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Space Science

Close Encounters Of The Mars Kind 153

Posted by timothy
from the bask-in-its-warlike-glow dept.
Lab_rat0 writes "Never again in our lifetimes will the Red Planet be so spectacular! This month and next, Earth is catching up with Mars, an encounter that will culminate in the closest approach between the two planets in recorded history. This article at EliteGeek has more details. According to Agg over at OCAU, this is probably the reason for all the Mars probes launched over the last few months."
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Close Encounters Of The Mars Kind

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 03, 2003 @05:09PM (#6601585)
    Speak for yourself. I plan to live to at least 150,000 years of age. I'm sure I'll see better.
  • by jeffkjo1 (663413) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @05:09PM (#6601591) Homepage
    According to Agg over at OCAU, this is probably the reason for all the Mars probes launched over the last few months."

    But when are they going to probe Uranus?
  • by bc90021 (43730) <bc90021&bc90021,net> on Sunday August 03, 2003 @05:10PM (#6601596) Homepage
    Since Mars is so close, it's a shame that more people haven't read "The Case for Mars" (see here [nw.net], and no, I am not affiliated in any way), as now would be a very good time to put some of [nw.net] the [nw.net] principles [nw.net]into practise and land someone on Mars!
    • by EverDense (575518) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @05:40PM (#6601751) Homepage
      now would be a very good time to put some of the principlesinto practise and land someone on Mars!

      Preferably someone that I don't like.
      Preferably without a space suit.
      • I've got a little list.

        They never would be missed.

        ... they never would be missed.

      • IBM Lawyers: Mr. Darl McBride [caldera.com], if you'll please follow us to our conference room, we think we've found a solution which will prove beneficial to both parties.

        [A few minutes later]
        What? Oh, this is just our new office -- modern arco and such. Watch your head.

        Yes, just strap yourself in nice and tight. Normal proceedure. We'll be right back, we've got to go fetch our documents.

        *door locks*
    • by SunPin (596554)
      In December 2001, I interviewed the Medical Director of the Mars Society for Cyberista. The story is here [cyberista.com]. Everybody in that organization is superb in their field. Dr. Czarnik was an excellent interview subject.
    • Hmmm, the case for Mars... I debate it every evening with myself. Usually, I win, and then step out into the back yard for a stretch, a smoke, and a last look at the stars - naturally including Mars, which these days is hovering at the foot of the garden in the twilight. Go out and have a look, you can't miss it - it's the brightest 'star' visible, and distinctly salmon coloured to the naked eye (unless you're colourblind, I guess?)
  • by Anonymous Coward
    You can see those scary faces all over the surface of Mars. They are watching me .... nooooo....
  • Mirror (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 03, 2003 @05:12PM (#6601614)
    In case the site (or routes to the site) get slashdotted, here [martin-studio.com] is a mirror to the link.
  • Text (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 03, 2003 @05:14PM (#6601624)
    Never again in our lifetimes will the Red Planet be so spectacular!
    This month and next, Earth is catching up with Mars, 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.
    The encounter will culminate on August 27th when Mars comes to within 34,649,589
    miles 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.

    Mars will be easy to spot. At the beginning of August, Mars will rise in the east at 10 p.m. and reach its azimuth at about 3 a.m.
    But 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 when it comes to seeing something that no human 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.
    • Re:Text (Score:5, Informative)

      by Spock the Baptist (455355) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @06:31PM (#6601953) Journal
      "It will attain a magnitude of -2.9 and will appear 25.11 arc seconds wide."

      This from Sky & Telescope: 'Mars becomes almost this large every 15 or 17 years -- whenever it passes closest to Earth (near opposition) within a few weeks of the date it is also nearest the Sun (perihelion). For example, in August 1971 the disk became as large as 24.9", and in September 1988 it reached 23.8". Less-ideal views come at intervals of about 2 years 2 months, as in May 1999 when it reached 16.2", and in June 2001 when it attained 20.8". Putting August 2003 in perspective, this is one of five chances (at most) in your entire lifetime that you'll see Mars so clearly.'

      So this month Mars will appear some 0.21 arc-seconds larger than it did in August 1971. This is really not enough for the human eye to make a distinction. That said, you really ought to take advantage of this opposition. I know that I will.

      Clear Skies
      STB
      • Trouble is for us Northern Hemisphere dwellers that the close Mars opposition happens 1) with Mars in a low-declination constellation like Scorpius or Sagitarius, putting it down on the horizon and down in the murk, and 2) at the peak of mosquito season. How are you folks in Oz looking forward to Mars viewing?
    • That's pretty convenient when it comes to seeing something that no human has seen in recorded history.

      True, but mars is further away from the sun than us, and naturally when we are closest to it, we will be in pretty much the same point in our orbits. Therefore, its on the opposite side of the earth as the sun, appearing as a full mars, and rising/setting with our night.

  • by tbase (666607) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @05:15PM (#6601628)
    Over 570 items on eBay alone [ebay.com], and now this! Keep your eyes out for broom-adorned helmets!
  • by Hackie_Chan (678203) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @05:16PM (#6601635)
    Why go to Mars when you've got Rekall?

    >... and about those lobotomies, statistics show that it's safer to use Rekall than to travel to the red planet itself.

    I'm delightfully interested in that Agent-package... Hmm...
  • by AndyFewt (694753)
    I bet that someone from that zetatalk or whatever it was will claim this is the famed Planet-X which was meant to destroy life as we know it back in may/june.

    "Quick, get to your safe locations again, we *really* mean it this time, honest!"

