Curiosity: Update 4 – Pyramid Rock

Pyramid rock: “Jake Matijevic”

On September 19, 2012, NASA scientists assigned Mars rover Curiosity a monumental task — determine the properties of a football-sized pyramid-shaped rock that looks like the Great Pyramid of Giza. Strange thing is… the rock is in the middle of nowhere! Where did it originate? Could it have been built by an intelligent race that lived or still lives on Mars? Curiosity discovered this rock at the end of its 43rd Martian day. Using the 10 cm tall and 16 cm wide rock as a practice target, Curiosity will test its contact instruments: Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer for reading a target’s elemental composition and  Mars Hand Lens Imager for close-up imaging. While weird rocks shaped by wind erosion are not uncommon on Mars’ surface, this minature pyramid is probably just a rock. Spurring the imaginations of Earthlings imagining life beyond, the odd rock remains the center of speculation, especially since Curiosity’s objective is to find evidence of Mars’ capability to harbor life. Named after NASA engineer Jake Matijevic who passed away on August 20, 2012, the pyramid-shaped rock may be a impact fragment ejected into the Gale Crater. Jake Matijevic was the leading engineer in the Sojounrer, Opportunity, and Spirit missions, while surface operations systems chief engineer for the Mars Science Laboratory/ Curiosity mission.

Curiosity’s robotic arm

On September 22, 2012, Curiosity finished its inspection of the rock target. Its ChemCam lasers zapped the rock to analyze its chemical components and calibrate the instruments, marking the first use of Curiosity’s robotic arm.

References

Dicker, Ron. “Mars Rock: Curiosity Rover To Examine Pyramid-Shaped Boulder, NASA Says.” Huffington Post. Huffington Post, 23 Sep 2012. Web. 1 Oct 2012.

Greicius , Tony, ed. “Curiosity Finishes Close Inspection of Rock Target.” NASA. NASA, 24 Sep 2012. Web. 1 Oct 2012.

Greicius , Tony, ed. “NASA Mars Rover Targets Unusual Rock on Its Journey.” NASA. NASA, 19 Sep 2012. Web. 1 Oct 2012.

What are Brown Dwarfs?

Brown Dwarf

BROWN DWARFS: stars too small to perform nuclear fusion (no new energy) but too massive to be a planet

  • Masses range from 13 Jupiter-masses to 25 Jupiter-masses
  • Radius same as Jupiter but be up to 60-90 Jupiter masses
  • Some emit x-rays
  • All glow red in the infrared spectra until they cool off to 1,000 K

In 1995, the first brown dwarf, Teide 1 of the Pleiades cluster (M8 star), was discovered by the Spanish Observatory of Roque de los Muchachos and verified. Most brown dwarfs belong to spectral types L and T, which contain cooler stars than spectral type M. So far, more than 1,000 brown dwarfs have been discovered.

Early Astronomy History: Timeline

EARLY HISTORY (2700 B.C. – 1600 A.D.)

Early Astronomy: Predicting Eclipses, Determining Equinoxes and Solstices

2700 B.C. (Stonehenge, England) - stones marked solstices and equinoxes; Aubrey holes predicted eclipses

2000 B.C. [Sumerians] - earliest constellations (bull, lion, scorpion); base 60 system

2000 B.C. [Babylonians] - Pythagorean Theorem

1000 B.C. [Egyptians] - helical rising of Sirius; 12 month, 30 day calendar; sundial

1000 B.C. [Chinese] - counting boards

700 B.C. – 50 A.D. [Babylonians] - planetary positions and eclipses

600 B.C [Pre-Greek: Thales of Miletus] - solar eclipse prediction, Saros Cycle; constellations as known today

600 B.C. (Miletus, Greece) [Anaximander] - shadow from stick t calculate the length of the year; life originated in water, evolved from simpler forms

500 B.C [Pythagoras of Samos] - spherical moon, spherical-moving Earth

450 B.C [Empodocles] - water thief to argue that air must be so finely divided that it’s invisible

400 B.C. [Chinese] - sunspots

400 B.C. [Democritus] - atoms, large number of other worlds, Milky Way aggregates of light from other galaxies

4th Century B.C [Plato] - proposed Uniform Circular Motion of Planets; spherical Earth

350 B.C. (Athens, Greece) [Aristotle]- model of the solar system: spherical universe centered on solid spherical Earth (geocentric view); moon between Earth and Sun; all objects are from the four elements – earth, water, fire, and air; earth and heaven to be subject to two different sets of laws

300 B.C. (Alexandria) [Euclid] - most prominent mathematician; “Elements”: geometry; conic sections

310-250 B.C. [Aristarchus of Samos] - relative distances and sizes of the Moon and the Sun; Sun at the center of the solar system (heliocentric view); used Earth’s shadow to measure the size of the moon

200 B.C. (Alexandria) [Eratosthenes] - measured earth’s size using simple geometry and scientific process

130 B.C. [Hipparchus of Rhodes] - star maps; star catalog of 850 stars, precession; epicycles

150 A.D. [Ptolemy] - fixed Aristotle’s model with the epicycle theory: planets move in epicycles (small circular paths around which the planets move); the centers pf epicycles are along the deferent (big circle)

250 A.D. [Mayans] - “place-value” number system

500 A.D [Hyptia] - first known woman astronomer, librarian of Alexandria

500 A.D. [Chinese] - solar wind; comets: tail of comets always point away from the Sun

6th – 9th Century A.D. [Persian and Arabic Astronomy] - “Al-Sufi”: Book of Stars Showing Orion Nebula; “Al-Battani”: Non-circularity of Earth’s Orbit

10th Century A.D. [Mayans] - Dresden Codex, Venus tables, eclipse tables

10th Century A.D. [Chinese] - star map showing 26 sections

1054 A.D. [Chinese] - supernova: remnant traced to Crab Nebula

1100 A.D. [Pueblo Native Americans] - Sun Dagger

1270 A.D. [Samarkand] - star catalog

Mid-1400′s A.D. (Germany) [Regiomontanus] - “Ephemeris”; “The Nuremberg Chronicle” – planetary positions and comet charts