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Space Science

Mars at Opposition - Earth at Transitition 210

Posted by Hemos
from the learn-more-about-it dept.
chuckpeters writes "An astronaut friend told us about how the nuts out there seem to think that Mars is going to collide with the earth or the moon, or the gravitational forces are going to rip the earth apart or cause massive earthquakes. While in a co-workers office listening to a co-worker take a call about the possibility of such calamities, our astronaut friend yelled "Quick, duck! It's Mars"! No longer welcome in that office, he's back worshiping launch complex 39A. The true gravity of the situation is much less benign. The fact is I have never seen Mars look so bright or red as the other night, it's definitely time to gaze at the red planet. NASA isn't going to be worrying about Mars colliding with Earth, but they will be keeping a close eye on Mars. During this close approach, NASA will be inviting the public to help decide what areas on the red planet to photograph." More information below about the unique position of the red planet - take advantage of this once-in-a-3x-lifetime event.

On August 27th, Mars will be closer to Earth than in all of recorded history. The event is a rare display of orbital events in the cosmic clockwork of space. It is the chance of a lifetime for everyone to go out and see Mars and never before, and never again in our lifetimes!

The event is much more than just an opposition though because Martian oppositions occur about every 25 months.

What makes this opposition so special? This year, the Mars opposition occurs at the same time that Mars is at perihelion, which means Mars, in its orbit, is closest to the Sun and near when Earth is at aphelion (farthest point from Sun.)

At 5:51 a.m. EDT on the night of August 27, 2003, Mars will be within 34,646,418 miles (55,758,006 km) of Earth. To compare this to an earlier opposition: in 2001 when Mars was last at opposition, the red planet was more than 41 million miles (67 million km) from Earth. The most recent perihelion and opposition took place in September 1988 when Mars passed within 36.5 million miles (58.7 million km) of Earth.

When will Mars be this close to Earth again? The next, closer approach will occur on August 28, 2287 when Mars will be 34.62 million miles (55.69 million km) away. But we won't be around for that one, so you don't want to miss this close approach!

When and Where to see Mars - Best viewing is about midnight in the southern sky. One good way to find more precise viewing of Mars as well as identifying the various features, is using Xephem. We put together some tables which include local sunset times and Mars rising times for August 27th for various locations in the US, Europe, Middle East etc...

Currently Mars is moving the opposite direction from all the other planets. While the other plenets appear to be moving towards the east over time, Mars is displaying retrograde motion and moving westward.

Because Mars is so small it's difficult to see details most of the time or in small telescopes. Since Mars is going to be so much closer than usual, even a 4 inch telescope will show details not normally visible. There are also various filters you can use to enhance observing. Mars through a Telescope: Getting the Most from the Red Planet covers what equipment to use and what specific features to look for on Mars.

Although one night has been advertised as "the night" when Mars will be closest, the red planet will appear large and bright for the next few months. Mars will also be changing seasons and that means you will be able to spot changes in surface features over time. It's summer in the southern hemisphere of Mars and the south polar cap is melting rather quickly. If you observe over a period of days you will be able to see the terrain underneath the ice appear.

Go out and enjoy this cosmic show, but you needn't worry about any unexpected cosmic collisions, Mars Will Not Kill You."

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Mars at Opposition - Earth at Transitition

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  • Martians! (Score:5, Funny)

    by miknight (642270) on Monday August 25, 2003 @06:34AM (#6782800) Journal
    Finally I will be able to peer into craters that house the martians. I hope they're as attactive as Amy of Futurama...
  • well, (Score:3, Funny)

    by waitigetit (691345) on Monday August 25, 2003 @06:35AM (#6782801)
    I, for one, welcome our new Martian overlords.

    or something...
  • How many people can say they have an astronaut friend ?
  • by CGP314 (672613) <CGPNO@SPAMColinGregoryPalmer.net> on Monday August 25, 2003 @06:38AM (#6782816) Homepage
    This special event takes place because of the specific positions of Mars and Earth in their orbits.

    I love sentences like that. Mars will be the closest to Earth it's ever been, because Mars will be the closest to Earth it's ever been!
    • Re:Makes me smile. (Score:2, Informative)

      by aborchers (471342)
      You paraphrased

      This special event takes place because of the specific positions of Mars and Earth in their orbits.

      as

      Mars will be the closest to Earth it's ever been, because Mars will be the closest to Earth it's ever been.

