Mars Today widget now on WUWT

click for larger image

click for larger image

In the discussion thread about CO2 and Antarctic cold, some references to CO2 ice in the ice caps of Mars were part of that discussion.

WUWT reader Lou Mackenzie sends word that we can now watch Mars ice caps and many other things ongoing with the planet with a  new NASA widget. You’ll find it now at the lower right on the WUWT widget panel.

Here are the details:

Mars Today, created by Howard Houben of the Mars Global Circulation Model Group, is a poster produced daily by the Center for Mars Exploration at NASA’s Ames Research Center. The updated poster depicts current conditions on Mars and its relationship to Earth in six panels.

upper left panel The upper left panel diagrams the current positions of Mars and Earth in their orbits around the Sun. Note that Mars has a highly elliptical orbit compared to the Earth. For much of the time, Mars is too close to the Sun (as viewed from Earth) to be observed by Earth-based telescopes. For a QuickTime animation [1.1 MB] of the orbits of Earth and Mars and their relative positions through 2000 and 2001 click here. The panel also shows the interplanetary trajectory of Mars Global Surveyor. That spacecraft entered Mars orbit in 1997. Much information on the Martian surface and atmosphere was being gathered by the Global Surveyor which began the mapping phase of its mission in spring 1999.

upper middle panel The upper middle panel shows two views of the positions of Mars and Earth from vantage points near the ecliptic (the plane of the Earth’s orbit). This allows visualization of the tilts of the rotation axes of the planets that are responsible for the seasons. Two views are necessary because Mars and Earth are tilted in nearly orthogonal directions. At this time, late spring in the Earth’s northern hemisphere, the north pole is pointed towards the sun. It is also late spring in the northern hemisphere of Mars and that planet’s north pole is pointed towards the sun at a similar angle. The changes in seasons on the Earth and Mars can be visualized in a 1.2 MB QuickTime animation of this panel through 2000 and 2001.

upper right panel The panel on the upper right compares the apparent size of the Martian disc as viewed from Earth with the size of Earth’s disc as viewed from Mars. (Since the diameter of Mars is about half that of the Earth, Mars appears to be about half the size of the Earth when viewed from the same distance.) Both of these discs are compared to a circle 25 seconds of arc in diameter. This circle represents the largest possible apparent size of Mars as viewed from Earth (which is achieved only on those very rare occasions when the planets are both favorably positioned at the nearest points in their orbits). Even at these times, Mars — a very difficult telescopic object to observe in detail — is only about half the apparent size of the much more distant, but much larger planet Jupiter. For a QuickTime animation [1.5 MB] of this view of Mars through the years 2000 and 2001 click here.

lower left panel The lower left hand panel displays a simulated image of Mars as it would appear at the present time to a very high resolution Earth-based telescope. At this time, (late northern spring), an extensive carbon dioxide frost cap is growing in the southern hemisphere. Sharp brightness contrasts have allowed telescopic observers to follow Martian surface features for many years. Unlike the Earth, the Martian atmosphere is usually free of obscuring clouds. One exception is the cold region surrounding the winter pole that may be covered by a polar hood of water or even carbon dioxide clouds. Another exception occurs during periods of widespread dust storm activity, usually in southern spring and summer.

lower middle panel The lower middle panel shows a model prediction of the meteorology at the present time (from the Ames Mars Climate Model). Daily average temperatures in the lower atmosphere are color coded, while predicted wind speeds and directions are indicated by the arrows. In the equatorial regions near the surface, the atmospheric flow is dominated by the Hadley circulation that transports air from the cold winter hemisphere southwards across the equator. Because the equator rotates at a faster speed than other parts of the planet, this leads to a tradewind-like pattern of easterlies in the winter hemisphere and westerlies in the summer hemisphere. Strong westerlies are also apparent in the region of the polar night while light easterlies are prevalent in the vicinity of the summer pole. For a QuickTime animation [2.6 MB] of the predicted Mars meteorology over a one-year period click here.

lower right panel The lower right panel shows model predictions of the atmospheric water vapor column on Mars. At the present season — late northern spring — there is a nearly uniform distribution of water vapor over the low latitude regions of Mars best observed from Earth. The atmospheric inventory of water should continue to increase for several months as water sublimes off the permanent northern polar ice cap. For more information on Martian water, see the Mars water page. For a 2.5 MB QuickTime animation of the Martian water column predictions for 2000 and 2001 click here.

