Best Time to See Mars in Night Sky

Mars is the only planet with a clearly visible surface and, as such, has been studied by astronomers for hundreds of years. The next two months offer the best opportunity for skywatchers to study Mars for the next two years. Because of their orbits, Mars and Earth have close encounters only once every 26 months. The next encounter is coming up this week. On March 3, Mars will be in opposition to the Earth.

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Martian Landscapes Indicate Recent Volcanic Activity

Images of a martian landscape offer evidence that the Red Planet’s surface not only can shake like the surface of Earth, but has done so relatively recently. According to scientists if mars quakes do indeed take place our nearest planetary neighbor may still have active volcanism, which could help create conditions for liquid water. With High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) imagery, the research team examined boulders along a fault system known as Cerberus Fossae, which cuts across a very young lava surface on Mars. By analyzing boulders the scientists determined the rocks fell because of seismic activity.

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Researchers Discovered Microbial Oasis Beneath Atacama Desert

According to the journal Astrobiology a Spanish-Chilean team of scientists have found bacteria and archaea (primitive microorganisms) living two metres below the hypersaline substrates in the Atacama Desert in Chile. Researchers from the Center of Astrobiology (Spain) and the Catholic University of the North in Chile have found it in hypersaline substrates thanks to SOLID, a detector for signs of life which could be used in environments similar to subsoil on Mars. According to Victor Parro, researcher from the Center of Astrobiology (INTA-CSIC, Spain) and coordinator of the study they have named it a microbial oasis because they found microorganisms developing in a habitat that was rich in halite (rock salt) and other highly hygroscopic compounds (anhydrite and perchlorate) that absorb water.

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New Photo Show Old NASA Mars Landers

A NASA probe orbiting Mars has captured new photos of two dead spacecraft frozen in place at their Red Planet graves. The photos were taken by NASA’s powerful Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), which has been circling the planet since 2006. The spacecraft first spied NASA’s dead Phoenix Mars Lander in the Martian arctic on January 26 in a color photo that reveals the lander and its frigid surroundings as they appeared following Phoenix’s second winter on the planet. The Phoenix spacecraft landed successfully on Mars in 2008.

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Mars Rover Opportunity Begins 9 Year on Red Planet

A NASA rover celebrates eight years on the Martian surface on January 24, and the long-lived robot is still going strong. The Opportunity rover landed on the Red Planet at 9:05 p.m. PST Jan. 24, 2004 (12:05 a.m. EST Jan. 25), three weeks after its twin, Spirit, touched down. While NASA declared Spirit dead last year, Opportunity continues to gather data in its dotage, helping scientists understand more and more about Mars’ wetter, warmer past. Opportunity reached a multi-year driving destination, Endeavour Crater, in August 2011. At Endeavour’s rim, it has gained access to geological deposits from an earlier period of Martian history than anything it examined during its first seven years.

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The Martian Surface

Martian Rocks Crashed to Earth in July

A hail of Martian meteorites crashed to Earth last July, and collectors and scientists around the world are snapping up the ultra-rare rocks for display and study.The meteorites fell in the Moroccan desert in July and were recovered a few months later. Scientists confirmed on January 17 that the rocks are Martian, presumably blasted off the Red Planet by an asteroid strike. The rocks are a rare treat for researchers, allowing them to investigate relatively pristine chunks of Martian material. Martian material is exceedingly hard to come by on Earth. Just 220 pounds (100 kilograms) of Mars rocks are known to exist on our planet, According to Darryl Pitt, curator of the Macovich Collection of meteorites in New York City.

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