Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Destination Mars

We've enjoyed the NASA launches and have spent more time looking up into the night sky lately. August is a great month to look up. I hear they have great star parties down here in Florida. Beaches and stars go well together.

NASA just completed a successful launch headed for Mars, but those of us earth-bound are lucky -- Mars is getting closer. Each day the earth is catching up with the red planet. By August 27th, Mars will be the closest to Earth than any time in the past 60,000 years.

On the 27th around midnight, Mars will appear bright and beautiful, but not as big or impressive as the Earth's moon. If you're awake and looking in the right direction -- you will see two orbs in the night sky or early morning sky, depending on how you look at it. According t
o Robert Roy Britt, Mars will be in opposition only 34.65 million miles (55.76 million kilometers) away.

Opposition, I just learned, means that the sun, Mars and Earth will all line up with Mars and Earth on the same side of the sun.

Backyard astronomers should be able to see some detail on the red planet. This happens about every 26 months, but this year Mars is exceptionally close.

The Perseid Meteor Showers, an annual display of 'falling stars' was seen on the 12th (sorry you missed it) and lasted for five nights. According to Jim Christopherson,
"The next best years for the Perseid meteors will be in 2010 and 2013, when again there will be no bright moon."
Never fear, according to Mr. Christopherson, the next meteor shower will be best seen on September 1, just before dawn. The Aurgid Meteor Shower, sadly will only be visible from Hawaii and the West Coast, but keep looking up. You never know what is going on in the skies.

I never fail to be awed and amazed at the beauty above our heads.

No comments: