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Friday, February 19, 2021

 

Seeing Mars tonight after Perseverance's Landing(19 February 2021)

Evening sky at 21:37 ACDST  (90 minutes after sunset), on Thursday, February 19 facing north-west as seen from Adelaide. Mars is the brightest object low above the north-western horizon, aside from the nearby Moon, with Uranus nearby. Mars is drawing closer to the Pleiades cluster.
 
Similar views will be seen elsewhere in Australia at the equivalent local time (90 minutes after sunset), click to embiggen.
The approximate view from Perseverance's landing site looking south east tonight (well actually, it's around 1 am, earth rises not long before local sunrise). 


Mars tonight is a little different. If you have clear skies (unlike me) look to the north-west. You eye is immediately drawn to the almost first quarter Moon. below and too the west (left) is the bright orange dot that is Mars.

Tonight, Mars is occupied by one more robot, the rover Perseverance (Percy) joins Curiosity roving over the surface of Mars after a nail biting descent using a sky-crane.   Amongst the bevy of science instruments is the experimental helicopter Intrepid. It is rather mind-boggling to think we may soon have a helicopter gallivanting around Mars.

Percy landed almost precisely on target in Jezero Crater, wher it will drill samples of an ancient river delta for signs of life. The samples will be returned to earth by a later mission is all goes well.

The river delta landing site of Percy is almost 4,000 kilometers from Curiosities landing site in the ancient lake-bed of Gale crater

The first images from Percy by the hazard cameras were received shortly after landing (you can see the public raw images here) and we can expect a trove of new images as the other instruments come on line.

If Percy was o take an image of the  night-sky towards dawn, it would look something like the image above. 

Percy and Curiosity will shortly joined by the Chinese lander from it's Tiawen-1 orbiter, which successfully achieved orbit earlier, along with the UAE's orbiter Hope. This is a bumper yera for Mar's planetary science, and we will never look at Mars in the same way from now on.


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