Thursday, December 31, 2009

Reprocessed images from Ted Stryk and jekbradbury

With only a few hours left in 2009 (here in Tucson anyway, I know its already 2010 for you folks in the Eastern Hemisphere), I thought I would do a quick round-up from news and interesting links from the last few weeks that I haven't had a chance to get to.  Enjoy!

On the reprocessed images front, Ted Stryk has taken a look at some global views of Io taken by Galileo, including some optical navigation frames from March 31, 1997 during a mutual event between Io and two of Jupiter's small inner moons, Metis and Adrastea, and GLOCOL01 from October 16, 2001.  Ted combined three frames from 1997 to show not only the windows (used to further compress the data sent back from Galileo) around Adrastea and Io (well the limb of Io anyway), but a plume on Io's limb.  The location of the plume, as Ted points out, suggests that it was associated with Pele, but the size of the plume and its brightness at this phase angle makes me think otherwise...  maybe the plume is Pillan instead, but this data was taken at least a month before the eruption began.  I'll have to check into that.  The other image Ted processed was the GLOCOL01 global color observation from orbit I32, taken shortly after a flyby of Io.  I previously presented my version of this image.  Ted was able to pull out the plume from the Thor eruption that summer and fall.  I am amazed he was able to pull that out of the violet filter data.  My own stretching of that same data, shown at left (the plume is on the bright limb on the lower left hand portion of the image), BARELY shows that plume at all, suggesting that Ted had to noise filter that image to an extreme degree... great job, Ted!

As jekbradbury commented here last week, he was able to bring out some details from some garbled I24 images that had yet to be reconstructed.  These images are marred by dark, vertical bands resulting from a corruptions of the camera's image summation algorithm.  Details on the image he processed can be found at the forum.  The resulting image shows the current (as of 1999) main flow of Volund on the right side of the image and older, greenish flows to right of that dark flow.  For comparison, see the image at right taken from a color mosaic acquired in March 1998.  I think he is correct in his assessment that it isn't very useful for scientific uses since the data is so garbled, the effective resolution isn't any better than data acquired earlier in the Galileo mission, like the image at right.  However, it is nice to see this "lost" data set finally get some attention paid to it.  Perhaps the full ZAMAMA02 mosaic can be put together, even if some frames are of lower quality.

We are coming up on the 400th Anniversary of Galileo Galilei's discovery of the Galilean satellites.  If you know of any event commemorating this occasion, feel free to send them along to me and I will post them here on the blog.  I don't know of one here in town, I might have a small party at my home next weekend, but that is about it at this point.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

New Frontiers Mission Candidates Selected

Candidates for the third New Frontiers mission (the first two being New Horizons and Juno) have been selected by NASA's Science Mission Directorate.  As stated in the press release, these missions include:
  • The Surface and Atmosphere Geochemical Explorer, or SAGE, mission to Venus would release a probe to descend through the planet's atmosphere. During descent, instruments would conduct extensive measurements of the atmosphere's composition and obtain meteorological data. The probe then would land on the surface of Venus, where its abrading tool would expose both a weathered and a pristine surface area to measure its composition and mineralogy. Scientists hope to understand the origin of Venus and why it is so different from Earth. Larry Esposito of the University of Colorado in Boulder, is the principal investigator.
  • The Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security Regolith Explorer spacecraft, called Osiris-Rex, would rendezvous and orbit a primitive asteroid. After extensive measurements, instruments would collect more than two ounces of material from the asteriod's surface for return to Earth. The returned samples would help scientists better understand and answer long-held questions about the formation of our solar system and the origin of complex molecules necessary for life. Michael Drake, of the University of Arizona in Tucson, is the principal investigator.
  • MoonRise: Lunar South Pole-Aitken Basin Sample Return Mission would place a lander in a broad basin near the moon's south pole and return approximately two pounds of lunar materials for study. This region of the lunar surface is believed to harbor rocks excavated from the moon's mantle. The samples would provide new insight into the early history of the Earth-moon system. Bradley Jolliff, of Washington University in St. Louis, is the principal investigator
As a result of the restriction of using solar panels for this round of missions, each of these candidate missions will be sent to targets in the inner solar system or the asteroid belt.  While outer solar system missions with short primary missions are possible with a combination of solar panels and batteries (as has been suggested for potential Enceladus sampling missions or Saturn atmospheric probes), none were selected for this round's New Frontiers mission.  Io was a possible target for this round, but the solar panel restriction made an orbiter or a flyby spacecraft unlikely, and I don't think any were seriously proposed this time around.  The next New Frontiers mission after this one is currently expected to allow the use of radio-isotope power sources.

Out of these three potential missions, I would really like to see the SAGE mission approved.  No spacecraft has landed on Venus since before I was born (I am excluding the VEGA balloons here since they were primarily atmospheric probes).  And the descent imaging could be some of the most dramatic images that we could expect for the next decade.

Check out Van Kane's post on this subject for more information.

Link: NASA Chooses Three Finalists for Future Space Science Mission to Venus, an Asteroid or the Moon []

EDIT: As Ted points out in the comments, the VEGA probes did land on the surface, but they didn't return images of the surface, so they still don't count.  I am still looking forward to the descent images from SAGE.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Paper: Geomorphologic Mapping of Hi'iaka and Shamshu Regions

On Friday, a new paper was published in press in the journal Icarus titled, "Geologic mapping of the Hi’iaka and Shamshu regions of Io".  In press articles are those that have been reviewed and approved for publication, but have not yet been published in the print journal.  This paper, by Melissa Bunte, David Williams, Ronald Greeley, and Windy Jaeger.  This paper discusses the results of a geologic mapping project based on the 25ISTERM__01 mosaic of the Hi'iaka region and the 27ISSHMSHU01 mosaic of Shamshu region [I've also uploaded labeled versions of these two mosaics, Hi'iaka and Shamshu, to help people with this discussion].  These two regions are dominated by a patera with a floor partially covered in dark lava flows surrounded by several large mountains.  This paper is part of a series of geomorphologic mapping projects using medium-resolution Galileo mosaics of Io for their basis.  We previously covered papers discussing maps of Prometheus and Zal.  Other regions mapped by the ASU group include: Chaac-Camaxtli, Culann-Tohil, Zamama-Thor, and Amirani-Skythia-Gish Bar.  In March, I covered this group's LPSC abstract covering the mapping of Hi'iaka and Shamshu, so bare with me if I repeat some things from that post..

For this paper, the authors created two geomorphologic maps of the regions surrounding Hi'iaka and Shamshu Paterae, two volcanoes near Io's equator on the leading hemisphere.  These maps were based primarily on two SSI mosaics from Galileo's I25 and I27 encounters with Io in November 1999 and February 2000, respectively.  Color information and low phase brightness information was taken from the global color mosaic produced by the USGS.  Geomorphologic maps are a type of geologic maps where different surface units are identified and mapped so that relationships between these different units can be identified.

In the case of the Hi'iaka and Shamshu regions, four basic units types were identified: plains material, mountain/plateau materials, patera floor materials, and lava flow materials.  These units were also identified in the mapping of other regions on Io, though diffuse material, recent surface coatings that are derived from volcanic or sapping processing and identified in other mapped regions, was not identified in the Hi'iaka and Shamshu regions.  It should be noted though that diffuse materials are often transient; red diffuse material was observed in a faint partial ring of material surrounding Hi'iaka during Galileo's first orbit of Jupiter, suggesting the presence of a plume at Hi'iaka shortly before June 1996.

These four basic units were further sub-divided into different sub-units based on their albedo, color, surface texture, or structural contacts.  For example, mountain units are divided into lineated (ridged/grooved material, generally found at higher altitudes, bounded with plains by scarps), mottled (hummocky, often with lobed margins), undivided (intermediate in texture and altitude between the mottled and lineated types), and plateau (flat-lying terrain with smooth or hummocky textures) types.  Based on the spatial relationships between these units, the authors theorize that these types represent different stages of degradation on Io's mountains.  Lineated mountain units tend to be higher standing and have sharper unit contacts with the surrounding plains, suggesting that terrains of this unit have undergone the least amount of degradation.  The ridges and grooves, such as those seen above at north Hi'iaka Montes, are the result of down slope slumping of a mobile surface layer atop the mountain (see Jeff Moore's 2001 paper on slope degradation on Io).  Remember that mountains are thought to be tilted crustal blocks, the ridged and grooved top surface of the mountain is the result of the upper few kilometers of the mountains, which is a mix of basalt and sulfurous materials that was once part of the upper few kilometers of Io's flat plains.  Once that upper layer sloughs off, the unit transitions to the undivided or mottled types (though the mottled types are likely a mix of old mountain and the mass wasted materials surrounding the mountain).

A similar age progression in sub-units was also noted in patera floor and lava flow materials based on color and albedo (for dark flow/patera floor materials, darker equals younger).  The paper only mentions briefly the debate whether some bright or yellowish lava flows are primary or secondary sulfur flows, or silicate flows with chemical altered surfaces.  The authors (and I agree) that these flows are likely old silicate flows.  This supported less in this region but at Thor, where an outburst eruption generated lava flows that overlapped those of an older, yellowish flow.  Exceptions to this could include a bright white flow to the south of Shamshu Patera and the orange floors of "Mekala Patera" and western Hi'iaka Patera, which could be due to mobilized sulfur dioxide and sulfur, respectively.

As I mentioned in my post from March on the researchers' LPSC abstract on this subject, the authors examined the hypothesis that the three mountains that surround Hi'iaka Patera had at one point been part of a single structure that had split apart as a result of strike-slip and extensional faulting.  This fault would have also resulted in the creation of pull-apart basins that would become Hi'iaka Patera and orange-color patera to the lower left of north Hi'iaka Montes (named Mekala Patera in the paper).  The authors note that the freshest lava flows on the floor of Hi'iaka appear to emanate from the eastern and southern margins of the patera, a pattern consistent with this break-up scenario.  This model of regional-scale plate tectonics was also applied to the mountains in the Shamshu region (with Shamshu Patera being presented as a pull-apart basin) with less convincing results, but it does suggest a new line of investigation to see just how prevalent this style of plate tectonics is on Io with mountains forming, breaking apart, and shifting around across Io's surface.  How many other close groupings of mountains were the result of a single mountain being broken apart by strike-slip and extensional faulting?  I should note that several Ionain mountains have been observed with canyons running down the centers as a result of extensional faulting, like Ionian Mons (upper left), Mongibello Mons, and Danube Planum.

This paper summarizes the results of geomorphologic mapping of the Hi'iaka and Shamshu regions on Io based on regional-scale imaging by Galileo, finding units consistent with those found in other regional mosaics of the satellite.  The geologic history of these regions based on their mapping supports earlier research into this area by authors like Turtle et al. 2001 and Jaeger et al. 2001 that Hi'iaka Patera formed as the result of Hi'iaka Montes breaking apart by strike-slip and extensional faulting.  Magma then ascending to the surface using these same faults that bounded the pull-apart basin.  At this point, the volcanic activity at both Hi'iaka and Shamshu appear to be dominated by compound lava flows, unlike the lava lakes seen at Pele and Loki.  The mountains were then further degraded by gravitational mass wasting, SO2 sapping from ice layers within the mountain, and thermal erosion from nearby volcanoes.  Thermal erosion by flowing lava is thought to be responsible for Tawhaki Vallis, a channel observed to the right side of the image at top, as proposed by Schenk and Williams 2004.  Each of mountains in the region exhibit signs of degradation, from the ridges and grooves atop north Hi'iaka Montes and north Shamshu Montes, indicative of a slumping mobile surface layer, to hummocky-textured and lobe-edged landslide deposits, indicative of gravitationally- or sapping-induced mass wasting.

I think that leaves one more region to map, Tvashtar.

Link: Geologic mapping of the Hi’iaka and Shamshu regions of Io []

Friday, December 11, 2009

A Few New Io/Jupiter System Papers

Sorry for the hiatus there is posts over the last couple of months.  I've just been a bit busy with Cassini plus I wanted to take a bit of a break after posting so much in September and October.  I wanted to post a quick note letting you all know about three new Io/Jupiter System related papers currently in press in the journal Icarus.

The first is titled, "Geologic mapping of the Hi'iaka and Shamshu regions of Io" by Melissa Bunte, David Williams, Ronald Greeley, and Windy Jaeger.  This paper is the latest in a series that covers the geologic histories of some of the regions observed at high- and medium-resolution by Galileo during its flybys in the late 1990s and early 2000s.  Back in March, I covered the authors' LPSC abstract on this research so you can read up on that while I slowly get through this paper and post a summary over the weekend (hopefully, there is a major Titan flyby today whose data comes back Sunday morning).

The other Io paper is titled, "Multi-wavelength simulations of atmospheric radiation from Io with a 3-D spherical-shell backward Monte Carlo radiative transfer model" by Sergey Gratiy et al.  Yeah, that's going to take me a bit longer to get through.  Hopefully I can post something next week.

The final paper that caught my eye in Icarus is titled, "Global geological mapping of Ganymede" by G. Wesley Patterson et al.  This paper discusses the completed Ganymede global geologic map and presents research on the observed geologic units on that satellite.  Again, I've only flipped through the article, and maybe later this month I can write up something about it.