No Solstice for Mars Until Next Year
While Earth is today celebrating the first day of summer in the northern hemisphere, the Curiosity and Opportunity rovers in the southern hemisphere on Mars are enjoying the end of the warm weather season, before the autumn equinox on July 31.
The upcoming spring/autumn on Mars is the planets longest season at 194 days. And today’s equivalent summer solstice for the northern hemisphere of Mars won’t be until February 14, 2014.
Meanwhile, the Curiosity and Opportunity rovers have been enjoying summer since February 23, 2013, in the southern hemisphere of the Red Planet. Due to Mars’ orbit, Curiosity and Opportunity will have to survive longer, colder autumns and winters in the southern hemisphere than if they were in the north.
Earth’s dusty red neighbor circles the sun in a longer, more oval-shaped orbit. This causes Mars’ seasons to be out of sync with Earth’s. Also unlike Earth where each season lasts between 89 and 93 days, the seasons on Mars last unequal amounts of time, because Mars speeds up and slows down as it orbits.
The planet’s northern summer/ southern winter is 178 days. But its northern autumn/ southern spring goes on for only 142 days, while its northern winter/ southern summer lasts 154 days.
To plan Martian spring breaks and summer solstice parties accurately, Planetary.org has a full calender of the changing seasons on the fourth rock from the sun.
Although kids in the North Mars school district will have to wait for summer vacation until next year, there is reason to celebrate today. June 21 marks the Opportunity rover’s fifth Martian year of roaming the planet, according to NASA.
IMAGES: Curiosity rover’s self-portrait (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)
Orbits of Mars and Earth seen from the north. Also shows lengths of seasons, equinoxes, solstices, perihelion and aphelion. (Areong)