Here is Mars in real time.
The The European Space Agency is streaming on YouTube First direct images directly from Mars.
The event celebrates the 20th anniversary of the launch of the agency’s Mars Express Orbiter — a mission to take three-dimensional images of the planet’s surface even more completely.
“Typically, we look at images from Mars and know they were taken a few days ago,” said James Godfrey, the spacecraft’s operations manager. ESA’s mission control center in Darmstadt, Germany, in a statement. “I’m excited to see Mars as it is now – as close as we can get to a Mars ‘now’!”
But haven’t we seen pictures of Mars before? Yes, but not living, the ESA said.
Data and observations of the Red Planet are often taken when a spacecraft is not in direct contact with Earth, so the images are stored until they are sent back, ESA said.
Depending on where Mars and Earth are around the Sun, messages traveling through space can take anywhere from 3 to 22 minutes.
ESA estimates that it takes about 17 minutes for the light needed to make the images to travel directly from Mars to Earth, and then another minute to travel through wires and servers on the ground to start the livestream, the agency said.
During the event on June 2, 2023, ESA shared the closest images to life that are physically possible. The images returned to Earth with a delay of about 16 minutes, or about how long it takes for information to travel between Mars and Earth.
“Note, we have never tried anything like this before, so the exact travel time for signals on the ground remains a little uncertain,” the company said in a statement.
ESA’s project scientist Colin Wilson noted that Mars is so bright that no stars are visible in the background of the images.
“The closer you are to it, the brighter it is,” Wilson noted, and it obscures the surrounding stars at this particular angle at which the spacecraft takes pictures.
But if you’re on the Mars Express spacecraft, you can see much of the universe, Wilson added. “This is really key to how the Mars Express travels,” he said. The spacecraft uses a chartplot and imaging of its stars to orient itself through space, the same way humans navigated the oceans centuries ago.
For some time, transmissions from Mars were interrupted, ESA scientists noted, as a ground station near Madrid experienced bad weather.
As the Mars Express spacecraft flew past the planet, Mars appeared to move across the frame of the live stream. Since Mars was at night any time half of Earth was in darkness, the backside of the planet was also shadowed.