      Am I missing something? That's not how the sentence reads to me. It says that the distance will be small because of a rare coincidence of the orbital positions of Mars and Earth, specifically Mars at perihelion and opposition simultaneously. In other words, the orbital geometry le

  • Mars? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Pig Hogger (10379) <pig.hogger@NoSpaM.gmail.com> on Monday August 25, 2003 @06:40AM (#6782820) Journal
    I hear they gonna deep-fry it in Scotland.
  • The pyramids (Score:5, Interesting)

    by shione (666388) on Monday August 25, 2003 @06:42AM (#6782831) Journal
    10bux and free beer, that most people vote for the face and pyramids. I want to see a martian looking back at me through his telescope.

    For an interesting read on the Face on Mars, I recommend the books by Graham Hancock. He doesn't actually say in his book that aliens built it or make any wild assumptions/conclusions but he does investigate it in a professional manner built solely on science and photographs and correspondence with reliable people working in NASA.
  • blackout? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Barbarian (9467) on Monday August 25, 2003 @06:42AM (#6782832)
    Another blackout would be nice about now.
    • Re:blackout? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by the uNF cola (657200)
      You know, that is a little insensitive.

      Yeah, too bad all the people on emergency/medical devices, up 42nd floor ofices, in our 90degree weather or 15 miles from home w/o a subway would be screwed.

      Not to mention people IN electrically driven devices when the power dies, such as elevators, rollercoasters, subways.. /end rant
      • You know, that is a little insensitive.

        So ignore it.

        Personally, I thought it was funny.
    • I was riding home last night and I pulled off at a clearing. Not a drop of light polution for 5 miles, and only about 20,000 people within 50 miles. Beautiful view of the entire sky. I just lay there, looking up for about 10 minutes, until a car past and stopped to see if I was ok!

      Someitmes living in a backwater has its advantages.
    • Re:blackout? (Score:1, Redundant)

      by Typingsux (65623)
      How is this modded to interesting when it's ignorant?

      The parent post would apply if you desired to view dim astronomical objects. You can see the moon and planets from the deepest urban center since they're so bright.

  • Retrograde motion (Score:5, Informative)

    by Capt'n Hector (650760) on Monday August 25, 2003 @06:43AM (#6782837)
    Just to clear something up in the post, retrograde motion won't affect viewing at all. In fact, the only way someone could detect retrograde motion would be to take very precise measurements over a few days. It's not as if mars or any other planet moves opposite the stars on any given night. But this is slashdot, you all knew that.
  • by putaro (235078) on Monday August 25, 2003 @06:44AM (#6782838) Journal
    Crap, that means I have to junk the giant ski jump and space craft I've been building in the backyard. At least I had the satisfaction of putting together my list of who gets to go and who gets to stay behind.
  • Richard Hoagland's followers spamming scientists to "please focus on the Cydonia area."
  • by Glytch (4881) on Monday August 25, 2003 @06:46AM (#6782846)
    On a whim, I pointed my cheap 2 megapixel/no optical zoom digital camera towards Mars, and I was astonished to find that I could actually make out the disc of the planet. I'm hoping I can pay off my layaway for a 3MP/10x optical camera before Mars gets too far away.
    • by planet_hoth (3049) on Monday August 25, 2003 @07:39AM (#6783086)
      If you weren't using a telephoto lens or a telescope or something else to magnify the image, then it probably wasn't the actual disc you were resolving. It was probably just the excess light from Mars "bleeding" onto adjacent detectors on the surface of the camera's CCD. Or maybe the camera had trouble focusing?

      For comparison, I have a 2 megapixel camera with 3x optical zoom, and when I hook it up to my 3.5" newtonian telescope, the disc is still tiny. You really need a telescope or a serious telephoto lens to be able to resolve the disc.
      • Well, with my optura pi, at about 5x, Jupiter would start showing as a disc, so it could have been.

        Still doesn't look as nice as my 10" scope which was nowhere as nice as a friends 14" with the filters, $200 EP, etc...
      • Dawes' limit for resolution (separation of two point light sources) is:

        theta = 115.8 / D

        Where theta is the resolvable angle in seconds of arc and D is the objective lens diameter in millimetres.

        At its closest, Mars' angular size will be a hair more than a giant 25". If your camera lens is more than five millimetres in diameter (probable), then you might be able to begin making claims about seeing a non-point. Mind, you've also got to have very good optics to claim diffraction-limited resolution.

        St

  • by DrXym (126579) on Monday August 25, 2003 @06:52AM (#6782866)
    Click here [badastronomy.com] to see how much gravitational effect Mars will have. Basically, a neglible amount.


