Tag Archives: Mars

NASA Space Place – A Close-Up View Of Mars

Poster’s Note: One of the many under-appreciated aspects of NASA is the extent to which it publishes quality science content for children and Ph.D.’s alike. NASA Space Place has been providing general audience articles for quite some time that are freely available for download and republishing. Your tax dollars help promote science! The following article was provided for reprinting in July, 2018.

By Jane Houston Jones and Jessica Stoller-Conrad

2013february2_spaceplaceIn July 2018, skywatchers can get an up close view of Mars—even without a telescope! In fact, on July 31, Mars will be closer to Earth than it has been in 15 years.

Why is that?

Like all the planets in our solar system, Earth and Mars orbit the Sun. Earth is closer to the Sun, and therefore it races along its orbit more quickly. Earth makes two trips around the Sun in about the same amount of time that Mars takes to make one trip.

Sometimes the two planets are on opposite sides of the Sun and are very far apart. Other times, Earth catches up with its neighbor and passes relatively close to it. This is called Mars’s closest approach to Earth, and it’s happening this year on July 31. The Moon will be near Mars on that night, too!

Keep in mind that even during its closest approach, Mars is still more than 35 million miles away from Earth. That’s really far. So, Mars won’t appear as big as the Moon in the sky, but it will appear bigger than it usually does.

July and August will be a great time to check out Mars. Through a telescope, you should normally be able to make out some of the light and dark features of the Red Planet—and sometimes even polar ice. However, a huge Martian dust storm is obscuring these features right now, so less planetary detail is visible.

There is another important Mars date in July: Mars opposition. Mars opposition is when Mars, Earth and the Sun all line up, with Earth directly in the middle. This event is happening on July 27 this year.

Although you may see news focusing on one of these two dates, Mars will be visible for many months. For about three weeks before and three weeks after opposition and closest approach, the planet will appear the same size to a skywatcher.

From July 7 through September 7 Mars will be the third brightest object in the sky (after the Moon and Venus), shining even brighter than Jupiter. The best time to view Mars during this time is several hours after sunset, when Mars will appear higher in the sky.

Mars will still be visible after July and August, but each month it will shrink in size as it travels farther from Earth in its orbit around the Sun.

In other sky news, there will be a partial solar eclipse on July 13, but it will only be visible from Northern Antarctica and southern Australia. On July 27 (beginning at 20:21 UTC), a total lunar eclipse will be visible in Australia, Asia, Africa, Europe and South America. For those viewers, Mars will be right next to the eclipsing Moon!

If you’re wanting to look ahead to next month, prepare for August’s summer Perseid meteor shower. It’s not too early to plan a dark sky getaway for the most popular meteor shower of the year!

You can catch up on NASA’s missions to Mars and all of NASA’s missions at www.nasa.gov

Caption:In 2018, Mars will appear brightest from July 27 to July 30. Its closest approach to Earth is July 31. That is the point in Mars’ orbit when it comes closest to Earth. Mars will be at a distance of 35.8 million miles (57.6 million kilometers). Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

About NASA Space Place

With articles, activities, crafts, games, and lesson plans, NASA Space Place encourages everyone to get excited about science and technology. Visit spaceplace.nasa.gov (facebook|twitter) to explore space and Earth science!

NASA Space Place – What Is The Asteroid Belt?

Poster’s Note: One of the many under-appreciated aspects of NASA is the extent to which it publishes quality science content for children and Ph.D.’s alike. NASA Space Place has been providing general audience articles for quite some time that are freely available for download and republishing. Your tax dollars help promote science! The following article was provided for reprinting in May, 2018.

By Linda Hermans-Killiam

2013february2_spaceplaceThere are millions of pieces of rocky material left over from the formation of our solar system. These rocky chunks are called asteroids, and they can be found orbiting our Sun. Most asteroids are found between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. They orbit the Sun in a doughnut-shaped region of space called the asteroid belt.

Asteroids come in many different sizes—from tiny rocks to giant boulders. Some can even be hundreds of miles across! Asteroids are mostly rocky, but some also have metals inside, such as iron and nickel. Almost all asteroids have irregular shapes. However, very large asteroids can have a rounder shape.

