Mars Vanishes from the Sky for Two Weeks Due to Rare Celestial Phenomenon
From November 18, one of the brightest stars in the night sky, the planet Mars, became invisible from Earth. The reason is a natural phenomenon known as solar conjunction, where Mars and Earth are positioned on opposite sides of the Sun. This occurs only once every two years, according to Space.com.
"Like dancers on opposite sides of a massive bonfire, the two planets will be temporarily invisible to each other," vividly describes NASA.
During the solar conjunction, Earth and Mars will be approximately 376 million kilometers apart. Typically, the average distance between our planets is 225 million kilometers. Therefore, in the coming weeks, the distance to Mars will be nearly 2.5 times greater than the distance from Earth to the Sun.
The solar conjunction also affects NASA's ability to communicate with spacecraft on Mars and send signals to them. "It's impossible to predict what information might be lost due to interference from charged solar particles. This lost information could potentially threaten the spacecraft. Instead of daily communication, engineers send two-week instructions before the solar conjunction and wait until the phenomenon concludes," explains NASA.
In a related note, geologists have successfully identified ancient riverbeds on Mars through a combination of images taken by the Curiosity rover, analysis of sedimentary rocks near the Mexican Gulf on Earth, and computer modeling.
A group of researchers, studying data collected by the Curiosity rover in the Gale Crater, found new evidence confirming the existence of rivers on Mars in the distant past. The researchers trained their computer model using images of lava terrain and layers of mountainous rocks near the crater's base captured by Curiosity, as well as three-dimensional scans of sedimentary rock layers on the seabed near the Mexican Gulf. Subsequently, the computer model was able to simulate the erosion of river deposits to create a relief that closely resembles what the rover observed.
On November 20, it was also announced that Ukrainian Sergii Iakymov has been elected as the new head of the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) in Utah. He will now oversee the crew selection, logistics, technical maintenance, supplies replenishment, mission support, and crew rotation.