Space Photos of the Week: Chaotic, Gassy Mars

Happy Independence Day from space! These cosmic fireworks are located at the star system Eta Carinae. It’s hard to get bleacher seats to this particular show—it’s 7,500 light years away after all— so we brought the show to you. The gas and dust around this star was blown outwards into space after a large energetic burst around 1840. The result is this colorful sideways hourglass.

In 1994, pieces of the comet Shoemaker Levy spent a week crashing into Jupiter’s atmosphere and the collisions left dark scars. This was a very rare treat for astronomers and it changed much of their understanding of the outer solar system. Impacts like these were thought not to occur much anymore, but this comet-planet throwdown helped scientists learn more about the environment of the outer solar system. Because of this surprise event, scientists here on Earth realized they needed to have their own strategy for planetary protection.

Forty five million light years away is an object called Messier 98. This galaxy contains around one trillion stars and, because it’s so rich in cosmic dust and hydrogen gas, it’s producing new stars very quickly.

Earth has dune fields, Mars has dune fields too. This photo shows a section of a region called Olympia Undae located in the northern pole region of Mars, and it’s the largest dune field on the entire planet. Scientists have detected the mineral gypsum in this sand sea, and because the mineral is left behind when a body of water evaporates, it’s yet another indicator of Mars’ watery past.

Since NASA’s Curiosity rover began roaming around on Mars in 2012, it has detected random puffs of methane from the Martian surface. That has scientists very interested—because methane is a byproduct of life, it’s a possible indicator of microbes below the topsoil.

This type of surface is called “chaos” so named for its chaotic patterns. It’s found on places like Jupiter’s moon Europa as well as this region on Mars with the fitting name Aurorae Chaos. Oh, and this image isn’t an actual photo; it’s created using terrain data collected by different spacecraft.

social experiment by Livio Acerbo #greengroundit #wired