Mars attacks!

Just in time for the release of John Carter of Mars!

From Space.com:

Mars Has Close Encounter With Earth Tonight
By Tariq Malik, SPACE.com

The planet Mars will make its closest swing by Earth in more than two years tonight (March 5), just days after reaching a celestial milestone called “opposition” as it circles the sun.
Tonight, the orbit of Mars will bring the Red Planet within about 63 million miles (112 million kilometers) of Earth. At this time, Mars is closer to Earth than at any other point of its 26-month journey around the sun.
If your weather is clear, you may see Mars shining bright in the eastern sky as a brilliant reddish-orange “star.” The sky map of Mars for this story shows how it will appear in the evening sky tonight.
The Red Planet’s closest approach to Earth comes just two days after Mars reached opposition, the point in its orbit where it appears exactly opposite the sun as seen from Earth. Mars hit opposition on Saturday (March 3), which the online skywatching website broadcast live with free telescope views.
“We’re focusing on Mars because this is the week when it’s brightest,” astronomer Bob Berman of Astronomy Magazine said during the webcast.
Through the Slooh space camera, which provided a view of Mars through telescopes at observatories in Arizona and the Canary Islands, the Red Planet’s full disk could be seen, including its northern polar ice cap and broad features.
For skywatchers tonight, Mars will appear as a bright light in the sky unless you have a small or medium telescope, which can resolve the planet’s disk, NASA officials said in a video. It is only in telescope views that features like the ice cap, can be seen, they added.
The next Mars opposition won’t occur for another 26 months (set your calendars for 2014), when orbital mechanics will bring Mars even closer to our world.
“At each future opposition until 2018, Mars will be closer to Earth and appear even more impressive,” NASA’s Jane Houston Jones, of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said in a video describing March’s skywatching events. [Amazing Photos of Mars]
The last time Mars made a dazzling close approach to Earth was on Aug. 27, 2003, when the Red Planet was about 34.6 million miles (55.7 million km) from our planet — its closest approach in nearly 60,000 years.
Mars is not the only bright planet shining in the nighttime sky this week. The planets Mercury, Venus, Jupiter and Saturn will all appear as celestial night lights for skywatchers with cloud-free skies.
Tonight, Mercury will reach its highest altitude in the western sky just after sunset, Jones said. Meanwhile, Venus and Jupiter also make dazzling displays in the western evening sky as they steadily creep closer together.
On March 12 and 13, the two planets will appear so close you could block them with your fingertips, NASA officials have said. Venus is the brighter of the two planets, which will pass each other in the sky during this two-day celestial dance.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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12 Responses to Mars attacks!

  1. thefeds says:

    Mars attacks? I’ve got to dig out my Slim Whitman LP!

  2. Jeremiah says:

    Cave ante diem X idus Martii?

  3. Get ready to watch the cylinders launch!

  4. NoraLee9 says:

    Maybe if the Feds weren’t so concerned that everyone have birth control, we’d be landing there tonight.

  5. wmeyer says:

    NoraLee9: Well, that, and free college for illegals, and free medical care for illegals, and half the country receiving checks instead of paying taxes….

  6. rollingrj says:

    “The heaven declare the glory of God,…”

  7. Andy Lucy says:

    For some, unfathomable, reason, I feel the need to dust off the ol’ Slim Whitman collection and really pump up the volume…..

  8. ejcmartin says:

    A foot of snow I the forecast tonight. I think I’ll be missing this one

  9. heway says:

    Does anyone know if this will be seen on any of the telescopes at the VLA, ‘Very Large Array’ on Rte 60 in New Mexico?
    Probably going ot have cloud cover tonight; rain and snow on the way.

  10. RichR says:

    Overcast tonight. {sigh}

  11. filioque says:

    Clear night here in DC with Venus and Jupiter in close encounter in the evening and Mars and Saturn cavorting with a nearly full moon at midnight. I never have seen Mercury.
    “The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows forth his handwork!”

  12. Peter in Canberra says:

    thanks – didn’t know about the close pass, but what I presume was Mars was very bright when I was taking pics of the almost full moon last night. Took pics of it too – tiny little dot which as you zoom in afterwards is quite orange and definitely ball-shaped.