Shedding new light on Mars

Lakshmi B. Ghosh

NEW DELHI: The stars of the Martian expedition are coming to town this week. And while they may not bring news of any little green men, they will bring many new details and little known facts about one of the most talked about planets in the milky way.

A once in a lifetime opportunity for those with an interest in the unexplored and unknown elements that lie beyond the earth and its atmosphere, Nehru Planetarium will this week have scientists from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) as visitors.

This Wednesday (June 15) will see the planetarium organise a lecture and interactive session with NASA scientists who were involved in the recent Mars missions. The guests of honour will include NASA's planetary geologist, Amitabh Ghosh, who was part of the Mars Pathfinder Mission as well as the Spirit and Opportunity Rover Missions that successful carried out studies of Mars recently.

To be held between 12 noon and 2 p.m., the lecture and activities planned promise enough excitement for science enthusiasts. "There will be exciting descriptions of the most significant results from the Spirit and Opportunity Missions, what these results tell us about water distribution on Mars at present as well as in the past. Many interesting 3D views of Mars terrain obtained from the mission imagery and activities are designed to increase students' awareness and understanding of Mars," says the Nehru Planetarium Director, N. Rathnasree.

Intriguing and puzzling questions about Mars will clearly be the peg of this lecture. The obsession with the green little men from Mars may have continued despite no signs of life on Mars, but the hope clearly is still alive.

"Are there little green men thriving on Mars? Now we know enough about Mars to know that no life has been detected at present on the planet. But the question of life on Mars does not go away so easy. The burning question now is about the possibility -- at the very least of some kind of a microbial form of life -- at a remote period in the history of Mars," notes Dr. Rathnasree.

With both the Spirit and Opportunity missions analysing the Martian soil and rocks in an attempt to find answers to these questions, Nehru Planetarium will be the place to be this Wednesday for those wanting to know more about the Mars missions.

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