    I bet that won't stop the wackos getting worked up into a lather. After all, astrologers and their ilk have never let facts, figures or even reality get in the way before now, so it's doubtful they'll start any time soon.

    • What, a bad astronomy site with no Velikovsky [knowledge.co.uk] links? Velikovsky was a famous crank who believed that many important historical events can be explained by near collisions with Mars and Venus. For example, when Moses led his people out of Egypt, one of the ten plagues was that the rivers ran red with blood. Naturally, Velikovsky argued that this was actually Mars dust. He became famous partly because Einstein actually bothered to reply to his letters.

      -a
      • Oh I'm sure it mentions him somewhere in the bit debunking another bunch of wackos [badastronomy.com] who believe that Planet X was due to go past the earth a few months back. Needless to say it didn't!


        It has to be said that Velikovsky was so completely wrong that it's a wonder anyone can quote him and keep a straight face!

  • Martians are here and its time for some Independence Day stuff!!!! Lets have a look at the one eyed, long eared martians(from now on, people will get to know how the real martians look).
  • Look carefully.. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by adeyadey (678765)

    If your eyesight is good you can see this.. [msss.com]

  • Close? (Score:5, Informative)

    by LooseChanj (17865) on Monday August 25, 2003 @07:01AM (#6782894) Homepage
    This approach will be only 12,000 miles closer than one in 1924.

    It's nice to see people taking an interest, but c'mon...Viking [nasa.gov] took better pictures.

    • Re:Close? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by MrPink2U (633607)

      Yes, Viking did take very nice pictures. The pictures show more detail than I could ever dream of seeing with my naked eye.

      BUT looking at a picture is nothing like looking at it with my own eye(s).

    • Have you ever looked at Mars through a telescope from unclouded rural skies? It's breathtaking. The fact that you can clearly see the surface of the planet as well as you can is amazing. It being this close is a pretty cool thing to any astronomer. Granted Voyager did take some great shots of the planet's surface, but I like looking at things with my own eyes.
  • Let's see now. Ogilvy states that "The chances of anything coming from Mars are a million to one..."

    Terry Pratchett would have us believe (in Guards! Guards!) that events where the chance of something happening are EXACTLY a million to one, are guaranteed to happen ("It's a million to one chance, but it might just work!")

    Put those two together and ...

    If you see any large weird cylinders lying on the ground which look to be really, really hot ... don't try to open them! :)
  • by Nice2Cats (557310) on Monday August 25, 2003 @07:07AM (#6782923)
    ...to see at least one feature: The ice cap at the (uh) South Pole. I have a rather inexpensive, no-name type that my wife bought me on sale -- no frills like counterweights or what the real ones have, and it shakes like crazy when you try to focus -- but after spending about half an hour fumbling along in the darkness at three in the morning, there it was. Beautiful.

    One poster mentioned software for star gazing. Go with kstars [kde.org] by Jason Harris et al. Cool graphics, neat features, and the next version will control your telescope for you (if your telescope supports this, of course, unless your computer has SkyNet support). Part of the KDE desktop.

    What fooling around with telescopes has taught me is how unbelievably limited our general education is. Consider yourself well educated? Well then. Go out and look up at the Moon tonight -- you've seen it hundreds, thousands of times, right? Now name the features. Which is the Sea of Tranquility? Where is Tycho (now that is really easy)? Even worse are the stars: Yes, you can find the Polar Star (Australians and Neu Zealanders are excused), but then? Name ten stars, any ten stars.

    If you are anything like me, you know the different classes of Quake II monsters better than the Moon. Somewhere, somehow, that bothers me; but then maybe I've just been staying up too late at night...

    • by Anonymous Coward
      If you are anything like me, you know the different classes of Quake II monsters better than the Moon. Somewhere, somehow, that bothers me; but then maybe I've just been staying up too late at night...

      Your post is a serious one. We should all stop and ponder what you've written here and consider it prior to loading up our next favorite game of the moment, and consider how our time may be better spent. Sure, a lot of us are getting fatter as a result of sitting around most of our lives, but we're also gro
      • I wouldn't say a person who knows Quake II monsters is "dumber" than someone who knows moon features, but he's certainly more detached from the physical world.

        That's not necessarily a bad thing -- the Quake II stuff could be described (at a stretch) as part of the "human" or "social" world rather than the "natural" world, and if you believe many modern biologists, the human world has been more important to each of us than the natural world has for a very long time.

