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Solar System: Things to Know This Week

Solar System: Things to Know This Week

Be a scientist for a day, solstice on the Red Planet, historic launches and more!

1. Scientist for a Day!

This year’s Scientist for a Day essay contest was announced last week. Write an essay on one of the three images above. Essays are due in Feb. 2017. Students in grades 5-12 in U.S. schools, after-school and home-school programs, scout troops and museum programs are eligible to participate.

+ Learn more

2. Tuesday is Winter Solstice on Mars’ Northern Hemisphere

Mars’ orbit is much more eccentric than Earth’s. The winters in the northern hemisphere are warm and short, as Mars is near perihelion—closer to the sun. This means that the winters in the southern hemisphere are long and cold.

+ Read Mars: The Other Terrestrial Planet

+ Seasons on Mars (Malin Space Science Systems) 

3. Launch-iversaries!

We’re celebrating two launch anniversaries.

Before Curiosity. Before Spirit and Opportunity, there was Pathfinder and the hardy Sojourner rover, launched on Dec. 4, 1996. Pathfinder was a demonstration of the technology
necessary to deliver a lander and a free-ranging robotic rover to the
surface of Mars in a cost-effective and efficient manner.
The lander, formally named the Carl Sagan Memorial Station following its
successful touchdown, and the rover, named Sojourner after American
civil rights crusader Sojourner Truth, both outlived their design lives —
the lander by nearly three times, and the rover by 12 times! We continued the tradition with Spirit and Opportunity. Now there is the Mars Science Laboratory (with the Curiosity rover in stowage), which was launched on Nov. 26, 2011. It landed successfully in Gale Crater at 1:31 am EDT on Aug. 6, 2012. 

+ Go Back in Time

+ Video: Where Were You When Curiosity Landed on Mars? 

4. Mars Ice Deposit Holds as Much Water as Lake Superior

Water ice makes up half or more of an underground layer in a large region of Mars, about halfway from the equator to the north pole. The amount of water in this deposit—assessed using a radar aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter—is about as much as in Lake Superior.

+ Read More

5. A Little Bit of History

Finally, it’s been seven years since Cassini caught one of its most stunning views of the plume on Saturn’s moon Enceladus.

+ Read More

Discover the full list of 10 things to know about our solar system this week HERE.

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