- Mars will be bigger and more visible, especially in the northern hemisphere. Look at it!
- This is a good time for spacecraft to explore Mars -- Some are active and others are making the trip.
image from Nine Planets mars page
This flash animation shows why mars appears so much larger over the next couple of months -- it is a lot closer than usual.
Time To See Mars Up CloseOver the next couple of months Mars will become brighter and more visible in the northern hemisphere, reaching its closest approach to Earth in October. Mars is currently (August 2005) a morning star, rising about midnight and overhead at dawn. In early October it will be rising about 9 pm. Sky and Telescope has a good site for observers. Use their sky chart aplet to find where Mars will be tonight for your location (disable pop-up blockers to make it work).
Probes Visiting MarsIt takes a spacecraft a couple of years to get to Mars. The two most active probes today, Mars Express and the Spirit and Opportunity rovers, were launched in 2003. Spirit and Opportunity continue to do useful science and exploration on the surface. Mars Express is beginning to send back spectacular and interesting photographs and other data.
This Mars Express photo shows a frozen lake of water ice at the bottom of a crater near the Martian north pole. The lake is about 10 kilometers wide. It is believed this lake of ice is present year-round. More info on these photos here.
The sophisticated sounding radar aboard Mars Express has also begun collecting data. Developed by the Italian space agency ASI, with Università La Sapienza di Roma, JPL, and the University of Iowa, it is the first orbiting instrument able to probe beneath the surface. It can also probe the Martian ionosphere.
|Mission||Sponsor||Objective & Status|
|as of August 2005|
|Mars Global Surveyor||NASA/JPL||Launched 1996; imaging, communications relay, other survey instruments|
|2001 Mars Odyssey||NASA/JPL||Launched 2001; now in extended mission mapping geologic and surface features, communications relay|
|Mars Express||ESA||Launched 2003; photogeology, minerological mapping, climatology|
|Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity||NASA/JPL||Launched 2003; roving landers, surface geology|
|Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter||NASA/JPL||Launched August 2005; high-resolution photography, communications relay|
|Phoenix||NASA/ U. Arizona||Planned launch August 2007; geochemical laboratory lander to martian arctic|
The two NASA Mars Rovers (also here) continue to do interesting science on Mars, more than a year after their first explorations. For instance:
- Opportunity found an iron meteorite on the surface, a rock from somewhere else in the solar system.
- Spirit has taken "movies" of several dust devils swirling across its field of view.
Earlier posts in this blog:
Life on Mars?
Mars Astrobiology Magazine
Here is a nice page with lots of Mars info.
Some nice Mars graphics.
Science In Action