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January 8, 2007

Cornell astronomer presents free public seminar featuring photos from NASA's Mars rovers on Jan. 10

A free public seminar featuring photos from NASA's Mars rovers will be presented by Jim Bell, professor of astronomy at Cornell University, on Wednesday, January 10. Sponsored by the Center for the Origin, Dynamics and Evolution of Planets at UC Santa Cruz, the event will take place at 7 p.m. at the University Inn and Conference Center, 611 Ocean Street, in Santa Cruz.

In his presentation, "Postcards from Mars: Three Years of Roving on the Red Planet," Bell will share his favorite Mars photos and stories from inside mission operations. He will also describe the major scientific findings made by the rovers during their adventures.

NASA successfully landed the twin rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, on Mars in January 2004, in the most ambitious mission of robotic exploration ever attempted. Each rover is outfitted as a robot field geologist with an impressive array of scientific instruments -- cameras, spectrometers, and other sensors -- designed to investigate the composition and geologic history of two distinctly different landing sites. The sites were chosen because of their potential to reveal clues about the past history of water and climate on Mars, and thus to provide tests of the hypothesis that the planet may once have been an abode for life. Bell is the lead scientist responsible for the rovers' color imaging system, called Pancam.

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