covered in a thick atmosphere with abundant methane. Titan boasts methane clouds and fog, as well as rainstorms and plentiful lakes of liquid methane. The origins of many of these features, however, remain puzzling to scientists. Now, Caltech researchers have developed a computer model of Titan's atmosphere and methane cycle that, for the first time, explains many of these phenomena in a relatively simple and coherent way.