The statistics printed below the image indicate the apparent diameter of Mars (in seconds of arc); the angle between the Sun and the Earth as viewed from Mars (in degrees); an angular measure of the season in the Martian northern hemisphere (Ls= 0 at the vernal equinox, 90 at the summer solstice, 180 at the autumnal equinox, and 270 at the winter solstice); the sub-solar latitude in degrees (another indicator of the season); the longitude of the sub-Earth point in the image; and the latitude of the sub-Earth point.

Click here to display the full GIF or JPEG image. Both images are about 170 kB in size.

You can also display the classical 4-panel Mars Today poster (about 120 kB).

thumbnail of 4-panel MarsToday links to gif image

Watch a movie showing the widget in action for 2000 to 2001:

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43 thoughts on “Mars Today widget now on WUWT

  1. Martian weather reports! I love it!

    Anthony will go to the ends of the earth, and beyond, to assure that the thermometers are working!

  2. Anthony, you have keen insight and sly humor. These traits serve you well. Just when I thought it could not possibly get more interesting. My 5 year old likes to find Mars when it is visible in the night sky. Thank you for this Mr. Watts. What was it that Percival Lowell saw as far as the canals are concerned? A weather phenomenon? Strange that.

  3. Yay! Thanks Anthony. Taking an interest in extraterrestrial weather is a great step forward in contextualizing the climate debate.

  4. Apologies for being OT, but Bishop Hill has reported that there is a blog at the BBC that is “not fully supportive of the catastrophic global warming thesis.”

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/climatechange/2009/06/the_unpredictable_weather.html

    Read it before, in the words of one contributor, “Hi Bish – yes its a worry that Richard Cable (Bloom Blog) has wandered off the reservation and will be re-educated or exiled any day now.”

    Enjoy.

    Unpredictable weather: why the climate is not a model citizen

    Post categories: Nature, Science

    Richard Cable | 15:13 PM, Tuesday, 9 June 2009

    One of the awkward things about global warming is that there are no absolutes. No one can say definitively what the climate will do next. Anyone who thinks they can will probably end up looking like one of those TV scientists from the 1950s who said we’d all be holidaying in space and flying around in hover cars by now.

    But why is it so very difficult to state anything with complete confidence about the behaviour of our climate? Even the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which periodically publishes ‘the largest and most detailed summary of the climate change situation ever undertaken’ is only prepared to say that human beings are ‘very likely’ to be the source of the problem. They are hedging for a reason.

    Admittedly, it’s a little firmer about the temperature itself, stating: ‘Warming of the climate system is unequivocal.’ But then that’s a bit like saying that, today, it is hot. It doesn’t tell you very much about tomorrow.

    The weather is chaotic. Chaotic systems are infinitely complex and inherently unpredictable, (although not, as some suppose, random). The climate is simply ‘big, long weather’ – the atmospheric conditions of a region charted over a period of time – and is therefore also infinitely complex and inherently unpredictable.

    The IPCC attempts to predict this unpredictability by using climate models – fiendishly complex computer simulations of the Earth’s climate that explore ‘emissions scenarios’. Each of these scenarios looks at different levels of emissions, and from them the IPCC draws conclusions about where we might be heading.

    The models are not without their critics. In order to accurately model a chaotic system, you arguably have to be able to describe the starting conditions of the system and understand pretty perfectly how each of the elements in that system will act upon every other element in that system.

    But we don’t yet fully understand key issues, such as to what degree carbon dioxide warms the atmosphere or how clouds form and disperse, and can’t yet accurately predict even complex human systems that themselves act on climate, like population growth and economic development.

    With this in mind it’s hard to see how a computer model with so much potential error in its starting conditions can accurately extrapolate what the climate will be doing in 100 years. That’s not to say they never will, although anyone who has ever relied on a British weather forecast for the next 24 hours will instinctively take any predictions with a pinch of salt.
    —————————————————————

  5. Excellent post – Mars is definitely one of the most interesting alien planets we know about, and I think this growing body of knowledge will become very useful when the first colonists start to arrive there and inhabit the surface.