The asteroid belt is about as wide as the distance between Earth and the Sun. It’s a big space, so the objects in the asteroid belt aren’t very close together. That means there is plenty of room for spacecraft to safely pass through the belt. In fact, NASA has already sent several spacecraft through the asteroid belt!

The total mass of objects in the asteroid belt is only about 4 percent the mass of our Moon. Half of this mass is from the four largest objects in the belt. These objects are named Ceres, Vesta, Pallas and Hygiea.

The dwarf planet Ceres is the largest object in the asteroid belt. However, Ceres is still pretty small. It is only about 587 miles across—only a quarter the diameter of Earth’s moon. In 2015, NASA’s Dawn mission mapped the surface of Ceres. From Dawn, we learned that the outermost layer of Ceres—called the crust—is made up of a mixture of rock and ice.

The Dawn spacecraft also visited the asteroid Vesta. Vesta is the second largest object in the asteroid belt. It is 329 miles across, and it is the brightest asteroid in the sky. Vesta is covered with light and dark patches, and lava once flowed on its surface.

The asteroid belt is filled with objects from the dawn of our solar system. Asteroids represent the building blocks of planets and moons, and studying them helps us learn about the early solar system.

For more information about asteroids, visit: spaceplace.nasa.gov/asteroid

Caption:This image captured by the Dawn spacecraft is an enhanced color view of Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

About NASA Space Place

With articles, activities, crafts, games, and lesson plans, NASA Space Place encourages everyone to get excited about science and technology. Visit spaceplace.nasa.gov (facebook|twitter) to explore space and Earth science!

NASA Space Place – What’s It Like Inside Mars?

Poster’s Note: One of the many under-appreciated aspects of NASA is the extent to which it publishes quality science content for children and Ph.D.’s alike. NASA Space Place has been providing general audience articles for quite some time that are freely available for download and republishing. Your tax dollars help promote science! The following article was provided for reprinting in January, 2018.

By Jessica Stoller-Conrad

2013february2_spaceplaceMars is Earth’s neighbor in the solar system. NASA’s robotic explorers have visited our neighbor quite a few times. By orbiting, landing and roving on the Red Planet, we’ve learned so much about Martian canyons, volcanoes, rocks and soil. However, we still don’t know exactly what Mars is like on the inside. This information could give scientists some really important clues about how Mars and the rest of our solar system formed.

This spring, NASA is launching a new mission to study the inside of Mars. It’s called Mars InSight. InSight—short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport—is a lander. When InSight lands on Mars later this year, it won’t drive around on the surface of Mars like a rover does. Instead, InSight will land, place instruments on the ground nearby and begin collecting information.

Just like a doctor uses instruments to understand what’s going on inside your body, InSight will use three science instruments to figure out what’s going on inside Mars.

One of these instruments is called a seismometer. On Earth, scientists use seismometers to study the vibrations that happen during earthquakes. InSight’s seismometer will measure the vibrations of earthquakes on Mars—known as marsquakes. We know that on Earth, different materials vibrate in different ways. By studying the vibrations from marsquakes, scientists hope to figure out what materials are found inside Mars.

InSight will also carry a heat probe that will take the temperature on Mars. The heat probe will dig almost 16 feet below Mars’ surface. After it burrows into the ground, the heat probe will measure the heat coming from the interior of Mars. These measurements can also help us understand where Mars’ heat comes from in the first place. This information will help scientists figure out how Mars formed and if it’s made from the same stuff as Earth and the Moon.

Scientists know that the very center of Mars, called the core, is made of iron. But what else is in there? InSight has an instrument called the Rotation and Interior Structure Experiment, or RISE, that will hopefully help us to find out.

Although the InSight lander stays in one spot on Mars, Mars wobbles around as it orbits the Sun. RISE will keep track of InSight’s location so that scientists will have a way to measure these wobbles. This information will help determine what materials are in Mars’ core and whether the core is liquid or solid.

InSight will collect tons of information about what Mars is like under the surface. One day, these new details from InSight will help us understand more about how planets like Mars—and our home, Earth—came to be.

For more information about earthquakes and marsquakes, visit: spaceplace.nasa.gov/earthquakes

Caption: An artist’s illustration showing a possible inner structure of Mars. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

About NASA Space Place

With articles, activities, crafts, games, and lesson plans, NASA Space Place encourages everyone to get excited about science and technology. Visit spaceplace.nasa.gov (facebook|twitter) to explore space and Earth science!

