The Planet Mars


NASA/JPL/MSSS image of Mars from daily images of the Mars Global Surveyor

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The "red planet" Mars has many surface properties more similar to Earth than any other solar system planet. Cornell astronomers have fifty years of intense involvement in its study. Through the Fuertes telescope when it is near close approach, faint surface markings and one or both of the polar caps can be seen during excellent conditions. At other times, Mars looks like a small, ruddy, featureless disk.

Cornell astronomer Carl Sagan played a major role in the Mariner 9 and Viking missions to Mars. James Houck first detected water vapor in Mars' atmosphere in 1973. Steven Squyres led the Spirit and Opportunity dual rover mission of 2003, of which the latter was still operational in 2014. Alex Hayes is now proposing instruments for future missions to this planet.

Current Cornell Research

James Houck led forty years of cutting edge research in infrared astronomy at Cornell, including significant leadership of the Infrared Astronomical Satellite and team lead of the Infrared Spectrograph on the Spitzer Space Telescope. He discovered water vapor in Mars' atmosphere and was a co-discoverer of Ultraluminous Infrared Galaxies (ULIRGs), and contributed to the understanding of the rate of star formation and dust in the early Universe.

 
Fuertes Observatory
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