The American flag and a mini-DVD on the deck of the Phoenix lander. The mini-DVD
from the Planetary Society contains a message to future Martian explorers, science
fiction and art inspired by Mars, and the names of a quarter million people.
NASA/JPL/Caltech/University of Arizona
Phoenix has now returned a couple very detailed panoramic photos of the Martian landscape around the lander. The images are large and and will require a couple minutes to display but oh, are they worth the wait. You’ll almost feel like an astronaut or geologist as you use your mouse to explore scene one and scene two. Notice the low range of hills in the second image. They’re likely the upraised rim of a crater.
We have rain today and rain tomorrow. I’m happy for rain and the two atoms that compose the water in all those drops. Hydrogen and oxygen. Think for a minute about the origin of those elements. Hydrogen makes up about 75% of all the known matter in the universe, and was created some 13.7 billion years ago in the Big Bang. Hydrogen, with just one proton and one electron, came out the hot mix with ease.
Oxygen is more complicated. It has eight protons and eight electrons. It had to be cooked up later in the cores of stars, where hydrogen and helium fuse together under the star’s tremendous heat and pressure to create heavier elements like carbon, oxygen, neon and many more.
During the formation of the solar system from a cloud of gas and dust 4.7 billion years ago, hydrogen and oxygen happily combined to form water molecules. Almost five billion years later, you and I rush to our cars to avoid getting soaked by the rain.
Next time you’re hurrying in the rain, consider the epic journey all those hydrogen and oxygen atoms have been on since the dawn of time. And slow down a little.
Astro Bob’s vision of the Big Bang — dang hot!