Mars

A Heavenly Trio

By Jim Haklar

I took this picture on February 20th from the back of the Edison Environmental Center. The Moon was near Venus (the bright “star” to the Moon’s left) and Mars (just above Venus). Think about the range of distances represented in this picture:

The trees were about 0.04 mile away;

The Moon was about 240,000 miles away;

Venus was 130 million miles away; and

Mars was 205 million miles away.

It’s sobering when you consider the scale of the solar system.

About the Author: Jim is an environmental engineer at EPA’s Edison, New Jersey Environmental Center. In his nearly 30 years with the agency he has worked in a variety of programs including Superfund, Water Management, Public Affairs, and Toxic Substances. He has been an amateur astronomer since he was a teenager, and can often be found after work in the back of the Edison facility with his telescope.

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Mars Meets Regulus – A Celestial Conjunction

By Jim Haklar

his image is a time exposure of the Mars-Regulus conjunction.  Mars is the bright orange dot next to the blue dot (Regulus).

his image is a time exposure of the Mars-Regulus conjunction. Mars is the bright orange dot next to the blue dot (Regulus).

The night sky is always changing. The Moon goes through its cycle of waxing and waning. Patterns of stars called constellations come and go with the seasons. Planets move through the night sky as well. Sometimes, a planet or the Moon will appear to come close to another planet or star. The point at which they appear to be at their closest is called a conjunction. In reality, the two objects that are in conjunction are usually far apart. Even though conjunctions are optical illusions, they are still pretty to look at.

In October the planet Mars passed close to the star called Regulus. Often referred to as the heart of the Lion, Regulus is one of the brightest starts in the sky and is the brightest star in the constellation of Leo. While it may have looked like Mars and Regulus were close, they were in fact very far apart. Regulus is so far away that its light takes over 70 years to reach the Earth (and light travels at 186,000 miles a second).

Anybody that likes to look up at the night sky should try to see a conjunction. They are fairly common, and yearly publications such as the Old Farmer’s Almanac provide the dates that conjunctions happen. And don’t worry if you miss a conjunction on a certain date. Heavenly bodies such as planets move relatively slowly, so there will still be a nice view for several days befo

re and after the actual conjunction.

About the Author: Jim is an environmental engineer at the EPA’s Edison, New Jersey Environmental Center.  In his 28 years with the agency he has worked in a variety of programs including Superfund, Water Management, Public Affairs, and Toxic Substances.  He has been an amateur astronomer since he was a teenager, and can often be found after work in the back of the Edison facility with his telescope.

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Curious Visitor Takes Giant Step for Man on Mars

Haga clic en la imagen para unirse a la conversación en nuestro blog en español... ¡No olvide de suscribirse!

By Lina Younes

Like many Americans across the country, last Sunday night I was glued to my computer screen impatiently waiting for the confirmation of the successful landing of the mobile science laboratory “Curiosity” on Mars. This technological feat is similar in magnitude to the first landing of man on the Moon. On Monday, while I was still marveling about the significance of Curiosity’s landing with colleagues, someone in the group posed a question that motivated me to write today’s blog. Basically, the question was “what does it matter to us on Earth?” I have been mulling that question ever since. Where do I begin?

Space exploration allows us to answer many questions related to life here on Earth. Through research conducted on board the International Space Station and space missions as well as the data compiled by NASA’s satellites, we will gain a better understanding of space and our Planet. This scientific research will also allow us to predict extreme weather events, learn more about our climate system, and the origins of our universe. This scientific research and collaboration with fellow federal agencies and international partners is also key to our mission here at EPA.

During Curiosity’s mission, the rover will be sending data to Earth which will provide answers to questions if there was life on Mars. If there was life, how did it exist? In what shape or form? And more importantly to us here on the third planet in our solar system, if there was life in Mars, why did it cease to exist? What made it disappear? Answers to these questions will help us gain valuable knowledge to enhance our stewardship of our Planet today. So, in response to the original question posed by one of my colleagues, “Yes, this mission means a lot to us on Earth!”

Furthermore, the scientific innovation developed through the space program is invaluable for the strength of our nation and our economy. What do we need to achieve further technological feats both here on Earth and in space? We need students to pursue careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Like Edwin P. Hubble, Neil Armstrong and Sally Ride before them, we need the new generation to reach for the stars.

About the author: Lina Younes is the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. Among her duties, she’s responsible for outreach to Hispanic organizations and media. She spearheaded the team that recently launched EPA’s new Spanish website, www.epa.gov/espanol . She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. She’s currently the editor of EPA’s new Spanish blog, Conversando acerca de nuestro medio ambiente. Prior to joining the agency, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and an international radio broadcaster. She has held other positions in and out of the Federal Government.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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