Snowed in? You can watch NASA land on Mars today

NASA will attempt to land a rover on Mars today then deploy a helicopter from it to acquire essential information about the surface of the planet. It’s a historic and once-in-a-lifetime event that you can watch live.

“When I was a lad, landing on Mars felt like a sci fi movie but it’s happening on Thursday,” local astronomer Billy Hix reported on his social media page earlier this week. Hix is The Lynchburg Times’ resident “science guy” and also does science outreach programs for Moore County schools and others.

Beginning at 1 p.m. today, folks can watch a historic event as NASA attempts to land the the Perseverance rover on the surface of Mars and then deploy a helicopter from it. It will mark the first time in the space program’s history that anything man-made landed and then flew around any planet.

And it will be no easy feat.

The 10-foot rover will plunge through Mar’s thin atmosphere at around 12,000 mph then attempt to use a parachute to slow the craft down to around 2 mph in order to precisely land in the Jericho Carter, a dried up lake on the surface of Mars. It’s called the Sky Crane Maneuver and NASA officials says that today’s landing is easily the “most dangerous site NASA has ever tried to land a rover.”

“If there’s one thing we know, it’s that landing on Mars is never easy,” said NASA Associate Administrator for Communications Marc Etkind. “But as NASA’s fifth Mars rover, Perseverance, has an extraordinary engineering pedigree and mission team. We are excited to invite the entire world to share this exciting event with us.”

The landing itself will take place around 2:43 p.m. CST today and you can watch live by visiting http://www.nasa.gov beginning at around 1 p.m. You can also find links across all of NASA’s social media channels including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. •

{The Lynchburg Times is the only independently owned and operated newspaper in Lynchburg, Tennessee. We cover Metro Moore County government, Jack Daniel’s Distillery, Nearest Green Distillery, Tims Ford State Park, Motlow State Community College, Moore County High School, Moore County Middle School, Lynchburg Elementary, Raider Sports, plus regional and state news.}

Once-in-a-lifetime comet visible in Moore County

Comet NEOWISE is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see a comet with the naked eye. It should be visible in Moore County through July 19. {Photo Provided}

It’s a once in a 6,800 year astronomical opportunity local stargazers won’t want to miss. Keep your eyes peeled now through July 19 for Comet NEOWISE as it makes a rare appearance that can be seen by the naked eye … but the window is closing quickly.

The three-mile wide comet began its trip near Earth on July 14. It is the first “great comet” to pass near Earth since the Hale-Bopp comet in 1997. The comet is named for the NASA mission that discovered it back in March. Its massive dust tail makes it appear as if it’s hurdling towards Earth … but don’t worry, it’s harmless.

According to local astronomer Billy Hix, the comet can be seen about an hour before sunrise or hour after sunset very low in the northern horizon.

“By July 19, it will be about two fist width (approximately 20 degrees) above the northwest horizon right after sunset. The comet is moving away from earth so it will be getting dimmer,” Hix said.

Luckily, rural areas without light pollution – like the rolling hills of Moore County – are the perfect place to view the comet. If you want to try and capture an image, use a tripod and a long exposure.

Newowise’s closest approach to Earth comes on July 22, at a distance of about 64 million miles. To view a NASA video on how to spot the comet, click here. To check out the International Space Station’s view of the one-in-a-lifetime comet, click here. •

{The Lynchburg Times is the only independently owned and operated newspaper in Lynchburg. We cover Metro Moore County government, Jack Daniel’s Distillery, Nearest Green Distillery, Tims Ford State Park, Motlow State Community College, Moore County High School, Moore County Middle School, Lynchburg Elementary, Raider Sports, plus regional and state news.}