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With three countries sending missions to Mars in 2021, including the first Mars helicopter, there is new interest in the red planet. What do we know, and what do we hope to learn, about this alien world next-door? Andrew Fraknoi will discuss the discoveries that revealed ancient Mars as a world much like the Earth, with lakes, rivers, and possibly the stirrings of life. Although Mars today is very different, since the small planet lost much of its atmosphere, we nevertheless hope to find evidence of past life – and a second genesis – on its sandy surface. Using beautiful color images from the latest space probes, Fraknoi will show us the beauty of Mars and how new probes are exploring it. No background in science is required.
Andrew Fraknoi retired in 2017 as the Chair of the Astronomy Department at Foothill College, and now teaches non-credit astronomy courses for older adults at the OLLI program at SF State and The Fromm Institute at the University of San Francisco. Fraknoi has appeared regularly on local and national radio, explaining astronomical developments in everyday language, and was the California Professor of the Year in 2007. He is the lead author of a free, on-line, college astronomy textbook (Astronomy from OpenStax) and a children's book, When the Sun Goes Dark. He also writes science fiction and has had three stories published in the last few years. The International Astronomical Union has named Asteroid 4859 Asteroid Fraknoi to honor his contributions to the public understanding of science. See: fraknoi.com for more about his work.