NASA Space Place – Snowy Worlds Beyond Earth

Poster’s Note: One of the many under-appreciated aspects of NASA is the extent to which it publishes quality science content for children and Ph.D.’s alike. NASA Space Place has been providing general audience articles for quite some time that are freely available for download and republishing. Your tax dollars help promote science! The following article was provided for reprinting in December, 2017.

The Space Place article format has changed recently, including more embedded images. To simplify the posting process, a PDF version of the article is provided below, with a snippet of the article reproduced below it.

Download as PDF: Snowy Worlds Beyond Earth

By Linda Hermans-Killiam

2013february2_spaceplace

There are many places on Earth where it snows, but did you know it snows on other worlds, too? Here are just a few of the places where you might find snow beyond Earth:

A Moon of Saturn: Enceladus

Saturn’s moon, Enceladus, has geysers that shoot water vapor out into space. There it freezes and falls back to the surface as snow. Some of the ice also escapes Enceladus to become part of Saturn’s rings. The water vapor comes from a heated ocean which lies beneath the moon’s icy surface. (Jupiter’s moon Europa is also an icy world with a liquid ocean below the frozen surface.) All of this ice and snow make Enceladus one of the brightest objects in our solar system.

Caption: Enceladus as viewed from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. Credit: NASA

Want to learn more about weather on other planets? Check out NASA Space Place: spaceplace.nasa.gov/planet-weather

This article was provided by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

About NASA Space Place

With articles, activities, crafts, games, and lesson plans, NASA Space Place encourages everyone to get excited about science and technology. Visit spaceplace.nasa.gov (facebook|twitter) to explore space and Earth science!

Popular Astronomy, Fall 2017 – New/Reboot Magazine Available For Free Download

The announcement of the rebooted Popular Astronomy was made on 15 July 2017 but has only recently made its way to my inbox thanks to postings on the ASRAS email list (and Dave Mormuth’s post to the SAS website). Having signed up for the free subscription service, we’ll keep track of this magazine’s availability as we do the bi-monthly Free Astronomy Magazine posts.

From the site announcement post:

Magazine PDF link (direct download button in upper-left corner):

issuu.com/technica_curiosa/docs/popular_astronomy-fall2017-v1n1?e=30247351/50903469

Issue Highlights

* Dava Sobel’s original new essay inspired by her best-selling book, “The Glass Universe.”

* Dr. Michael Summers on exoplanets and “Diamond Worlds.”

* Dr. Jeffrey Bennett brings a cosmic perspective to the study of exoplanets.

* Best-selling author John Read delivers the perfect orientation to telescope selection —and astrophotography.

* Geoff Cottrell gives us a tour of the next big telescopes.

* Martin Griffiths takes us deep inside the nebulae.

* The legendary Wil Tirion guides us through the history of celestial cartography.

* Peter Pesic provides a fascinating historical perspective on music and the making of modern science.

* Astrophysicist Neil Comins brings the concept— and experience—of space tourism into focus.

* John Fossett shows us how to create an astronomy club through your local library.

* Jeff Bennett returns with a complete guide to Eclipse 2017.

* John Schroeter on the history of radio telescopes and the detection of mysterious fast radio bursts.

* George Musser’s “Einstein’s Castle in the Air” questions the essence of space and time.

* A special Popular Astronomy eBook recounting the history of Mars exploration – popularastronomy.technicacuriosa.com/history-future-mars-exploration/

And don’t forget to register for your FREE subscription!

And for a little about the publisher (the site contains a number of space and technical posts – worth checking out!).

“The home of Popular Electronics, Mechanix Illustrated, and Popular Astronomy”

Technica Curiosa is the new and exciting hub of a highly-connected family of iconic media brands—brands endowed with rich legacies of world-changing, decades-spanning influence. As such, they are among the world’s most recognized, respected, shared, and deeply read titles. By consistently and creatively tapping into readers’ innate curiosity, imagination, and inventiveness, our brands have in turn inspired the creation of entire industries. No question, the road to innovation is quite literally paved with the content published in these exceptional titles.