Skip to main content

Mars to give earthlings an eyeful -- don't miss the show!

By Tom Watkins, Greg Botelho and John Branch, CNN
updated 2:57 PM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
NASA's Mars rover Curiosity recently encountered this iron meteorite, which NASA named "Lebanon." This find is similar in shape and luster to iron meteorites found on Mars by the previous generation of rovers. The Curiosity rover set off from Earth in November 2011 and landed nearly nine months later -- 99 million miles away. Click through to see more of its images. NASA's Mars rover Curiosity recently encountered this iron meteorite, which NASA named "Lebanon." This find is similar in shape and luster to iron meteorites found on Mars by the previous generation of rovers. The Curiosity rover set off from Earth in November 2011 and landed nearly nine months later -- 99 million miles away. Click through to see more of its images.
HIDE CAPTION
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Photos: Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
mars .2a
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
Mars rover Curiosity
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
43
44
45
46
47
48
49
50
51
52
53
54
55
56
57
58
59
60
61
62
63
64
65
66
67
68
69
70
71
72
73
74
75
76
77
78
79
80
81
82
83
84
85
86
87
88
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • On Monday, the moon will turn as red as Mars itself
  • Mars and Earth will be a mere 57 million miles apart on Monday
  • Curiosity landed on Mars in 2012 with 17 cameras in tow
  • What could it be? NASA think it's "likely a glinting rock or cosmic-ray hit"

(CNN) -- If Mars has any exhibitionist tendencies, this should be a good month -- one packed with star power -- for the red planet.

On Tuesday night, Mars, Earth and the sun were positioned along a nearly straight line, called the date of opposition because Mars and the sun are on opposite sides of the sky, according to NASA.

If the orbits of Mars and Earth were perfectly circular, April 8 would also have been when the two planets were nearest each other. But because they're slightly egg-shaped, the date of closest approach does not occur until Monday.

That night, the two planets will be a mere 57 million miles (92 million kilometers) apart. Also on tap for the celestial show is a total lunar eclipse, when the moon will turn as red as Mars itself.

"Mars rises in the east at sunset and soars almost overhead at midnight, shining burnt-orange almost 10 times brighter than a 1st-magnitude star," NASA says.

But no need to set your alarms or to buy a telescope: Mars, in all its glory, is easy to see on any clear night in April with the naked eye.

If you miss this event, you can witness the next "opposition of Mars" in 26 months.

A recent view of the planet taken from space has proved far different, but no less tantalizing. Was it a Martian playing flashlight tag with the Curiosity rover? The faraway glare from an extraterrestrial's TV? Or maybe someone warming up over a fire on the Red Planet's surface?

Probably not.

Still, the latest snapshot from the Curiosity is pretty cool.

It shows the stark Martian landscape with a light shining in front of a mountain chain. While enjoying the shot, the Curiosity Rover's official Twitter feed says it's more illusion than evidence of life: "Ooh. Shiny. Bright spot in this pic is likely a glinting rock or cosmic-ray hit."

A few pictures -- shot April 2 and 3 through the rover's "right-eye" camera -- show the bright spots, while those shot within a second through the "left-eye" camera don't, said Guy Webster, a spokesman with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Hence, it's unlikely any being -- from whatever world -- caused them.

Each time, "the sun was in the same direction as the bright spot -- west-northwest from the rover -- and relatively low in the sky," said Webster, who said one could surmise that the sun was reflecting off the rock the same way in each shot.

Or perhaps, he added, the spots could be a function of light affecting the camera itself.

Either way, the pictures add to the vast photo album that Curiosity has created since setting off from Earth in November 2011 and landing -- some 8-1/2 months later and 99 million miles away -- on Mars.

The 1-ton, SUV-sized vehicle is carrying 17 cameras and a number of scientific instruments, making it far from your average shutterbug.

That's not the only event of significance to Earthlings who like to look up.

