Skip to content
Science, Maths & Technology
  • Video

OpenLearn Live: 25th November 2016

Updated Friday, 25th November 2016

Autumn on Mars; quantum computing; children caring for parents with Parkinsons. Learning and research from across the day.

This page was published over five years ago. Please be aware that due to the passage of time, the information provided on this page may be out of date or otherwise inaccurate, and any views or opinions expressed may no longer be relevant. Some technical elements such as audio-visual and interactive media may no longer work. For more detail, see our Archive and Deletion Policy

OpenLearn Live sifts some of the gems from online learning and research. This page will be updated across the day.

Yesterday we celebrated a painter's birthday, asked why so many mattress businesses have started up and marked William Webb-Ellis' birthday

On this day last year, it was the Autumn Statement, estuauries in Ireland and the sex life of Christmas trees

See the complete collection of OpenLearn Live

Today's posts

Children caring for parents with Parkinsons

As people have children later in life, there's a related rise in the number of schoolchildren who have a relative at home who has Parkinsons Disease. Plymouth University has produced a short video for teachers on how they can spot, and support, students who are coping with caring:


On OpenLearn Create: Understanding Parkinsons for health care staff

Quantum computing leaps forward

The University of Sussex have made what they feel is a major breakthrough on building the next generation of computers:

Get to grips with Superconductivity

Autumn statements: Autumn on Mars

This week, we've been starting up each day with a look at autumn. Here's the week to date:

For the last segment, we're leaving Earth behind, and heading off to Mars for a Martian autumn. Yes, there are seasons in space.

Curiosity Mars takes an autumn trip Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS Curiosity takes a trip across Mars in the autumn

Here's a description of Curiosity's Autumnal ramble from NASA's JPL website:

This view shows the path and some key places in a survey of the "Pahrump Hills" outcrop by NASA's Curiosity Mars rover in autumn of 2014. The outcrop is at the base of Mount Sharp within Gale Crater.

The mission's in-place investigation of the layered mountain began at the low edge of the Pahrump Hills outcrop, at the target "Confidence Hills." Curiosity collected a drilled sample of rock powder at that target in September 2014 and delivered portions of the powder into analytical instruments inside the rover. Then the mission began a "walkabout" of the outcrop, similar to the way field geologists on Earth walk across an outcrop to choose the best places on it to examine in detail. The dashed gold line indicates the path the rover drove during the walkabout. Names are shown for a few of the features visited and observed by the rover. Red dots indicate stops at the end of a day's drive. White dots indicate locations of stops made during the drives to collect observations of the Pahrump Hills outcrop. The mission completed the walkabout at the site labeled "Whale Rock," and the team is now examining the observations acquired during the walkabout to decide where to return for more detailed analysis.

How do you know when it's Autumn on Mars, though?

Mars has two different lengths of day, which makes things slightly more confusing - there are sidereal days, which are based on how long it takes Mars to spin round to get the stars back into the same relative position. That day is 24 hours, 37 minutes long. There's also a solar day, which measures the length of time it takes for the Sun to appear, relatively, in the same place as the sky. That day is 24 hours, 39 minutes long.

And the orbit of Mars around the Sun is much longer - a Martian year is 687 days long.

It's the Sun that drives the Martian calendar. The elevation of the Sun in the sky is used to carve the Martian year into seasons. The Planetary Society explains:

The way that scientists mark the time of Mars year is to use solar longitude, abbreviated Ls (read "ell sub ess"). Ls is 0° at the vernal equinox (beginning of northern spring), 90° at summer solstice, 180° at autumnal equinox, and 270° at winter solstice.

Because of the differential in year length, the Martian seasons don't map onto Earth seasons - but Mars, like Earth, is currently in Autumn. Only until the end of the weekend, though - Monday is Mars' Winter Solstice.

Space Science at The Open University

OpenLearn on Mars





Related content (tags)

Copyright information

For further information, take a look at our frequently asked questions which may give you the support you need.

Have a question?