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A Once or Future (Living) Mars?

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Was Mars once very Earth-like?

Software engineer Kevin Gill used topographical data to imagine what it might have been like.

A two dimensional digital elevation model was first rendered in jDem846 (an open-source learning project of mine) using the MRO MOLA 128 pix/deg elevation dataset. In that model, I picked a sea level and scripted it such that terrain at or below that level was flat and blue.

The resulting model was then brought into GIMP were I painted in land features using a NASA Blue Marble Next Generation image for the source textures.  There is no scientific reasoning behind how I painted it; I tried to envision how the land would appear given certain features or the effects of likely atmospheric climate. For example, I didn’t see much green taking hold within the area of Olympus Mons and the surrounding volcanoes, both due to the volcanic activity and the proximity to the equator (thus a more tropical climate). For these desert-like areas I mostly used textures taken from the Sahara in Africa and some of Australia. Likewise, as the terrain gets higher or lower in latitude I added darker flora along with tundra and glacial ice. These northern and southern areas textures are largely taken from around northern Russia. Tropical and subtropical greens were based on the rainforests of South America and Africa.

The shot above is Mars' eastern hemisphere. Check out the western one, AFTER THE JUMP...

(Kevin Gill Google+ via The Atlantic)

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Stephen Colbert Investigates Claims That Obama is a Gay Martian: VIDEO

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A Colbert Report investigative report has uncovered the truth behind recent conspiracy theories. Yes, Obama is a gay Martian:

"Yes, Mars, a planet named for the most fabulous of the Gods. And one that the gays have been singing about openly for years. Which explains why NASA named the Mars Rover, 'Curiosity'."

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Scientists Spot Metallic Object as Curiosity Probe Takes First Scoopful of Mars: VIDEO

Mars

Meanwhile on Mars...

Scientists have spotted something metallic on the Martian surface and aren't sure what it is but think it may be a piece of hardware that fell off the rover itself. The object (A screw, perhaps?) was spotted after the Curiosity rover took its first soil scoop of the red planet.

Another time-lapse video shows how the rover vibrates the soil:

The clip includes 256 frames from Curiosity's Mast Camera, taken at about eight frames per second, plus interpolated frames to run at actual speed in this 32-frames-per-second version. The scoop was vibrated to discard any overfill. Churning due to vibration also serves to show physical characteristics of the collected material, such as an absence of pebbles. The scoop is 1.8 inches (4.5 centimeters) wide, 2.8 inches (7 centimeters) long.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

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The Best Mars Landing Video of All Time? - VIDEO

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Those of you who have been fascinated by the arrival in August of the Curiosity probe to the surface of Mars, have likely seen something like this video before, but you have never seen it like this.

Producer Bard Canning spent four weeks enhancing it:

Ultra-resolution, smooth-motion, detail-enhanced, color-corrected, interpolated from the original 4 frames per second to 30 frames per second. This video plays real-time at the speed that Curiosity descended to the surface of Mars on August 6, 2012.

Check it out, AFTER THE JUMP...

And the original is here.

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Descent to Mars: VIDEO

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The Curiosity probe's landing, in 'HD':

This is a full-resolution version of the NASA Curiosity rover descent to Mars, taken by the MARDI descent imager. As of August 20, all but a dozen 1600x1200 frames have been uploaded from the rover, and those missing were interpolated using thumbnail data. The result was applied a heavy noise reduction, color balance, and sharpening for best visibility.

The video plays at 15fps, or 3x realtime. The heat shield impacts in the lower left frame at 0:21, and is shown enlarged at the end of the video.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

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New Images, Video from Mars Show Towering Mountain, Precipitous Descent on to Surface: VIDEO

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New images and video have been presented by NASA from today's historic landing on the Martian surface by the car-sized rover Curiosity.

One new image shows the rover's wheels and shadow with Mt. Sharp in the background. The mountain is Curiosity's main scientific destination and is three miles high and four miles away. The rover will eventually be analyzing its geology.

The other fascinating piece of media released today is a low-res video consisting of 297 images shot by the probe as it landed which show the heat shield falling away and then a cloud of dust kicked up as jets fired to cushion its blow on the planet.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

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