Happy New Year on Mars! NASA rings in Red Planet year 37

A full disc view of Mars.
It's a new year on Mars as NASA rings in Year 37 on the Red Planet with its rovers and orbiters. (Image credit: NASA)

Martian fans will need to break out their New Year champagne a bit early in 2022.

The new year on Mars started today (Dec. 26), NASA said, days after the Perseverance rover set a milestone on the Red Planet by depositing two caches of material that will be used in a future sample return mission.

"No, we're not accidentally celebrating early," the NASA Mars Twitter account joked, (opens in new tab) referring to the Gregorian calendar that most of the world follows; that system's new year will click over as usual on Jan. 1. (Your tradition may have different new years, however.)

NASA and several other space agencies are roaming the surface of the Red Planet in search of signs of ancient life, which will culminate in a joint NASA-European sample return mission that could ferry regolith back in the 2030s.

Related: 12 amazing photos from the Perseverance rover's 1st year on Mars

The first Mars flyby was by Mariner 4 on July 14, 1965, but for the Red Planet new year scientists start counting from when the planet reached its northern spring equinox in 1955. "An arbitrary point to begin, but it’s useful to have a system," NASA officials wrote on Twitter.

"Numbering Mars years," they added, "helps scientists keep track of long term observations, like weather data collected by NASA spacecraft over the decades."

Since Mars is further from the sun than Earth, it takes roughly twice as long for the Red Planet to circle our sun. A Mars year is 687 days long and incidentally, the last time we rang in the new year on the Red Planet, Perseverance hadn't even landed yet. 

The car sized-rover touched down on Feb. 18, 2021, about 11 days after the last Martian new year was celebrated. Besides leaving lightsaber-shaped caches on the planet's surface, a companion helicopter called Ingenuity has already completed 37 flights and is expected to take to the skies again soon.

Elizabeth Howell is the co-author of "Why Am I Taller (opens in new tab)?" (ECW Press, 2022; with Canadian astronaut Dave Williams), a book about space medicine. Follow her on Twitter @howellspace (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or Facebook (opens in new tab).

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell, Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022. She was contributing writer for Space.com (opens in new tab) for 10 years before that, since 2012. Elizabeth's reporting includes an exclusive with Office of the Vice-President of the United States, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and (soon) a Bachelor of History from Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science since 2015. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace

  • JaniceJames111
    If Mars has been around for a long time, what is being celebrated as Red Planet year 37?
    Reply
  • billslugg
    "The first Mars flyby was by Mariner 4 on July 14, 1965, but for the Red Planet new year scientists start counting from when the planet reached its northern spring equinox in 1955. "An arbitrary point to begin, but it’s useful to have a system," NASA officials wrote on Twitter."
    Reply
  • JaniceJames111
    Thanks for the reply. I know they claim it's arbitrary, but do you think there is a reason they started counting from that year?
    Reply
  • billslugg
    Here is what I could find:

    "They picked Year 1 to correspond with the year of a global dust storm widely observed in 1956."

    Mars' Calendar | The Planetary Society
    Reply