        Nevertheless, in a romantic way, if nothi

    • Acrux, Alcor, Zeta Ursa Major, Alcyone, Alya (double star), Antares, Izar, Menkent, Polaris, Pollux, Prima and Secunda Giedi, Sadr, Vega. More than 10 :D.

      [shameless plug] If you're curious to see how they look like, go here: Some pictures of deep space objects [avrincianu.as.ro] [/shameless plug]

      But I think you are right. The level of general education decreases over time. People read less (I know people that don't remember when was the last time they opened a non-techhie book). They use odd source of information and be
    • no you dont need a great telescope but it make a HUGE difference if you have a telescope with decent optics.

      The funny part is that most people spend about $300.00 - $400.00 on a piece of crap department store or camera shop telescope while something that will amaze them but doesn't have useless things like gear drives and other electronics is available for around the same price.

      a Dobsonian telescope with a 6 inch aperature from Orion telescopes is about $350.00

      an 8 inch version will take your breath away
      • Have you tried doing astrophotography with your Dob? If you're into that, the autoguided SCT's are much better. And you don't need the instant brightness as the film/ccd keeps accumulating photons over time.

        THough it is funny watching the alignment people. I've seen people spend so much time getting it aligned that when they punch in something, the battery is already dead. And even though they can manually move it, they have no clue how to find anything because the computer does it all for them.
        • Yes I have, the great part is on a 16 inch DOb I used I needed a 10th the exposure time and produced an awesome horsehead nebulae photo that the other guys can never get.

          I use a simple flat/really really low table to set my dob on and it has a electric clock motor to do the work for me... I built it from a back issue of Sky and Scope with a handful of parts and less than 60 bucks spent. the AC version is easier, so I simply use a car battery (or the car it's self) and an inverter to get 60hz 120VAC to run
    • [...] and the next version will control your telescope for you (if your telescope supports this, of course, unless your computer has SkyNet support).

      D'oh! So that's how it starts! Robotic telescopes will someday evolve to take over and destroy us all!

      Quick! Lets burn down the observatory so this never happens!

    • I don't think it's that big of a deal in an age where I could find the names of the lunar features (or most other sets of raw facts) in 45 seconds on google instead of spending half an hour on a trip to the local library. Being well-educated today means being taught processes, like calculus (which I got in high school).
  • by hndrcks (39873) on Monday August 25, 2003 @07:11AM (#6782942) Homepage
    For those of you who viewed the last good opposition a few years back, you may remember the dust storms that kicked up and obscured just about all surface features. The dust storms are all too common this time of 'year' on Mars, but they seem to be holding off. I got a great view of Syrtis Major and the southern polar cap last week.

    Of course, after you drag the scope outside and view Mars, point that thing a little further north and west and catch Uranus and Neptune too! (Ok, hold the jokes about our seventh planet.)

  • Didn't Terry Pratchett already write about that strange red light [harpercollins.com] being another "planet" on a collision with "Earth"? Now that would be a spectacle to witness...

  • sorry (Score:1, Informative)

    by jtroutman (121577)

    Just to be a pedant:
    The true gravity of the situation is much less benign.
    This means it's worse than it seems, kind of like a double negative. Less benign = more malignant...
    But view of Mars really is cool right now, I've been shooting it with a friends 8" telescope and getting some great photos.

  • by JonTurner (178845) on Monday August 25, 2003 @07:35AM (#6783066) Journal
    "NASA will be inviting the public to help decide what areas on the red planet to photograph."

    Why? NASA asking the public for advice about planetary exploration is like, well, Nerds asking Slashdot for relationship advice.
    • NASA asking the public for advice about planetary exploration is like, well, Nerds asking Slashdot for relationship advice.

      Not even close. It's more like NBA forwards asking Slashdot for relationship advice.
    • Why? Isn't the answer to that obvious? Because the public pays for NASA, the public and their attitude towards space exploration is a lever they can use to move Congress, and considering the waste of decades projects like the space station have turned into, they need all the public support they can get.
  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Monday August 25, 2003 @07:44AM (#6783113) Homepage
    Oh, come on. Mars is in opposition every couple of years. Does anyone think it will look THAT much bigger and brighter subtending 25.1 seconds this year than it did in Jun 2001 subtending 20.5 seconds?

    And if you do care about sitting in the front row of the theatre instead of two rows back, well, Mars is in opposition near the point where the two orbits are closest every 15 or 16 years or so. In August of 1971 it subtended 24.8 seconds of arc.

