Highland Road Park Observatory

MARS’ CLOSEST APPROACH

Monday, 14 April from 8:00 pm to midnight
Free and for all ages.

MARS

Mars was known by the ancient peoples, since it is easily visible to the unaided eye.

The late 19th-century belief by some that there were “canals” constructed by intelligent beings led Percival Lowell to found an observatory near Flagstaff, Arizona in 1894.

In 2002 it was announced the Mars Odyssey spacecraft had detected water ice close to the surface of the Red Planet. And early in 2009 it was revealed that some sort of outgassing of methane is taking place on the surface. Both geological and biological processes can create methane. According to NASA, “If microscopic Martian life is producing the methane, it likely resides far below the surface, where it's still warm enough for liquid water to exist. Liquid water, as well as energy sources and a supply of carbon, are necessary for all known forms of life.”

In August 2012 the rover Curiosity set down in Gale Crater to begin our continued investigation of the planet to which we may soon visit.

Mars’ two moons, Phobos and Deimos, are among the darkest-surfaced objects in the solar system. Olympus Mons is the largest volcano in the solar system.

CLOSE APPROACH

Technically, since the Earth orbits faster than Mars, it will be the Earth which will swing close by the Red Planet. It does this every twenty-six months.

During this close approach, Mars resides in the constellation Virgo, with an apparent diameter of 15” and only about 92.6 million kilometers away. In October 2013, Mars’ apparent diameter was less than 4”. On this night Mars will be fewer than eight degrees from the Moon.

LECTURES

There will be two lectures during this period. At 8:00 pm, a talk will focus on Mars. At 10:00 pm, the presentation will focus on historic lunar eclipses.

GAMES

During the first half of the event, there will be a game for younger kids. During the second half of the event, there will be a game for older kids.

RAFFLE TICKETS

Over $500 in prizes will be given away at International Astronomy Day on 10 May. The tickets are $5 each and will be sold during this time. The purchaser need not be present at IAD to win. All proceeds are deposits in HRPO’s BREC Foundation account.

RULES

  • Please do not set up your lawn chair or blanket without receiving direction from staff. Visitors may only use the grass area south of the 16OGS building. Please do not use concrete for sitting or lying.
  • No white lights are allowed. White light destroys night vision. Please keep headlights off. Please outfit your white flashlights with red construction paper, a red stretch balloon, red cellophane (several layers may be needed to make the light suitably dim) or a thin coat of red nail polish. Please do not use a camera flash upstairs in the dome or outside at the viewing pads without permission from the telescope operators.
  • If a telescope is not in operation, please do not handle it in any way. If a telescope is in operation, please wait until it’s your turn and place your eye to the eyepiece without touching the telescope.
  • No glass containers are allowed.
  • Pets and animals must remain under control and on a leash at all times.
  • Personally-owned equipment which must be set up on the ground is not allowed. Handheld binoculars, however, are allowed.
  • Litter and refuse are to be placed in proper receptacles.
  • Running is not allowed outside at night, or inside at any time.
  • Food and drink are not allowed in either of the two large telescope domes.
  • Alcohol, smoking and loud music are not allowed. Please utilize headphones or earphones so that only you hear your music.
  • It is illegal for any person to be on BREC property after dark. HRPO grounds are the only BREC property on which the public is invited during this nighttime period. There will be no remaining on HRPO grounds after 4:00 am.

RESOURCES:

Basic Overview of Mars
Timeline of the Current Apparition of Mars
“Explore Mars This Month”
The Curiosity Rover
Be a Martian!
Mars Reconnaisance Orbiter The Very Recent Impact on Mars
The Bizarre Martian Anomaly of March 2012
The Pathfinder Rover
The Past “Wetness” of Mars
Did Mars Have Salt Water at One Time?
Was There Once Life on Mars?
Percival Lowell, the Man Who Saw “Canals”
Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers: Mars Section
Martian Meteorites
Will There be a 2020 Mission to Mars?

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Created by Frederick J. Barnett on Friday, April 04, 2014 3:46:20 PM.