With three probes on their way to Mars, NASA’s Curiosity rover will celebrate its eighth year on Mars 6 August as it continues to explore the lower regions of Mount Sharp in Gale Crater. This frame from a panorama captured on 13 October 2019 shows Mount Sharp in morning sunlight. Click on the image to view the entire panorama and click again for the full high-resolution view, scrolling as needed to take it all in. Curiosity landed on Mars in 2012 and has collected data showing the environment in Gale Crater, at least, was habitable in the distant past. NASA’s Perseverance rover will land in Jezero Crater next February to search for signs of past microbial life. The Hope orbiter, built by the United Arab Emirates and currently on its way to Mars, will slip into orbit that same month as will China’s Tianwen-1 probe. The Chinese mission features an orbiter and a rover, which is expected to descend to the surface a few months after arrival.
If you’re an early riser in the British Isles, let the waning crescent Moon be your guide to three naked-eye planets – Mars, Jupiter and Saturn – at dawn on 18 and 19 March 2020. This celestial conjunction occurs in the constellation of Sagittarius where you can see all four Solar System bodies within the span of a fist at arm’s length. Look for attractive binocular conjunctions too.