For any planet, a year is the time it takes to make one orbit around the sun. Because Mars is farther away from the sun, it has to travel a greater distance than Earth. It takes Mars about twice as long as it does for Earth to make one circle around the sun…therefore, a year on Mars lasts twice as long.
On May 5, Mars passes solar longitude 0 as the sun crosses the equator on Mars. This is the vernal equinox and was chosen by planetary scientists as the start of a new year.
Mars has four seasons, roughly twice as long as those on Earth, but with more variation given Mars’ eccentric orbit and the fact its orbital speed varies more as a result.
Did you know that there’s a U.S. city named Mars? Mars, PA hosts an annual Mars New Year celebration and we’re participating in this two-day science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) event to inspire young people to pursue innovation and exploration.
Reaching out into space yields benefits on Earth. Many of these have practical applications — but there’s something more than that. Call it inspiration, perhaps, what photographer Ansel Adams referred to as nature’s “endless prospect of magic and wonder."
Our ongoing exploration of the solar system has yielded more than a few magical images. Why not keep some of them close by to inspire your own explorations? This week, we offer 10 planetary photos suitable for wallpapers on your desktop or phone. Find many more in our galleries. These images were the result of audacious expeditions into deep space; as author Edward Abbey said, "May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view.”
1. Martian Selfie
This self-portrait of NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover shows the robotic geologist in the “Murray Buttes” area on lower Mount Sharp. Key features on the skyline of this panorama are the dark mesa called “M12” to the left of the rover’s mast and pale, upper Mount Sharp to the right of the mast. The top of M12 stands about 23 feet (7 meters) above the base of the sloping piles of rocks just behind Curiosity. The scene combines approximately 60 images taken by the Mars Hand Lens Imager, or MAHLI, camera at the end of the rover’s robotic arm. Most of the component images were taken on September 17, 2016.
NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft captured this high-resolution, enhanced color view of Pluto on July 14, 2015. The image combines blue, red and infrared images taken by the Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC). Pluto’s surface sports a remarkable range of subtle colors, enhanced in this view to a rainbow of pale blues, yellows, oranges, and deep reds. Many landforms have their own distinct colors, telling a complex geological and climatological story that scientists have only just begun to decode.
On July 19, 2013, in an event celebrated the world over, our Cassini spacecraft slipped into Saturn’s shadow and turned to image the planet, seven of its moons, its inner rings — and, in the background, our home planet, Earth. This mosaic is special as it marks the third time our home planet was imaged from the outer solar system; the second time it was imaged by Cassini from Saturn’s orbit, the first time ever that inhabitants of Earth were made aware in advance that their photo would be taken from such a great distance.
Before leaving the Pluto system forever, New Horizons turned back to see Pluto backlit by the sun. The small world’s haze layer shows its blue color in this picture. The high-altitude haze is thought to be similar in nature to that seen at Saturn’s moon Titan. The source of both hazes likely involves sunlight-initiated chemical reactions of nitrogen and methane, leading to relatively small, soot-like particles called tholins. This image was generated by combining information from blue, red and near-infrared images to closely replicate the color a human eye would perceive.
A huge storm churning through the atmosphere in Saturn’s northern hemisphere overtakes itself as it encircles the planet in this true-color view from Cassini. This picture, captured on February 25, 2011, was taken about 12 weeks after the storm began, and the clouds by this time had formed a tail that wrapped around the planet. The storm is a prodigious source of radio noise, which comes from lightning deep within the planet’s atmosphere.
Jupiter is still just as stormy today, as seen in this recent view from NASA’s Juno spacecraft, when it soared directly over Jupiter’s south pole on February 2, 2017, from an altitude of about 62,800 miles (101,000 kilometers) above the cloud tops. From this unique vantage point we see the terminator (where day meets night) cutting across the Jovian south polar region’s restless, marbled atmosphere with the south pole itself approximately in the center of that border. This image was processed by citizen scientist John Landino. This enhanced color version highlights the bright high clouds and numerous meandering oval storms.
X-rays stream off the sun in this image showing observations from by our Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, overlaid on a picture taken by our Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). The NuSTAR data, seen in green and blue, reveal solar high-energy emission. The high-energy X-rays come from gas heated to above 3 million degrees. The red channel represents ultraviolet light captured by SDO, and shows the presence of lower-temperature material in the solar atmosphere at 1 million degrees.
This image from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows Victoria crater, near the equator of Mars. The crater is approximately half a mile (800 meters) in diameter. It has a distinctive scalloped shape to its rim, caused by erosion and downhill movement of crater wall material. Since January 2004, the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has been operating in the region where Victoria crater is found. Five days before this image was taken in October 2006, Opportunity arrived at the rim of the crater after a drive of more than over 5 miles (9 kilometers). The rover can be seen in this image, as a dot at roughly the “ten o'clock” position along the rim of the crater. (You can zoom in on the full-resolution version here.)
