The alarm clock rang this morning and it shrieked of the end of summer and the beginning of another school year. I don’t regret this…there is excitement about the rites of autumn beginning, but oh how wonderful to be outdoors in the garden for most of the summer! A combination of hard work and sunshine on my face and back, made me feel strong and connected to the ‘stuff’ of life! Last night there was a brilliant pink sun setting…a huge intense ball in the sky. Sometimes it takes on THAT glow and looks larger than large! It was split two-thirds of the way down by a single whisper of cloud that made it look like two suns in the sky…a beautiful goodnight. A final trip to Speargrass for Sunday dinner with both of the children…a wonderful hot tub before the drive home….a small sliver of moon in the early-evening sky. I did not see Mars later that evening…August 27 was to be a bit of a phenomenon, not to be experienced again in this lifetime. The Red Planet is about to be spectacular! This month and next, Earth is catching up with Mars in an encounter that will culminate in the closest approach between the two planets in recorded history. The next time Mars may come this close is in 2287. Due to the way Jupiter’s gravity tugs on Mars and perturbs its orbit, astronomers can only be certain that Mars has not come this close to Earth in the Last 5,000 years, but it may be as long as 60,000 years before it happens again. The encounter will culminate on August 27th when Mars comes to within 34,649,589 miles of Earth and will be (next to the moon) the brightest object in the night sky. It will attain a magnitude of -2.9 and will appear 25.11 arc seconds wide. At a modest 75-power magnification Mars will look as large as the full moon to the naked eye.By the end of August when the two planets are closest, Mars will rise at nightfall and reach its highest point in the sky at 12:30 a.m. That’s pretty convenient to see something that no human being has seen in recorded history. So, mark your calendar at the beginning of August to see Mars grow progressively brighter and brighter throughout the month. Share this with your children and grandchildren. NO ONE ALIVE TODAY WILL EVER SEE THIS AGAIN
An excellent website for keeping up with celestial events…
The scoop on Mars…
A story floating around the Internet this summer says that Mars will pass unusually close to Earth in late August, and will appear as large as the full Moon.
Sorry, but it’s not true.
Mars actually made its closest pass to Earth in many centuries in August of 2003. It was quite bright then, but it still looked only like a bright star, and was nowhere near the size of the full Moon.
2006 is a poor year for viewing Mars. The planet put in a good showing in late 2005, but has been growing fainter throughout this year. In August, it is barely visible very low in the west for a few minutes in early evening, beginning perhaps 30 to 40 minutes after sunset. It looks like a faint star. It drops from sight by about an hour after sunset.