Mars has four seasons just like Earth, but they last about twice as long.

July 1, 2016

Mars has four seasons just like Earth, but they last about twice as long. That’s because it takes about two Earth years for Mars to go around the sun. July 4, 2016 just happens to be the start of spring in the southern hemisphere on Mars, where Mars rovers Curiosity and Opportunity are exploring.

The southern hemisphere has “harsher” seasons than in the north. During Southern winter, Mars is farthest away from the Sun in its elliptical orbit around the Sun. That’s different from Earth, because our planet has a near circular orbit. Winter in the southern hemisphere is worse, because Mars is the farthest away from the Sun and moves more slowly in its orbit. Going from a winter to warmer spring can be quite dramatic.

Spring for the rovers on Mars is the start of the dust season. Dust storms can brew in one area of the planet, and grow into planet-wide storms. Global dust storms can even blanket the whole planet, covering it from sight. Data from orbiters can tell us a lot about to scope and scale of storms and how the affect rovers on the ground.

Credit

NASA/JPL-Caltech

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