    This once-in-60000-years or whatever is a silly technicality. There will be one magic bit of time lasting--how long?--when it will set the Guinness record for closest approach in umpty-thousand years but your view of it will depend a lot more on the weather and the local street lighting and whether your neighbor's tree is in the way.

    It's a great time to look up and see Mars looking so nice bright and red. Or, at least, distinctly orangish to a middle-aged eyeball who can barely detect a difference in color between Vega and Arcturus. And if you have any kind of telescope, you really should run out to your nearest schoolyard and point it at that bright orangy star in the southeast.

    But almost equally good opportunities occur every couple of years.

    "Have you heard/About the stars/Next July we collide with Mars/Well, did you evah?/What a swell party this is!"--Cole Porter
    • Does anyone think it will look THAT much bigger and brighter subtending 25.1 seconds this year than it did in Jun 2001 subtending 20.5 seconds?

      Yes. Isn't that a huge difference... about 50% change in area for a disk? Yes it should look a lot bigger and brighter. Imagine if your monitor just got 25% wider and taller.

      And it may be a once-in-a-lifetime chance... the weather here (on the east coast usa) is unusually clear right now, and so's the weather on mars, apparently. That's really great luck, with mar
    • I don't care if it's overhyped or not, it's enough for me to get up off my behind and get out and enjoy the world.

      I'm privileged enough to come from a 1st world country where it is still possible to escape the city lights and see the stars properly - which is something I reckon the vast majority of slashdotters would not have experienced.

      When I read about a celestial event on /. I actually take note. That Leonid shower I got inspired at 10:30 at night rang up my friends and we got together, drove for an
    • by spaceyhackerlady (462530) on Monday August 25, 2003 @11:20AM (#6784751)
      Oh, come on. Mars is in opposition every couple of years. Does anyone think it will look THAT much bigger and brighter subtending 25.1 seconds this year than it did in Jun 2001 subtending 20.5 seconds?

      Something I've pointed out many times is that while Mars is indeed closer than it was for the 2001 opposition, and, yes, marginally closer than it has been in a very long time, the view isn't all that hot for us Northern folks, because it's quite low in the sky, down in Aquarius. The last opposition was worse, even before the dust storms.

      While Mars won't be quite as big at the next (2005) opposition, it will be much higher in the sky (Aries), and the view won't be as badly compromised by the atmosphere. I'll be ready.

      I saw a report on the local news last night that originated with CNN. The illustrations were all Hubble pictures. I wish they would, once in a while, use pictures more representative of what you would actually see looking through a telescope. If I had a penny for every time somebody had looked through my telescope (a 5" Synta refractor), sniffed, and said "Is that it?"...

      ...laura

      • The difference between 2001 and 2003 is actually quite striking. I'm seeing much more detail, partly because of the larger size, but also because Mars is higher in the sky, so the air is more steady.

        The number one mistake most beginning Mars observers make is to not really look. A 30 second glance isn't enough. A five minute watch is better - that at least five actual minutes of eye against the eyepiece. Only watching for a long period of time will you see those moments of very good seeing (steadiness

    • This once-in-60000-years or whatever is a silly technicality.

      So was the clock rolling over to 2000 three years back. Even though it was an artifact of the dating system, and didn't actually signify a millenium in that system, people were still out partying. We like marking biggests, bests, and firsts.

      I think anything that gets people looking up at the sky is a good thing. Maybe a sense of wonder needs a kick-start in some people. If the hype surrounding this particular opposition convinces people to
  • by kfort (1132)
    Given the state of science and biology in particular. It is entirely possible and perhaps even likely that if the human race is not extinct by then , a large number of us will still be alive. If I live to 50 I will see 500. That is why I live so recklessly.
  • Take a Moment... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by intrinsicchaos (652706) on Monday August 25, 2003 @07:53AM (#6783157)
    All funny comments aside, it's quite a magical experience to just look up in the sky and see the Red Planet shining there. Bathed in marslight, it's a nice reminder of just how our lives and civilization itself pales into insignificance when compared with the slow but steady motions of the heavenly skies. Beautiful moment, so take off 5 minutes every night or so to stand outside and look upwards towards the stars. Nothing like it. By the way, I saw a shooting star a few days ago in the northwest sky, anyone know what's up with that?
    • Meteors occur all the time.

      I think I remember reading a while ago that on any average dark night there will be about one meteor per minute or two that should be visible to the naked eye.
    • Beautiful moment, so take off 5 minutes every night or so to stand outside and look upwards towards the stars. Nothing like it.

      Yup, when I look up toward the stars from my Tokyo apartment, nothing is a pretty good description of what I see.

