Saturday August 16, 2003

Close Encounters

Look for it in the night sky - an increasingly brighter, reddish "star" near the moon. That's not a star; it's the planet Mars.

Earth and Mars are rapidly converging. On August 27, 2003--the date of closest approach--the two worlds will be 56 million km apart. That's a long way by Earth standards, but only a short distance on the scale of the solar system.

Between now and August, Mars will brighten until it "blazes forth against the dark background of space with a splendor that outshines Sirius and rivals the giant Jupiter himself." Astronomer Percival Lowell, who famously mapped the canals of Mars, wrote those words to describe the planet during a similar close encounter in the 19th century.

[c.f. Approaching Mars, Science@NASA]

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Close Encounters ( in category SciTech ) - posted at Sat, 16 Aug, 12:10 Pacific