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.
It currently pays to be an early riser if you wish to view the planets, for it’s all happening at dawn in the skies of Western Europe. Find innermost planet Mercury, see a near miss of Mars and Jupiter on 7 January, then a fabulous binocular conjunction of the waning crescent Moon, the Red planet and Jupiter on 11 January!