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Mars Solar Conjunction

Context:

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.

Relevance:

GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Mars Solar Conjunction
  2. Key Facts About Mars

Mars Solar Conjunction: Overview and Impact

Phenomenon:
  • 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.
Significance:
  • 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
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