    BTW, in the Mars Today poster, isn’t that some sort of greenish flare coming from the southern pole? Just for a moment, I thought… Well, maybe not.

  6. A comment posted on Real Climate:
    “Bob Berger, the Surface Station project is a joke. First, the Surface stations’ main purpose is measuring weather, not climate, and the purpose of the guidelines was to improve Weather data. Of course, it would be easier to use data from well sited stations, but ease of use is less important for climate purposes than the length of the record, location of the station in relation to others, etc.
    Second, there are about 4 times as many stations as would be needed for a reliable temperature estimate. This opens up a lot of possibilities for filtering the data, censoring incorect readings, correcting for biases, diagnosing changes/problems and so on. As someone who deals with sparse data in my day job, having 4 times more data than I need is something I dream about.
    Third and most important, Watt’s little science project was conducted with zero understanding of the processing algorithms used for the data. He has no way of knowing whether any of the issues he has documented have any effect on the record. Indeed, any ANALYSIS of the data omitting the “bad” stations gives the same answer. Adding the “bad” stations gives additional information, and with a proper processing algorithm can’t hurt, as a single garbage reading will likely be censored and an erroneous trend corrected.

    This was covered at the time on RC. Watt’s project wouldn’t even merit a passing grade in a third grade science fair.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 10 June 2009 @ 7:51 PM”

    Response:

    “Ray Ladbury
    @ 246 – I think that your harsh and flawed criticism of the surface stations project deserves a slap from Gavin himself.
    It is disingenuous to dismiss the work of someone just because you don’t like what he stands for.
    There is no doubt that there are issues with ground station sites and this does introduce a problem. Over the years as paved areas, automobiles and more recently air conditioning, airports and increasing urban sprawl have swallowed what were once rural areas and introduced bias in monitoring stations errors have crept in.
    These stations are used in the records and there is no special selection and algorithms to correct this data as you suggest except for a modest adjustment for those stations that are deemed to be urban. Ease of use is all very well and the rough trend will still be evident but the degree of change is put in doubt. How can we compare the records of 50 or 100 years ago with todays in this situation? We can’t.
    The average temperature and weather over a period of time is climate, so you lost me on that one. What then is used to measure climate may I ask?
    What analysis are you referring to? There has until now been no survey to investigate “badly sited” stations however I believe that just such an analysis is now being conducted. The result should be interesting.”

  7. Debell,
    Astonishing – from the Beeb no less!
    This quote sums it up:
    “…hard to see how a computer model with so much potential error in its starting conditions can accurately extrapolate what the climate will be doing in 100 years.”

  8. Mars’ atmosphere has about 25 times more concentration of CO2 than Earth’s, so we are seeing a runaway greenhouse in action.

    On the science fiction side, maybe we could nudge an icy comet into a decaying orbit around Mars, using atmospheric friction to boil it into vapor, and then see how much of a real greenhouse we got.

  9. alexjc38 (02:16:06) :
    BTW, in the Mars Today poster, isn’t that some sort of greenish flare coming from the southern pole? Just for a moment, I thought… Well, maybe not.

    As Mars approached opposition, Lavelle of Java set the wires of the astronomical exchange palpitating with the amazing intelligence of a huge outbreak of incandescent gas upon the planet.

    H. G. Wells, 1898

  10. press (03:22:39) : A comment posted on Real Climate:
    “Bob Berger, the Surface Station project is a joke.”

    “Second, there are about 4 times as many stations as would be needed for a reliable temperature estimate. This opens up a lot of possibilities for filtering the data, censoring incorect readings, correcting for biases, diagnosing changes/problems and so on. As someone who deals with sparse data in my day job, having 4 times more data than I need is something I dream about.
    Third and most important, Watt’s little science project was conducted with zero understanding of the processing algorithms used for the data. He has no way of knowing whether any of the issues he has documented have any effect on the record. Indeed, any ANALYSIS of the data omitting the “bad” stations gives the same answer. Adding the “bad” stations gives additional information, and with a proper processing algorithm can’t hurt, as a single garbage reading will likely be censored and an erroneous trend corrected.”

    Sorry for OT but I had to respond. I recall a post on Climate Audit by Steve McIntyre back on March 1st, 2008 titled “Positive and Negative Urban Adjustments”

    http://www.climateaudit.org/?p=2815

    In the referenced post, Steve McIntyre did an audit of the 7364
    stations in the GISS network.  In this audit of the actual data Steve
    classified each station by the type of adjustment applied.

