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For Future Astronauts, It's A Good Thing Mars Gets This Close

31 July 2018

What is the best way to see Mars?

Mars is the closest its been to Earth in 15 years, offering the Hubble Space Telescope especially clear views of the Red Planet.

According to the definition, when a planet is in opposition to the Earth, that means that our planet, that particular planet, and the Sun are aligned. "So when the sun goes down, the planet comes up, and it's available to see all night long".

Researchers finally realized that the dust on Mars was coming from this formation after identifying the chemical composition of dust on the planet and then comparing it with readings they had obtained from the Medusae Fossae.

The discovery was made using a radar instrument on board the European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter, which launched in 2003. "Not quite as bright as Venus, but still because of the reddish, orange-ish-red color, you really can't miss it in the sky". About an hour after sunset, Mars will have risen high enough to see above the trees. This is partially why Mars is appearing brighter in our sky these days.

That's because most of this radiation comes from cosmic rays, and scientists still haven't come up with a reliable way to shield astronauts from their effects when they leave Earth's atmosphere.

"It's not great weather at the moment for observing because Tampa at this time of the year has so much moisture in the air", said Mackay. This was the closest the two planets had come to each other in nearly 60,000 years, and this record will not be broken until August 28, 2287.

But this opposition is special because of where Mars is in its orbit around the sun.

When Earth, Mars and Saturn are in alignment, they're said to be in opposition.

On Earth, microorganisms have been found in the subglacial lakes of Antarctica that have existed in isolation from the external Antarctic environment for 35 million years or more and, since numerous 400 subglacial lakes that have been identified so far appear to be hydraulically connected, it is reasonable to conclude that microbial life may exist almost everywhere beneath the Antarctic ice, Clifford said. On average, the distance between Mars and Earth is about 140 million miles.

"There's nothing special about this location other than the MARSIS radar on the Mars Express spacecraft is most sensitive to that region", said Duffy. Being so close gives Mars a larger than typical angular size, so it looks bigger in a telescope and appears brighter in the sky. Due to this finding, there is a clue that life might also be there.

There is another celebrated celestial event later this summer. This happens about every 26 months.

For Future Astronauts, It's A Good Thing Mars Gets This Close