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Moon and Mars

April 23, 2016

It’ll be decades before humans arrive at Mars. But when they do get there, they can expect a bit of old and a bit of new. Some conditions will feel like home, while others will feel like — well, like another world.

In the “familiar” column are the length of the day — about 40 minutes longer than a day on Earth — and the tilt of the planet’s axis, which creates seasons. And there’s also the Martian atmosphere, which is more like Earth’s atmosphere than that of any other planet.

In the “alien” column are the surface gravity, which is only three-eighths as strong as Earth’s. That means that someone who weighs 150 pounds on Earth would weigh just 57 pounds on Mars. The year is almost twice as long as Earth’s, and the average temperature is almost 140 degrees colder — minus-81 degrees Fahrenheit.

One other alien sight would be in the night sky. Instead of a single big moon, Mars has two smaller ones that move across the sky in a hurry. One of them moves so fast, in fact, that it rises in the west and sets in the east — two and sometimes three times a day.

And look for Mars near our moon late tonight. Mars is well to the lower left of the Moon as they rise, before midnight, and looks like a bright orange star. The golden planet Saturn is to the lower left of Mars, with the orange star Antares below Mars. The whole group will be in especially good view at first light.

We’ll have more about this early morning lineup tomorrow.


Script by Damond Benningfield

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