Last, but far from least, is this remarkable new view of our home planet. Last week, we released new global maps of Earth at night, providing the clearest yet composite view of the patterns of human settlement across our planet. This composite image, one of three new full-hemisphere views, provides a view of the Americas at night from the NASA-NOAA Suomi-NPP satellite. The clouds and sun glint — added here for aesthetic effect — are derived from MODIS instrument land surface and cloud cover products.
Mars in Fire signs People with their Mars in a Fire sign (Aries, Leo and Sagittarius) are quick to assert themselves. They are the type to get angry easily and you will see their temper flare up. More than any other Mars sign, it’s the Fire sign Mars who can resort to violence when angered. They have lots of energy to burn and it can lead to spontaneous adventures and impulsiveness. One thing they hate more than anything? Boredom. They have to be doing something with their time. The Fire sign Mars are prone to becoming reckless and can often find themselves getting in a lot of trouble.
Mars in Earth signs People with their Mars in an Earth sign (Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn) are patient and strategic. They are not very aggressive individuals and can be patient with anger. They prefer to spend their time being productive and usually working on their long term goals. They can be very successful people because they’re always on-the-go and they set realistic and achievable goals for themselves. The Earth sign Mars do not mind getting their hands dirty every now and then because they understand and value the meaning of hard work and dedication.
Mars in Air signs People with their Mars in an Air sign (Gemini, Libra and Aquarius) spend most of their time and energy into mental pursuits. They are knowledgeable and can be social butterflies as well. For some reason, they do attract a lot of people because their energy is contagious and fun. They aren’t quick to anger, but best believe they can give a fierce tongue-lashing and a cold shoulder. The Air sign Mars are the types to “think before doing” and so they develop this cleverness to them. They may miss out on opportunities because they sit and ponder too much, but there are times where opportunities come knocking at their door.
Mars in Water signs People with their Mars in a Water sign (Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces) are indirectly aggressive. Often times, the Water sign Mars at their worst, have trouble containing their anger. Since they are attached to their feelings, they won’t do something unless it feels right with them. They are capable of achieving their goals, but only if it sits right with them and if it’s going to be long term. The Water sign Mars often do need a little push. They have an incredibly strong intuition and no one knows whats best for them like they know whats best for themselves.
With a fleet of spacecraft orbiting our home planet collecting data on everything from the air we breathe to natural disasters that impact our lives, Earth is always in focus. Join us as we celebrate our home with beautiful views from our unique vantage point of space.
On December 17, 1972, the crew of Apollo 17 snapped this iconic image of planet Earth. Dubbed the Blue Marble, this image was taken as Apollo 17 rocketed toward the moon.
On the way to the moon or from the surface of Mars, our spacecraft have photographed the beauty of Earth from many vantage points. In this image, the most powerful telescope orbiting Mars captured this view of Earth and its moon, showing continent-size detail on the planet and the relative size of the moon. The image combines two separate exposures taken on November 20, 2016, by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on our Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
In this image taken on July 19, 2013, the wide-angle camera on our Cassini spacecraft captured Saturn’s rings and our planet Earth and its moon in the same frame.
Our Suomi-NPP satellite also observed the Earth at night. Earth’s “night lights” often have a gee-whiz curiosity for the public , but have also served as a tool for fundamental research for nearly 25 years. They have provided a broad, beautiful picture, showing how humans have shaped the planet and lit up the darkness.
You can be mesmerized by the constant swirls in these visualizations of ocean currents. The swirling flows of tens of thousands of ocean currents were captured using the largest computations of their kind ever undertaken, using high-end computing resources at our Ames Research Center.
We’ve all seen iconic photographs of Earth shot by astronauts. But even satellites and robotic spacecraft often get in on the act. The above image, called “Pale Blue Dot,” was taken Voyager 1 in February 1990 from a distance of 4 billion miles.
Our satellites do more than take pretty pictures of Earth. They do everything from measure rainfall to observe weather patterns. The ten satellites in the Global Precipitation Measurement Constellation have provided unprecedented information about rain and snow fall across the entire Earth. This visualization shows the constellation in action, taking precipitation measurements underneath the satellite orbits.
In an homage to Apollo 17′s “Blue Marble” image, Suomi-NPP, a joint NASA-NOAA Earth-observing satellite, made this composite image, by making a number of swaths of Earth’s surface on January 4, 2012.
What’s your favorite aspect of planet Earth? These kids have their own ideas. You can even “adopt” parts of the planet. Which one of the 64,000 locations will you get?
Our home planet is constantly changing, which is why our fleet of Earth-observing satellites continuously monitor the globe, recording every moment of what they see. Luckily for us, many of the views are not only deeply informative but also awe-inspiring.