Throughout right now the wheels will cease rolling, the cameras will cease clicking, and radio messages will stop between the Curiosity rover on Mars, and Earth. Operations on Mars will right now be interrupted for a few weeks because the Blue Planet and the Purple Planet change into invisible to at least one one other.
From now via September 7, 2019 Mars shall be in “photo voltaic conjunction”, one thing that occurs each 26 months. Throughout this time, engineers for spacecraft at Mars don’t ship instructions–there’s simply an excessive amount of of a threat of radio interference–and everybody takes a break. NASA’s Deep House Community, a system of large Earth-based radio antennas managed by JPL, will cease handing Martian knowledge.
So what’s happening?
What’s a ‘photo voltaic conjunction?’
It’s when Mars is misplaced within the Solar’s glare. It’s as a lot to do with Earth’s place as it’s with Mars. It marks a degree when a planet is inconceivable to look at from Earth for a number of weeks, when the 2 planets are on reverse sides of the photo voltaic system. They’re as far aside as they ever get.
Nonetheless, Mars received’t really seem to go straight behind the Solar, simply very near it. Presently showing be very near Venus, Mars is transferring in the direction of the Solar and can seem to go by Mercury in early September, however by that point each planets shall be misplaced within the Solar’s corona.
Why is ‘photo voltaic conjunction’ unhealthy?
The Solar’s corona–or crown–is made up from scorching, ionized gasoline, and it extends far into area. Throughout a photo voltaic conjunction, that gasoline can intrude with radio alerts, making communications with spacecraft at Mars doubtlessly corrupt-able. That’s not definitely worth the threat as a result of it might make Curiosity and Perception behave erratically. “It’s that point once more,” says Roy Gladden, supervisor of the Mars Relay Community at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “Our engineers have been making ready our spacecraft for conjunction for months. They’ll nonetheless be amassing science knowledge at Mars, and a few will try to ship that knowledge residence. However we received’t be commanding the spacecraft out of concern that they may act on a corrupted command.”
What missions are affected?
On the floor of Mars, the Curiosity rover will cease driving and taking images, and the InSight lander’s robotic arm received’t transfer. Overhead, the Odyssey and Mars Reconnaissance orbiters will nonetheless accumulate knowledge from Curiosity, however solely Odyssey will attempt to ship that knowledge again to Earth. The MAVEN orbiter will keep on its work, however received’t contact Earth.
Can I see this photo voltaic conjunction?
By definition, it’s not seen from Earth since Mars goes just about behind the Solar as seen from Earth. Other than the 10 days of photo voltaic conjunction, Mars is all the time seen within the evening sky. Recently it’s been seen simply after sundown because it’s appeared to creep in the direction of the Solar. Nonetheless, in 10 days will probably be on the opposite aspect of the Solar, so seen simply earlier than dawn.
What occurs after ‘photo voltaic conjunction?’
Lately, Mars has been a faint object after sundown, after photo voltaic conjunction Mars will seem the opposite aspect of the Solar, and so change into a pre-dawn object. It can regularly change into seen earlier within the evening till it will definitely it would seem to get as distant from the Solar as potential, thus rising round sundown and setting round dawn. At that time, known as “opposition”, Earth is between Mars and the Solar, and Mars seems to us on Earth as shiny because it ever will get. Mars will subsequent go into opposition on October 13, 2020.
The significance of ‘line of sight’ in astronomy
We observe the photo voltaic system, the Milky Manner and the Universe past from Earth. Each constellation you’ve ever seen is merely a line-of-sight impact of your observing place–the photo voltaic system. The Massive Dipper wouldn’t have the identical form in any respect if seen from deep area. Equally, Orion’s Belt is merely an phantasm. All the things we see is from one perspective, however since our planet is continually transferring because it orbits the Solar, our view of the planets (and their place within the evening sky) consistently adjustments. Because the planets are doing the identical factor, simply at completely different speeds, we’re successfully watching transferring targets from a transferring goal.
Why do some planets transfer backwards within the evening sky?
That is known as “retrograde movement” and though it may appear odd, it makes excellent sense if you concentrate on Earth’s orbit across the Solar. Retrograde movement exhibits us that planets are going across the Solar, and never round Earth. Planets seem to float from east to west throughout the evening sky, however from Earth we don’t get to witness full orbits of planets as a result of we’re additionally on the identical journey, so our line of sight adjustments. The traditional instance is of a automobile touring at 80 mph, which is able to seem to go backwards when seen via the window of a passing automobile going at 90 mph. The subsequent time Mars will seem to go backwards in our evening sky shall be from September 9-November 14, 2020.
Mars’ subsequent photo voltaic conjunction shall be October 8, 2021.
Wishing you clear skies and large eyes.