(Wilmont, Ohio) – During the coming weeks, Mars once again will dominate the evening sky.
In a press release, The Wilderness Center officials explain that Mars hasn’t appeared this bright in our night sky since 2003 and won’t be this bright again until September 2035. Because both Earth and Mars have elliptical orbits around the sun, the distance between our planets as we pass varies. In some orbits, we just wave from a distance. In others, we get a closer pass, called a perihelic opposition.
This means Mars will be a fiery red to the naked eye, with good telescopic views throughout the summer.
To celebrate, The Wilderness Center Astronomy Club will be featuring Mars viewing! In addition to regularly scheduled Star Watches (always held the first Friday of each month), an additional Star Watch has been scheduled for Friday, July 27.
During the last weekend in July and the first weekend in August, The Wilderness Center will also be featuring a full-dome planetarium theater show called MarsQuest highlighting the cultural, historical, scientific and futuristic views of Mars.
Visible to the naked eye, Mars has been known since prehistoric times. Often referred to as the Red Planet, Mars appears red due to iron oxides in its soil that rust. Through history, this planet has captured our imagination. The ancient Romans named the planet for their god of war and its two moons for his sons, Phobos (fear) and Deimos (terror).
Although Mars is smaller than Earth, it has about the same land surface area. The planet’s surface is home to some interesting features, including the largest known volcano in the solar system, Olympus Mons, which rises 15 miles above the surrounding plain. Its base has a diameter of more than 311 miles and is rimmed by a cliff 4 miles high. Tharsis is a huge bulge on the Martian surface that is about 2,485 miles across and 6 miles high. Valles Marineris is a system of canyons 2,485 miles long and 1 to 4 miles deep. If placed on Earth this canyon system would stretch from the east coast to the west coast of the United States. Hellas Planitia is an impact crater in the southern hemisphere over 4 miles deep and 1,243 miles in diameter.
Of the neighboring planets in our solar system, Mars has been the focus of the most exploration. The first successful US mission to Mars was Mariner 4, which flew by in 1965. Many more missions have followed. Current missions include the Mars Expedition Rover Opportunity. Launched in 2004, Opportunity is still sending back geologic data and pictures. The opportunity has now been joined on the planet’s surface by the Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity). Current orbiter missions include the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Mars Express, Mars Odyssey, and Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN). Many other countries including Russia, Japan, China, the European Space Agency and India have sent spacecraft to Mars. All of this exploration is being done to learn the history of our neighbor in space and to support future manned missions to the Red Planet. If Elon Musk has his way, human missions to Mars could happen by the mid-2020’s!
Mars continues to fascinate the scientist, the dreamer, young and old. Join us in the coming weeks to cast your eyes to the sky and share in the curiosity inspired by this neighboring world!
Friday, July 27
7:30pm & 8:30pm
Saturday, July 28
11:00am & 2:30pm
Friday, August 3
7:30pm & 8:30pm
Saturday, August 4
11:00am & 12:30pm