NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has spent more than a year exploring Vera Rubin Ridge on the slopes of Mount Sharp in the heart of Gale Crater. After pausing at the rover’s 19th drill site – the hole is visible to the lower left of the rover near the center of the frame – Curiosity paused to take a selfie on 15 January, the robot’s 2,291st day, or “sol,” on Mars. The Mars Hand Lens Imager, or MAHLI, camera on the end of Curiosity’s robot arm snapped 57 images that were then stitched together into a panorama. The arm itself is not visible in the resulting image. Curiosity has been studying rocks along the ridge since September 2017. It is now heading for a clay-bearing trough to the south that may hold additional clues about how ancient lakes helped form the lower levels of Mount Sharp.
Set your alarm for 6am GMT if you wish to see three naked-eye planets in the UK dawn sky this week. Find a location that offers an unobstructed view of the horizon from southeast to south and let the waning Moon be your guide to locating Jupiter, Mars and Saturn on successive mornings from 7 to 11 February.
Observers should direct their gaze to the southern sky at dusk on Saturday, 12 January to view the 6-day-old waxing Moon in the constellation of Pisces. Look a little closer around 6pm GMT in the UK this night to see Mars as a magnitude +0.6 orange-coloured ‘star’ above the lunar crescent. If you own wide-angle 7× or 8× binoculars, you can see the Moon and Red Planet in the same field of view.