'Opposition' to bring Mars closest to Earth Friday


Scientists aren't even exactly sure what to call the body of water, which they detected by analyzing radar echoes gathered over three years by the orbiting Mars Express spacecraft. Does that promise hope for human immigration to Mars in the future? Could comparable underground pockets of salty, sediment-rich liquid water on Mars also provide a suitable breeding ground for this type of life-form, either now or in the past? MARSIS has surveyed the martian subsurface for more than 12 years in search of evidence of liquid water.

There another unusual thing that happens with Mars around the time of opposition. - After announcing the existence of a 20-kilometer-long saltwater mass at the south pole of Mars, the "red" planet will be the protagonist of two rare astronomical events.

Liquid water is an essential requirement of life as we know it.

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While it might seem like meteorite impacts could create dust on the Red Planet, in reality such collisions could never create the kind of fine dust that has now engulfed Mars.

A huge lake of salty water appears to be buried deep in Mars, raising the possibility of finding life on the red planet, scientists reported Wednesday. "This is something that is to us the telltale sign of the presence of water". Ice-covered oceans are believed to exist on Europa, Ganymede, Enceladus, Titan, Triton, and several other bodies in the Solar System.

Of course, by far humankind has not witnessed liquid water on these planets and satellites yet. That's because from our vantage point here on Earth, the sun is shining directly at Mars.

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"There's nothing special about this location other than the MARSIS radar on the Mars Express spacecraft is most sensitive to that region", said Duffy.

Still, she said, there are microbes on Earth that have been able to adapt to environments like that. In case some contamination happens, the result might be out of our expectation. Mars will reign supreme when it comes to looking illuminated this summer. But that needs delicate preparations and trials, for decades or even longer.

Mars is littered with many geological features whose origin could be interpreted in numerous ways. Three-dimensional models created from NASA's Viking mission illustrate how the northern hemisphere was tilted away from Earth in 2018. Its surface rich in iron oxide makes it appear red, which is how it got its name from the god of war.

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"When a planet is at opposition, the planet is completely opposite the sun in the sky", said Kevin Mackay, an astronomy and physics instructor at the University of South Florida.