      Any of you New York guys think you could send a blackout this way?

  • Mars would have to be about 5 feet away for me to spot it with all the artificle light where I live in Tokyo.

    When asked where I want to go for my vacation coming up, all I can say is, "Somewhere away from the city where I can see the night sky."
    • No, no, NO! Give it a try. I've been able to see Mars just about everywhere... most recently in the parking lot of Crescent Ridge Dairy in Sharon, MA, the salient point being that the parking lot is FULL of extremely bright security lights. When you look up, you can just barely see Vega... but you can see Mars easily.

      I've seen Mars from our bathroom window, with the dirty glass pane and the screen in place, on a night which was distinctly hazy, despite the lights from the neighbors house and a streetligh
    • Come to Alaska!

      I looked out my bedroom window the other day and, having never seen Mars so bright and large, thought it must be an aircraft doing something weird. Except after a bit, I noticed it wasn't moving. It's pretty low in the sky, but we don't have any factories, billboards, and few cars or cities, so the pollution is very low.

      Fortunately it's starting to get dark around 10 or 11 p.m. now, and just the other night I got both Mars and the Northern Lights in one show.

      If you ever come up in the wint

  • Earthquakes (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 25, 2003 @08:59AM (#6783591)
    "An astronaut friend told us about how the nuts out there seem to think that Mars is going to collide with the earth or the moon, or the gravitational forces are going to rip the earth apart or cause massive earthquakes."


    We had a 7.2 earthquake here in southern New Zealand four days ago -- I need no further proof that mars is trying to kill us all.

    [nzherald.co.nz]
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/storydisplay.cfm?story ID =3519390&thesection=news&thesubsection=general
  • by Aspasia13 (700702) on Monday August 25, 2003 @09:01AM (#6783603)
    Why does Mars always have to keep opposing us? Can't we all just get along?
  • Well I'd really like to see if that face carved out the mountain is Elvis or not!
  • by n0mad6 (668307)
    ...at a packing store mid last week man (at counter): Its really hot out there today. woman (customer): Yes, it really is! man: I heard that its because Mars is so close to Earth these days woman: oh, really? man: yeah, you know, because the sky...its really big... witness could bear to hear no more at this point.
  • as IIRC Asimov put it.
  • by MrEd (60684)
    The true gravity of the situation is much less benign.


    Don't you mean more benign? Or is mars' gravity going to suck the blood up from my feet?


    Oh, and that's a very bad pun.

  • We try to do the community outreach stuff. We hold observings at schools and stuff.

    Everyone that has approached us seems to think that they must view Mars on the 27th...as if it's gonna be so much closer than on the 28th or Sept, etc... It's really pushing the limits of our very good natured "P.R." guy.

    But it did look nice the other night...much better than last year.
  • ...if i could actually SEE Mars when i go outside.. grrrr
  • This seems like a golden opportunity if we as a collective planet had our $hit together and wanted to launch a manned mission to Mars. This is the single point in human history when we could most benefit (in travel time reduction) from launching a mission or at least a probe of some sort. Granted, the difference between the proximity of Mars now and another point of opposition may only vary by 1% or so, but that 1% distance reduction would allow for more gear/less fuel/less travel time.
    • Optimal launch time for a mars mission would be the speed of the rocket divided by the distance between us and mars. Take that number and make it that number of days AGO.

      You wouldn't want to launch for mars NOW, it'll be moving AWAY by the time you get to it. You want to launch for mars three months AGO so you're there NOW. When it's closest.

      Less fuel on the way out, or something.
  • by xihr (556141)
    Tranisititititition?
  • the gravitational forces are going to rip the earth apart or cause massive earthquakes.

    Sounds more like the handiwork of Ming the Merciless.

  • A couple of nights ago, I broke out the 8" SCT to look at Mars. After reading about this being its closest, and brightest, approach in a long, long, time, I figured there might be a few details visible.

    Boy, was I wrong. It was big. It was really stinking bright (destroyed my night adaptation). It was a big, bright, orange/red blob. No details. There might have been a slight bit that was darker than the rest. That was it.

    Now, granted, I don't spend much time viewing the planets. Jupiter and its moons, and
  • what Richard Hoagland has to say about it.

    Probably thinks the neo-Nazi conspiracy to destroy us all and fly off to Mars in the UFOs will come to fruition this year.

    Actually, I hope he's right. I'd love to see the ruling elite leave Earth forever - although I'd prefer in body bags.

    (For those of you who don't know who he is, think "Art Bell permanent guest".)

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