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NJCubScouter

Mars

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As many people know by now, we have the opportunity this week to witness a once-in-a-lifetime astronomical event. Mars and the Earth are closer together right now than they will be for another 60,000 years. Anyone with a telescope, and I do not believe it even has to be a very good one, can see Mars as a disk rather than as the "bright reddish point of light" that can usually be seen. I plan to go one step further and will be taking my son tonight to our local community college, where they have a planetarium and will be setting up some really GOOD telescopes for free public viewing of this spectacle. Several other colleges around here are doing the same thing. I assume that Mars will be visible all over the country, though I guess it's possible it might "rise" in the middle of the night in some places. I don't know, I never earned the Astronomy merit badge, I just like looking at neat stuff.

 

I think this would be a good thing to do for Scouting families (and of course, any other families), as well as Cub Scouts and older boys -- at least those who have not become jaded about things like this yet. As cynical as I can seem about many things, I don't think I will ever lose my sense of wonder and curiosity about things like this.

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It's a big reddish thing, somewhere between here and Jupiter. Actually, it's more of a burnt orange, not the bright red of the background of the First Aid Merit Badge... or the red Scout symbol on the Troop Guide position patch, for that matter...

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Mars was closest at about 5amET on the 27th, but its still easy to see (what's a million miles here or there?). It will rise in the SE at around 8:00pm and climb to the South from there.

My Webelos son and I found it and watched it climb around 9pm last night. We had our telescope out, but its not powerful enough to make a difference - just looked like an even bigger bright light. :-)

 

http://www.space.com/images/030827_hubble_mars_2_02.jpg is a photo from the Hubble Telescope made at 5:51am ET when Mars was closest. http://space.com/spacewatch/where_is_mars.html has more info, maps, timetables.

 

Paul

 

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I had the opportunity this week to step out on one of the decks facing the southeastern sky, and I thought I could see Mars with the naked eye...a small star-like dot in the sky with a rather reddish tint, a long long way away. Too far to see it as anything but a red dot. So I dashed into the house to get my trusty binoculars (we were informed by the who's who of weathermen around here that one could see the planet with them rather well). And to my astonishment, there it was, in my binocular view..., a small star-like dot in the sky with a rather reddish tint, a long long way away. Too far to see it as anything but a red dot.

 

So much for the weatherman. An astronomical wizard he ain't. Perhaps he's got one of them really expensive tripod mounted binocular things.

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Last night was the first non-school night that was clear enough to get a good view. I've got a 4-inch reflecting scope which is just big enough to begin to make out some surface features. It's little mottled in color instead of being just a solid bright disk. We can't see the ice caps or anything like that.

 

A year or two ago there was a similar fly-by with Jupiter and we were able to make out the red spot. That was pretty cool.

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Yep, I got up early, around 3am, and went out to see it. Clouds. It usually happens that way for me during meteor showers as well. But that's OK, rain is good.

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