Mars

Posted by Ellen

As peeps season approaches its annual crescendo, the Washington Post solicits entries for its Peeps Diorama competition. The winning diorama, not pictured here, was one of the numerous efforts portraying the OccuPeep movement. Other themes drawing multiple entries: Newt Gingrich's plan for a moon colony, Downton Abbey on TV, the raid on Osama Bin Laden, Madonna at the Super Bowl, and an old standby: peep holes.

Among my favorites: "Chicks are Peep-le too" (a reenactment of a 1917 suffragist demonstration in front of the White House);  and a send-up of Steven Colbert's Super PAC and Mitt Romney's most memorable contribution to the political lexicon: "Corporations are peep-le, too."

Above is an example of another frequent meme: Steve Jobs in the afterlife. This one is titled "iHeaven: The New Project."

Only a couple of entries tackled difficult scientific issues, such as the neutrino controversy, "Faster than the Peep of Light," and Father Time's struggle to assemble February 29, 2012 from leftover quarter-peeps.

Below is one of the largest and most spectacular of the dioramas, "Peep-ius Maximus":

 

Posted by Ellen

On Mars, the sun just isn't that big a deal. NASA's Mars rover Opportunity schedules regular photoshoots of the sunset, however, to calibrate the level and distribution of atmospheric dust. The series of sunset pictures taken in November has been gussied up and turned into a video, complete with a soundtrack of Christmas music: "I'm dreaming of a blue sunset."

Posted by Ellen

 

In an impact crater inside a volcanic crater high on a Martian mountaintop, ancient bedrock is exposed. The high elevation and crater ramparts keep out the red dust that swirls over most of the planet. This picture of the rocks there was captured by infrared sensors in an orbiting telescope, part of a NASA probe known as HiRISE.

The rocks are more than 3 billion years old, among the oldest known on the planet. The infrared sensors detected a variety of hydrated minerals, evidence that this place was once under water, for a long time. Some of the minerals detected contain chloride, as in table salt.

There is still H2O on Mars--pictures taken early in the morning often show frost--but the Martian atmosphere is so thin nowadays that water is unstable in its liquid form.