    1848 stations (45%) had Negative adjustments.
    2236 (30%) had Positive adjustments
    659 (9%) had “Bi-polar” adjustments; a foot in both camps.  These are
    subtracted out.
    1848 + 2236 – 659 = 3425 (47%) of all U.S. stations are adjusted.
    2573 (35%) had no adjustments
    1366 (19%) were not used

    “Bipolar [] is an adjustment which is negative in one part and
    positive in another. These arise from the operation of the two-legged
    adjustment, but the interpretation of such cases is not discussed in
    Hansen et al 1999, 2001.”
    http://pubs.giss.nasa.gov/docs/2001/2001_Hansen_etal.pdf

    The NASA negative adjustments *increase* the urbanization effects.
    That is the adjustment increases the temperature. What possible
    justification can there be for this?

    Oh I think that Anthony has plenty of understanding of the algorithms used by GISS.

    –Mike Ramsey

  11. @Press

    Amazing exchange you quoted there. “Weather isn’t climate” is only true in a dictionary. If climate is the forest, weather is just a bunch of trees.

  12. From the RealClimate comment reported by press above:

    Third and most important, Watt’s little science project was conducted with no understanding of the processing algorithms used for the data. He has no way of knowing whether any of the issues he has documented have any effect on the record. Indeed, any ANALYSIS of the data omitting the “bad” stations gives the same answer. Adding the “bad” stations gives additional information, and with a proper processing algorithm can’t hurt, as a single garbage reading will likely be censored and an erroneous trend corrected. This was covered at the time on RC. Watt’s project wouldn’t even merit a passing grade in a third grade science fair.

    That, folks, is a tantrum. Could that comment be any more insufferable? RC provides zero analysis of their own, and they give no explanation of what a ‘proper processing algorithm’ is [but the words are impressively sciency sounding]; and they’re claiming that any ‘erroneous trend’ due to GIGO can be easily corrected. [If I'm not mistaken, the exact methodology used to adjust for the UHI effect remains a state secret.]

    The writer claims that ‘there is no special selection and algorithms to correct this data except for a modest adjustment for those stations that are deemed to be urban.’ This shows ignorance of the fact that the noaa itself rates CRN 4 & 5 stations as being ≥2° out of tolerance. CRN 4 and 5 stations comprise 69% of all surface stations. With a ≥2° error, how can anyone rely on the assumption that the planet has warmed by 0.6° C?

    By denigrating the enormous time and effort expended by Anthony, these drive-by critics — who have done no work of their own — shows why RC did so poorly in the “Best Science” category.

    Prof. Freeman Dyson provides some pointed words for these arm chair critics:

    It is much easier for a scientist to sit in an air-conditioned building and run computer models, than to put on winter clothes and measure what is really happening outside in the swamps and the clouds. That is why the climate model experts end up believing their own models.

    As time goes by and more information about the unreliable U.S. Surface Station network is compiled, the shaky foundation of AGW will become more apparent.

    RealClimate is being marginalized. Their increasingly high pitched bluster shows that they know it, too.

  13. Anthony, that inane RC comment deserves a whole new post of its own, rather than sully this fun Mars thread.

  14. This reminds me of the “My Father can beat up your father” comment often heard in primary grade school yards. We would do well to go on about our business. IMHO.

  15. Back to the topic, does anyone know if Mars has a wobble in its orbit? We have one. A long one, on top of our shorter seasonal tilt. If we have one, I wonder if the other planets have their little dance and on what time scale? A wobble can cause polar caps to grow and shrink in addition to seasonal changes.

  16. Smokey (05:28:41) :
    . . . [If I'm not mistaken, the exact methodology used to adjust for the UHI effect remains a state secret.]

    If this is true, it is really intolerable, i.e. should not be tolerated.

    Has anyone filed a Freedom of Information Act request for this information?

    If not, why not?

