Jenn and I just came back from her 10 year reunion out in western North Dakota and we spent some time with Grandma Esther. Grandma has gotten hooked up to the Internet (though she mostly only e-mails). It seems someone sent her an e-mail about Mars being closer this coming August than any other time in history (so close in fact that, according to the e-mail, it would be as visible as the moon with the naked eye). Well, grandma thought I’d be interested to have a copy. So I did some checking and discovered that it was a letter being circulated from 2003 and that Mars has never and will never be that visible. Oh, well 😦 So much for the much anticipated invasion. I’ve attached part of the article that I found dealing with the actual facts of the Martian experience.
The top story in the news this month is Mars. On August 27, a day before its opposition, Mars will be closer to Earth than any time in recorded history. The next chance to see it closer will be on August 28, 2287.
While I like to follow astronomy news in a casual way, we don’t own a telescope and our viewing of the sky is generally limited to eclipses, comets, and meteor showers. I was already aware that, although being quite bright, Mars would still just look like a large star in the sky. Without mechanical aid, we cannot see any detail of its surface and it doesn’t even have the advantage of quick movement to make it more exciting. Our binoculars, which work admirably for viewing the moon during eclipses, are of little use for a distant object like the red planet.
I was therefore surprised when I happened to look out my bathroom window several nights ago and saw, through a reticulated cloudy sky, the full moon and the nearby planet Mars. No stars were visible, but those two celestial bodies glowed like beacons between the clouds, and Mars even appeared pink. It was a breathtaking sight.