“my battery is low and it’s getting dark” is so hauntingly human, so crushingly lonely. I can’t articulate the deep, profound ache that sentence evokes. It’s acceptance and defeat and terror and sadness all at once, all from one tiny machine we asked to explore the stars for us.
Here’s How To See Uranus And Mars Meet In The Sky This Week
“Although there are eight major planets in the Solar System, most of us never see Uranus or Neptune. Undiscovered until well after the invention of the telescope, both worlds cannot be reliably spotted with the naked eye. On rare occasion, however, one of those worlds will pass close to an easily-visible astronomical landmark, providing a perfect viewing opportunity. This Tuesday night, Uranus will pass within just 1° of Mars, enabling clear views with technology no more complex than binoculars.”
Although we know of the existence of many astronomical objects in our Solar System, most of us have never seen any planets other than the ones visible to our naked eye for ourselves. The easiest way to change that is to take advantage of astronomical conjunctions when they occur. When two planets pass close by one another in the sky, they can both clearly be seen at the same time through the right astronomical tool, like a pair of binoculars. This February 12/13, Mars and Uranus will meet in the night sky, passing within 1 degree of each other.
“All three of these types are notably different from all the other meteorites found on Earth, but have elemental and isotopic commonalities with one another. The ratio of their oxygen isotopes, in particular, were different from that of other meteorites, as well as having younger formation ages. For a long time, scientists suspected they might have a common origin to one another, distinct from the more typical meteorites.
In 1976, the Viking landers returned direct information about the Martian surface, including the Martian atmosphere and the rocks found on the ground. The similarities were striking, leading many to hypothesize that all three types originated from Mars. But the true “smoking gun” came in 1983, when a variety of trapped gases were found in glass formed by the impact of one such shergottite, and it matched the gases found by Viking on Mars.”
Many of us have witnessed meteor showers, bolides, or even randomly large bodies strike the atmosphere of Earth and leave a brilliant streak across the sky. Every once in a while, such a strike will result in an impact on Earth’s surface, leaving a meteorite behind. As of today, over 61,000 meteorites have been discovered, with most of them having huge commonalities of their physical and chemical properties. A few of them, however, are weirdos. They’re younger, they haven’t been in space for very long, and they’re made out of a different mix of materials from the others. For years, it was speculated that they came from Mars, and with the advent of robotic exploration of the surface, we’ve finally found the smoking gun evidence.
Mars Opportunity And Spirit Rovers Could Have Lived Practically Forever With One Tiny Change
“If one extra piece of equipment, such as a compressed air blower aboard a robotic arm, were installed, dusty solar panels could be cleaned at will. Hunkering down to survive a dust storm, even one that blocked 100% of the light, wouldn’t be catastrophic so long as the rovers had enough power stored in their batteries to control and operate the blower mechanism. Had that been in place, Spirit could have saved itself from its 2010 fate, and Opportunity wouldn’t be in the danger it’s in now, in the midst of the enormous dust storm it’s experiencing. Still, even though hindsight is 20/20, it’s pretty hard to be sad about two missions that overachieved beyond anyone’s expectations. But for next time, it’s an invaluable lesson: if you can protect yourself from Martian dust accumulation, you could potentially live forever. At least, if you’re a rover on Mars.”
If a dust storm blots out the Sun, then we shall rove in the shade, says the brave Mars rover. But for a rover like Opportunity, which relies on solar panels, this is a lousy, battery-draining strategy that would be its death knell. Despite the fact that it’s lasted for over 5,000 Martian days and roved for over 45 kilometers, this single large dust storm that it’s caught it could be its absolute end. Unless a natural cleaning event occurs, its panels may be so dust-covered as to be useless, which is how Spirit, its twin, met its demise in 2010. Although the rover has far exceeded its expectations, if it were built with the capability of actively addressing the dust accumulation problem, both Spirit and Opportunity could have lived, practically, forever.
Sorry, Methane And ‘Organics’ On Mars Are Not Evidence For Life
“In 2020, two next-generation rovers will launch: ESA’s ExoMars and NASA’s Mars 2020. Instead of indirect inferences and possibilities, we’ll actually be able to understand whether the origin of these molecules is geological or biological in nature. It’s important to keep an open mind and let science, rather than our hopes or fears, decide the answer. The evidence is building, and we’re finally gaining a more robust picture of how, exactly, Mars works.
It’s producing methane seasonally, contains loads of carbon-based compounds, and had a very watery past. But does that all add up to life, past or present? In 2018, the evidence doesn’t say “yes” just yet. But in just a few years, we just might have the answer. In a few years, for the first time, we might finally know if there’s life beyond Earth.”
We use the word “organics” a lot when we talk about life (and molecules) beyond Earth. But while that word may conjure up images of reproducing molecules, new cells, and life, the scientific definition is far more mundane: a molecule containing carbon. That means carbon monoxide and cyanide are organic, even though they may be toxic to life itself. The discovery of seasonally-varying methane on Mars is interesting, but it may be better evidence for something geologically compelling than it is for anything biological. Regardless of how you interpret it, one thing is for certain: everything we’ve found on Mars so far is not yet enough to claim evidence for life.
“We, the physicists, know, that the brightness of the sky is caused by the light of the Sun, which is scattered on the matter of the atmosphere. The brightness of the sky directly corresponds to the mass of matter in the atmosphere. […] But what can we see on the pictures from the Curiosity, Spirit & Opportunity rovers? The incredibly bright sky and incredibly blurred mountains! How can you explain it?”
Before we ever sent a spacecraft to Mars, we knew that its atmosphere was thin and sparse, and that it was made mostly of carbon dioxide gas. We anticipated that the sky, therefore, would appear like a much fainter, thinner, sparser version of our own, mostly transparent atmosphere. But that isn’t how things worked out at all! Instead, the atmosphere on Mars appears bright, reddish, and (depending on conditions) somewhat varied in color. This isn’t due to false coloration issues, as some might think, but rather to the fact that the Martian atmosphere is rife with the same thick, desert-like dust that covers the surface of the planet! In addition, the mountains and geologic features in the distant backgrounds of images from Mars’ surface appear obscured, as though they’re in some kind of fog, and sunsets appear a bizarre blue. Why does this happen?
SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy Launch Brings Humanity One Giant Leap Closer To Mars
“There are still a slew of obstacles to overcome when it comes to taking on the challenge of Mars. But the journey to another planet was always set to begin with a single launch. There were many naysayers out there to a commercial hand in the spaceflight industry, but NASA staked their hopes of future long-distance space missions on the idea of public-private partnerships. The successful launch, deployment, and recovery of the Falcon Heavy is the proof-of-concept that settles the issue. For a cost that looks to be lower than it’s ever been, Mars is within reach.”
Have you ever dreamed of sending humans to Mars? The biggest objection has always been that the cost is prohibitive, that the development and launch of a heavy launch vehicle, as well as the cost-per-launch, would simply make this a no-go. The Saturn V’s cost of over a billion dollars (in today’s dollars) per launch is often cited as the best evidence against Mars, and NASA’s SLS isn’t much better. But the hope was always that public/private partnerships would dramatically change the story. That hope is now a reality, as the success of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy means that enormous payloads can be sent to low-Earth orbit, geosynchronous orbit, or even beyond the gravitational pull of Earth entirely for only a tiny fraction of that price: $90 million per launch. Best of all, the boosters are recoverable, with a successful recovery happening on the very first attempt!