While known as the “red planet” for good reason, Mars takes on a different appearance depending on the time of day as seen in this “picture postcard” view from the Curiosity rover. Climbing the lower slopes of Mount Sharp in Gale Crater, Curiosity paused on 8 April to capture two multi-image panoramas, one at 9:20 a.m. local Mars time and the other at 3:40 p.m. The black-and-white images were beamed back to Earth and stitched together. Analysts then added colour and merged the two images to create an artistic rendering of the morning view in blue tones, the afternoon in orange and a combination of the two in green. Thanks to an extremely clear sky, the rim of Gale Crater is clearly visible 30 to 40 kilometres away (18 to 25 miles), along with the top of a mountain in the far distance, some 80 kilometres away (54 miles). Click the image below for a larger view.
On 10 March 2006, NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) entered into orbit around the Red Planet. A decade later, with its six science instruments all still operating, MRO has delivered huge advances in knowledge about Mars, revealing in unprecedented detail a world that held diverse wet environments billions of years ago and remains dynamic today.
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.