READ: Scientists create a mini Mars on Earth

CNN's Sheila Steffen and Suzanne Presto contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Space
updated 12:53 PM EDT, Wed July 23, 2014
Seems NASA's fascination with the moon is in the past. It's focused on something far more menacing: incoming asteroids
updated 11:56 PM EDT, Mon July 14, 2014
Scientists looking for signs of life in the universe -- as well as another planet like our own -- are a lot closer to their goal than people realize.
updated 8:37 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Back in July 1969, I stood on the talcum-like lunar dust just a few feet from our home away from home, Eagle, the lunar module that transported Neil Armstrong and me to the bleak, crater-pocked moonscape.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Wed July 16, 2014
solar flare july 2014
From Earth, the sun appears as a constant circle of light, but when viewed in space a brilliant display of motion is revealed.
updated 1:31 PM EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
The full moons of this summer -- July 12, August 10 and September 9 -- are supermoons, as NASA calls them.
updated 11:51 AM EDT, Sun June 29, 2014
If you think you saw a flying saucer over Hawaii, you might not be crazy -- except what you saw didn't come from outer space, though that may be its ultimate destination.
updated 9:47 PM EDT, Thu June 26, 2014
The U.S. space shuttle program retired in 2011, leaving American astronauts to hitchhike into orbit. But after three long years, NASA's successor is almost ready to make an entrance.
updated 10:21 AM EDT, Fri June 13, 2014
When I first poked my head inside Virgin Galactic's newest spaceship, I felt a little like I was getting a front-row seat to space history.
updated 7:03 PM EDT, Tue June 10, 2014
The sun is putting on a fireworks show again.
updated 7:02 PM EDT, Tue June 24, 2014
A year is a very long time on Mars -- 687 days. NASA's Curiosity rover can attest that it's enough time for some unexpected life changes.
updated 6:05 PM EDT, Thu May 8, 2014
It's hard to describe billions of years of cosmic history. But scientists have used a code to create a model of how the universe as we know it today might have evolved.
updated 2:00 PM EDT, Fri May 2, 2014
At least one corner of the solar system may be serving up an ice-and-water sandwich, with the possibility of life on the rocks.
updated 11:03 AM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Planetary nebula Abell 33 has taken on romantic proportions.
updated 11:55 AM EDT, Tue April 8, 2014
You can't see it happening on Earth, but space itself is stretching. Ever since the Big Bang happened 13.8 billion years ago, the universe has been getting bigger.
updated 4:59 PM EDT, Wed March 26, 2014
Scientists have added another celestial body to the short list of objects in our solar system that have rings around them.
updated 1:59 PM EDT, Thu March 27, 2014
Astronomers have discovered a dwarf planet that's even farther away than Pluto.
updated 7:59 AM EST, Fri February 28, 2014
Our galactic neighborhood just got a lot bigger. NASA announced the discovery of 715 new planets.
updated 10:37 AM EDT, Tue March 18, 2014
Scientists have made a breakthrough in understanding how our world as we know it came to be.
updated 3:27 PM EST, Tue February 25, 2014
From a sheep ranch in Western Australia comes the oldest slice of Earth we know.
updated 2:02 PM EST, Wed February 19, 2014
Cassiopeia A was a star more than eight times the mass of our sun before it exploded in the cataclysmic, fiery death astronomers call a supernova.
updated 5:07 PM EST, Mon February 10, 2014
Researchers have found clues that water could be flowing in the present, at least during warm seasons.
updated 11:02 AM EST, Sat February 15, 2014
The "jelly doughnut" rock that seemed to appear out of nowhere on Mars last month did not fall out of an extraterrestrial pastry box.
updated 10:56 PM EST, Thu February 6, 2014
It's a dot in the sky.
updated 2:44 AM EST, Thu February 13, 2014
Reports of Jade Rabbit's demise may have been premature.
updated 8:58 AM EST, Thu January 16, 2014
It's rare for astronomers to spot a planet in a star cluster. That's partly why a cluster called Messier 67 is so special: We now know that it has three planets orbiting stars.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT