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Mars Solar Conjunction


Recently, NASA announced that it will stop sending commands to its fleet of robotic probes on or orbiting the red planet Mars due to Mars solar conjunction.


GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Mars Solar Conjunction
  2. Key Facts About Mars

Mars Solar Conjunction: Overview and Impact

  • Definition: Mars solar conjunction occurs when the Sun aligns between Earth and Mars.
  • Frequency: This phenomenon takes place approximately once every two years.
Associated Events:
  • Solar Activity: During Mars solar conjunction, the Sun expels hot, ionized gas from its corona.
  • Potential Impact on Communication: The conjunction poses a risk to radio signals transmitted from Earth to Mars.
  • Spacecraft Behavior: It can cause unexpected behavior in spacecraft on Mars due to interference.
Current Occurrence:
  • Timing: The Mars solar conjunction for the current year is happening between November 11 and November 25.
  • Communication Disruption: The ionized gas emitted by the Sun can interfere with radio signals, potentially corrupting data sent between Earth and Mars.
  • Spacecraft Challenges: Spacecraft on Mars may experience disruptions or anomalies in their operations during this period.
Precautions and Adjustments:
  • Mission Planning: Space agencies and mission controllers take precautions and may adjust communication protocols during Mars solar conjunction to mitigate potential issues.
  • Temporary Communication Loss: Temporary disruptions or loss of communication with spacecraft on Mars may occur.

Key Facts About Mars:

  • Fourth Planet from the Sun: Mars is the fourth planet in our solar system, located between Earth and Jupiter.
  • Terrestrial Planet: Often referred to as the “Red Planet” due to its reddish appearance, Mars is a terrestrial planet with a rocky surface.
  • Size and Gravity: Mars has about 53% of Earth’s diameter and 38% of its gravity.
  • Atmosphere: The Martian atmosphere is thin and primarily composed of carbon dioxide, with traces of nitrogen and argon.
  • Surface Features: Mars has diverse surface features, including large volcanoes like Olympus Mons, deep canyons like Valles Marineris, and a vast desert-like region called the Tharsis Planitia.
  • Polar Ice Caps: Mars has polar ice caps made of water and dry ice (frozen carbon dioxide) that expand and contract with the changing seasons.
  • Moons: Mars has two small moons, Phobos and Deimos, which are irregularly shaped and thought to be captured asteroids.
  • Exploration: Various space missions have explored Mars, including rovers like Spirit, Opportunity, Curiosity, and Perseverance, as well as orbiters like the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
  • Possibility of Life: Mars has been a focus in the search for extraterrestrial life, with investigations into the planet’s past and present habitability.
  • Mars’ Day and Year: A day on Mars, known as a sol, is approximately 24.6 hours, and a Martian year is about 687 Earth days.
  • Magnetic Field: Unlike Earth, Mars lacks a global magnetic field, but evidence suggests it may have had one in the past.
  • Human Exploration Goals: Mars is a target for future human exploration, with plans for manned missions and potential colonization efforts in the coming decades.

-Source: Indian Express

June 2024