    /Mr Lynn

  17. Back on topic: Is this a widget that can be downloaded and displayed on the Dashboard of Mac OS X?

    /Mr Lynn

  18. >> Pamela Gray (06:44:16):

    Back to the topic, does anyone know if Mars has a wobble in its orbit? <<

    I not sure what you mean by “wobble.” If you mean precession, then the Earth goes through one complete precession cycle in approximately 25,800 years. The Martian precession cycle is about 93,000 Martian years (175,000 Earth years).

    Jim

  19. My God, there he is–H.G. Wells!

    And look! Ray Bradbury, too!

    I am increasingly convinced, by the way, that Ray Bradbury is a major American writer of the twentieth century, and not ‘just’ a sky-fi writer.

    Let me geeze up an ancient school memory here. On a class trip (ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall…) to the Museum of Natural History and the Hayden Planetarium; standing in the great hall where there is hung as a great mobile a moving model, more or less to scale, of the solar system; watching Mercury whiz around the sun like like a chihuahua chasing its tail; staring long and intensely at poor, paralytic Pluto, which seemed to hang motionless way off in a corner, trying to discern some glimmer of the motion I knew had to be there. It was as bad as staring at the minutes hand of the classroom clock for the last fifteen minutes before lunch

    Poor Pluto, planet no more!

    I have to listen to Holst, now!

  20. David Ball:
    “What was it that Percival Lowell saw as far as the canals are concerned? A weather phenomenonid ”

    One theory is that Professor Lowell was actually mapping the veins of his eyeballs.

  21. Thanks, Anthony. Just a couple of quick things that jumped out at me:

    “Note that Mars has a highly elliptical orbit compared to the Earth.”

    OK, I guess. “Highly” is a pretty subjective term. Certainly more elliptical than Earth’s and most of the other planets, but less elliptical, for example, than Mercury, many of the asteroids, Pluto (that former planet), etc.

    “For much of the time, Mars is too close to the Sun (as viewed from Earth) to be observed by Earth-based telescopes.”

    I’m not sure this statement makes sense. I guess if they are talking about trying to do daily observations, then it is true that there are large periods when Mars is not observable by Earth-based telescopes. However, this is also true of the outer planets and has to do with the fact that they are too faint to be observed during daylight hours (unlike, for example, Venus), so it is strange to say it is because “Mars is too close to the Sun.” Second, Hubble has an advantage in avoiding scattered light and being able to shield observations from the Sun, but must also be careful about looking too closely toward the Sun (i.e., observations have to be within Hubble’s “safety zone” at a certain distance from the Sun). Certainly Hubble can significantly extend the viewing period, but Hubble also needs to have Mars far enough away that Hubble can resolve it, and there are blockout positions for Hubble, as well as any other Earth-orbiting observatory.

  22. “It is also late spring in the northern hemisphere of Mars and that planet’s north pole is pointed towards the sun at a similar angle.”

    I think it actually is early winter in Mars’ northern hemisphere.
    1. Look at Mars’ tilt in the top middle panel (bottom), which shows the north pole being away from the sun.
    2. Look at Mars’ tilt in the bottom middle panel, which shows the same thing.
    3. Look at the “Statistics” area, which shows LS = 283.18 – just past the winter solstice of 270.

  23. OT: Just had to laugh and post this. This from RC’s latest post from Gavin Schmidt:

    Alert readers will have noticed the fewer-than-normal postings over the last couple of weeks. This is related mostly to pressures associated with real work (remember that we do have day jobs). In my case, it is because of the preparations for the next IPCC assessment and the need for our group to have a functioning and reasonably realistic climate model with which to start the new round of simulations. These all need to be up and running very quickly if we are going to make the early 2010 deadlines.

    The emboldened portion just kills me, and I think it speaks volumes!

  24. OT, but interesting post on UHI at Jennifer Marohasy…

    Hot City or Global Warming?

    http://jennifermarohasy.com/blog/2009/06/hot-city-or-global-warming/

    Overall one would have to say the Bureau data suggests no significant warming over the last century and in particular the last 3 decades in Victoria. On the other hand it does show significant UHI. Consider that an increase of 1.5C in the minimums for Melbourne over the last 3 decades corresponds to 5C per century. Averaging the minimum and maximum readings yields a rise from 14.7C to 15.7C over 30 years equating to 3.3C per century and Melbourne is far from the worst city in the world for UHI. Look also at how non linear the UHI rise really is. Compare that with a linear allowance of 0.06C per century. For that to be appropriate it would mean that only 1 in 50 sites is showing the same degree of UHI as does Melbourne and the other 49 show no UHI at all, even then the linear allowance is not correct.

