Mars Exploration News  





. Mars Looms Big And Bright As It Swings Close To Earth

Mars on October 1718, 2005, as recorded by Sky & Telescope assistant editor Sean Walker. Note the dark markings across the disk, the tiny remains of the South Polar Cap at the bottom, and the hazy, bluish North Polar Hood of clouds at the top. Walker used a webcam on a 7-inch telescope to create this view. Click here to download a publication-quality version (59-kilobyte JPEG) by anonymous FTP. Photo by Sean Walker, courtesy Sky & Telescope.

Cambridge MA (SPX) Oct 19, 2005
Look east late these evenings and you'll see a big, fiery yellow "star" shining much brighter than any other. This is the planet Mars, and it's passing unusually close to Earth during late October and early November 2005.

Anyone can see it - no matter how little you know about the stars or how badly light-polluted your sky may be.

During mid- to late October, look for Mars glaring low in the east after 8 p. m. local daylight-saving time. In November, it's there in view as early as 6 p.m. standard time. Later in the evening, Mars climbs higher into better view and shifts over to the southeast. There's nothing else nearly as bright that you can confuse it with.

Mars will be its closest to Earth on the night of October 29 - passing 43.1 million miles (69.4 million kilometers) from our planet around 11:25 p.m. on the 29th Eastern Daylight Time. However, Mars will look just about as big and brilliant for a couple of weeks before and after that date.

Mars is at opposition (opposite the Sun in our sky) on November 7th. This means it rises at sunset, is up all night, and sets at sunrise.

This is the nearest that Mars has come since its record-breaking close approach in August 2003. At that time it passed by at a distance of only 34. 7 million miles (55.8 million kilometers), the closest it had come in nearly 60,000 years. But for amateur telescope users, now is still a very special time.

The planet will reach an apparent diameter of 20.2 arcseconds (the angular size of a penny seen at a distance of 620 feet), offering an usually detailed view of its surface. That compares with 25.1 arcseconds in August 2003 (the angular size of a penny at 500 feet), and only 15.9 arcseconds at Mars's next swing-by, in December 2007 (a penny at 800 feet).

In fact, not until the summer of 2018 will Mars again come as close to Earth as it is right now (this statement remains true until mid-November).

Moreover, this year skywatchers at the latitudes of North America and Europe have a big advantage they didn't have in 2003. That year Mars was far south in the sky and never got very high for telescope users at mid-northern latitudes. But this time Mars is farther north and rises higher during the night, affording a sharper, cleaner view in a telescope through Earth's blurry atmosphere.

Telescope Tips

Good as this fall's showing is, surface details on Mars are always a pretty tough target in a telescope. To begin with, Mars is only about half the size of Earth. Even at its closest, under high magnification it will appear as only a surprisingly small, bright ball with some subtle dark markings, possible white clouds around its edges, and perhaps a tiny remnant of the white South Polar Cap shrunken in the warmth of the Martian summer.

The brightest yellow areas are deserts covered by fine, windblown dust. The darker markings are terrain displaying more areas of bare rock or darker sand and dust. Mars rotates in a little more than 24 hours, so you can see it turning in just an hour or two of watching.

To see much detail on Mars, several things all have to be working in your favor. You'll need at least a moderately large telescope with high-quality optics. (For the lowdown on how to select a telescope wisely, see Sky & Telescope's article "Choosing Your First Telescope," located on our Web site at http://SkyandTelescope.com/howto/scopes/article_241_1.asp)

And you'll need to wait until Mars rises high in the sky, well above the thick, murky layers of Earth's atmosphere near the horizon.

Moreover, the atmospheric "seeing" must be good. This is the astronomer's term for the constant fuzzing and shimmering of highly magnified telescopic images due to the tiny heat waves that are always rippling through the atmosphere. The seeing changes from night to night and sometimes from moment to moment.

More about Mars and its unusual close approach appears in the September issue of Sky & Telescope and in the November/December 2005 issue of Night Sky, our new bimonthly magazine for beginners.

Community
Email This Article
Comment On This Article

Related Links
SpaceDaily
Search SpaceDaily
Subscribe To SpaceDaily Express
Mars News and Information at MarsDaily.com
Lunar Dreams and more




Tempur-Pedic Mattress Comparison

Newsletters :: SpaceDaily Express :: SpaceWar Express :: TerraDaily Express :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News
Spirit Heading To 'Home Plate'
Pasadena CA (JPL) Jan 09, 2006
Last week Spirit completed robotic-arm work on "El Dorado." The rover used all three of its spectrometers plus the microscopic imager for readings over the New Year's weekend.

.
Get Our Free Newsletters Via Email
  



  • NASA plans to send new robot to Jupiter
  • Los Alamos Hopes To Lead New Era Of Nuclear Space Tranportion With Jovian Mission
  • Boeing Selects Leader for Nuclear Space Systems Program
  • Boeing-Led Team to Study Nuclear-Powered Space Systems

  • Ball State Students Developing Model Of Edible Lunar Vehicle
  • Britain Should Put Astronauts On Moon, Mars: Astronomical Society
  • The Da Vinci Glow
  • NASA Selects Team To Build Lunar Lander

  • Tokyo Shortly To Decide On Participation In Russian Kliper Project
  • 'Star Trek' Actor's Remains To Be Blasted Into Space With Fans' Tributes
  • Northrop Grumman-Boeing Team Unveils Plans For Space Shuttle Successor
  • NASA's Centennial Challenges Collaborates With Foundation

  • New Horizons Pluto Payload Ready For Flight, Exciting Science Campaign
  • The PI's Perspective: Changes in Latitude
  • Tenth Planet Has A Moon
  • New Class of Satellites Discovered As Moon Discovered Orbiting 10th Planet

  • Computer Simulation Suggests Mechanisms The Drive Jovian Jet Streams
  • The Lure Of Europa
  • NASA Selects New Frontiers Mission Concept Study
  • Icy Jupiter Moon Throws A Curve Ball At Formation Theories



  • Cassini-Huygens Mission Celebrates Anniversary
  • Dione In Full View - False Color
  • Cassini's Visit To Dione
  • Titan's Enigmatic Infrared-Bright Spot Is Surface Make-Up

  • Harnessing Flea Power To Create Near-Perfect Rubber
  • For the First Time, A Five-Fold Bond
  • Gravity Probe-B Data Collection Ends: Was Einstein Correct?
  • 25th SFGC Meeting Opens In Beijing

  • The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2006 - SpaceDaily.AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA PortalReports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additionalcopyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by SpaceDaily on any Web page published or hosted by SpaceDaily. Privacy Statement