  25. As for the canals apparition that Percival Lowell claimes to have observed on Mars with the aid of an 18″ refractor and a 24″ Alvan Clark refractor, I don’t know of anyone else who was using such a large and exceptional instrument at the time in an area of good seeing. He even had the 24″ temporariy located in a site in Mexico with better seeing for the Dec 1896 opposition.
    Who looked with Lowell at the time?

  26. Well, have to say that I give credit to Real Climate for posting my response. I agree the commenters on that site and sometimes this one do not respond to or rebut claims responsibly. If you want to debate science then do it and give valid reasons for doing so. Insults and rants are not valid arguments. In my opinion the main object is to try and establish ” for the sake of all of us ” what is going on. It does not help when work like this and valid science is discredited “out of hand ” because it does not fit a particular agenda or belief.

    Lets do this responsibly and look at both sides of the debate without being arseholes and admit ” painfull as it may be” when you are wrong. There is no shame in being honest.

  27. Since the trend is OT: Can anyone explain the upward bump in the sea ice extent that seems to occur each June? Apologies if previously covered.

    REPLY: Covered a half dozen times at least- seasonal adjustment to compensate for meltwater on top of the ice, which would ordinarily be viewed as “open water”. – Anthony

  28. Hey steve as your article explains it could have been 600 light years ago already. Not something that we have to give a — about really.

  29. http://www.spacetoday.org/SolSys/Mars/MarsThePlanet/MarsCanals.html

    “An example of confusion about Mars is found in the famous canals on Mars, They reportedly were first observed by Italian priest Pietro Secchi in 1876. Then Giovanni Schiaparelli published a map of Mars in 1877. He assigned names to bright and dark features which included a large number of straight-line features that Schiaparelli and Secchi called “canali.” The mistranslation in English-speaking countries of “canali” into “canal,” instead of the correct “channel,” brought a misleading connotation of artificial construction by Martians that had not been intended by Schiaparelli and Secchi.”

  30. It is not easy keeping verb tenses straight when there is no universal time frame for cosmic events:

    “It’s possible we’re observing the beginning of Betelgeuse’s final collapse now.

    If so, the star, which is 600 light-years away, will already have exploded — and we’ll soon be in for a spectacular, and perfectly safe, interstellar fireworks show.”

    That future perfect tense illustrates the problem, An event that is present or even future from the frame of reference of the earth, is past from the frame of reference within which the event occurred.

    This seems to be a good site

    http://www.astro.illinois.edu/~jkaler/sow/betelgeuse.html

  31. press (09:58:34) :

    Not exactly…. If (big IF) Betelgeuse went nova 600 years ago, then the GCRs will be arriving about the same time we see the nova… and it’s this year, during a deep solar minimum, it could have a major effect on cloud formation which would have a major effect on climate. Cold is a worse killer than heat.

  32. If Betelgeuse were to supernova I have my doubts we’ll be ‘perfectly safe.’ The neutrino flux alone should be high enough to cause noticible effect on Earth.

  33. Thanks, Anthony, for the new widget. It takes me back to when I was a kid first learning about the solar system.

    The bit about Mars being in late northern spring looks like an error on the “Mars Today” web site. According to this site

    http://www.dustymars.net/2010_MARS.htm

    the southern summer solstice was May 22, 2009 (scroll down to “Calendar of Events”).

    Now if can only persuade my wife to get me a telescope for her birthday… :-)

  34. Smokey (05:28:41) :
    From the RealClimate comment reported by press above:
    Third and most important, Watt’s little science project was conducted with no understanding of the processing algorithms used for the data. He has no way of knowing whether any of the issues he has documented have any effect on the record. [...]

    That, folks, is a tantrum.

    Yup. And given that I’ve published the relevant bits of the code along with the effects of that code on the product in postings here on WUWT which have been moderated and /or read, in many cases by our host, I think it is demonstrably false to say “no understanding of the processing algorithms”.

    While I’d felt a bit like I was pushing the envelope into a “too tech” computer geek flavor … I’m now happy I did so; since is serves as an existence proof that the “processing algorithms” have been discussed here.

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