    Anyway, its always nice to see there is (I use this term lightly) "life" outside of this small planet. Now 34,649,589 miles doesnt seem to far. I'll definately have to have a look.
  • by uncoveror (570620) <webmaster AT uncoveror DOT com> on Sunday August 03, 2003 @05:22PM (#6601671) Homepage
    Get your affairs in order, the end is near! This would be the perfect time for the Zhti Ti Kofft, [uncoveror.com] as the Martians call themselves, to invade and conquer.
  • More details (Score:5, Informative)

    by GillBates0 (664202) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @05:23PM (#6601678) Homepage Journal
    For those looking for more formal/detailed articles:

    Space.com [space.com]
    abc.net.au [abc.net.au]
    Telescopes-Astronomy.com [telescopes...omy.com.au] - lots of details about suitable telescopes etc.

    As an aside, about an earlier event fromThe Universe Today [universetoday.com]:
    A rare astronomical event will occur in May 1999- Mars will be the closest it ever gets, only 52.8 million miles. In addition, the Red Planet is in opposition, which means its face is completely lit up by the Sun. Amateur astronomers will be able to see normally obscure features like the polar caps and canyons.

  • by Whitecloud (649593) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @05:31PM (#6601712) Homepage

    For global views of Mars check here [nasa.gov], however at this time of year (August) Mars is enveloped in planet wide dust storms, so the view is going to be obfuscated by all that red grit...if you want to check out before and during storm pics then click here [nasa.gov].

    many more pics available from the Mars Global Surveyor: Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC)here [nasa.gov].

  • uh-oh (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    That's no mars, it's a space station!
  • by JayBlalock (635935) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @05:35PM (#6601730)
    Here's [snopes.com] the Snopes entry on it. Essentially, while it's technically true that this is the closest pass in 60,000 years or so, to most observers there won't be any appreciable difference between this pass and the semi-close passes it makes every 15 years or so. The interest lies mainly in how this makes it more easy to launch probes. (and note the similarity in wording between the Snopes version and the post. Hmmm...)
  • by wiggys (621350) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @05:36PM (#6601733)
    I don't know about you but this creeps me right out! I've just been reading this book [alcyone.com] (guy at work tells me its a transcript of a radio news bulletin) and I'm kinda scared right now.

    Got the wife and kids in a truck, and we're gonna head to the hills for a while. Got meself a shotgun... just in case those Martians come for ME!

    • If you like War of the Worlds, try Jeff Wayne's musical version. Get the original (when I lived in the US, I had to order it from the UK because I could only find the remix in the US which has had lukewarm reviews at best)
      Amazon.co.uk [amazon.co.uk] has it.
  • by Jugalator (259273) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @05:38PM (#6601744) Journal
    Users of Celestia [shatters.net] (the stunning open-source galaxy simulator) can verify this and a whole lot of other space events as Mars is, at August 27, 0.373 AU from Earth. When I'm typing this, Mars seems to be 0.410 AU from Earth.

    1 AU = 149,597,870.691 km

    0.373 AU = 55800005 km
    0.410 AU = 61335126 km

    The values seem to be slightly off (by around 1%) when compared to the article's shortest distance, from the approximated planetary orbits.
  • I've seen it (Score:5, Informative)

    by ralphclark (11346) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @05:41PM (#6601757) Journal
    It's fairly big already - about 20 arcseconds I should think - and I've taken a look a few times already the past few days (in my 10" F5 reflector, 4mm ultrawide plossl eyepiece, magnification about 300x). Why look now before opposition? Because it has already passed it's maximum declination in mid-to-late July, even then at about only 25 degrees above the horison where I am, and is now getting lower each night. Even at maximum elevation it was so low that atmospheric distortion mucks up the image quite badly.

    In fact, although this is supposed to be the closest opposition for maybe the past 60,000 years, the low elevation means it's not really such a great observation opportunity for astronomers in the northern hemisphere. I was just about able to make out the southern polar cap and some blurred greyish surface features in the southern hemisphere.

    If you live further South though, there should be some really spectacular views with Mars almost overhead. And it's so bright that you don't need a large telescope - just a good one. And an equatorial mount is a must, because the damn thing moves so fast.
  • by selderrr (523988) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @05:43PM (#6601763) Journal
    there's always the astronomy pic of the day [nasa.gov]

    And for those of us with OSX, there's a macosxhints article [macosxhints.com] that helps you rotate your desktop pic with the APotD
  • The Power of /. (Score:3, Informative)

    by joepa (199570) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @06:07PM (#6601833)
    Slashdot has just made "Close Encounters of the Mars Kind" the most read story [elitegeek.org] in the recorded history of Elite Geek (and by quite a large margin).
  • it seems like amateur astronomy has gone onto the back burner for kids these days. Finally! an excuse to find and set up my old telescope
  • Dude.... (Score:3, Funny)

    by Cable_Monkey (516166) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @06:13PM (#6601857)
    Source: My E-Mail.

    That isn't fair! My teachers would never let me reference my email when turning in a paper. >:-(
  • by Anonymous Coward
    For those who are running linux and want to track Mars (among other things), you can use KStars [kde.org] to do just that. KStars with telescope control can be checked out from the CVS now.

    Here is a screenshot [kde.org] showing KStars tracking the moon.
  • D'Ya Think? (Score:2, Funny)

    by reallocate (142797)
    >> "...this is probably the reason for all the Mars probes launched over the last few months."

    Gee, d'ya think?

    Hopeless, hopeless.
  • by mholt108 (229701) <matthew_holt108 AT hotmail DOT com> on Sunday August 03, 2003 @06:32PM (#6601959)
    Girlfriend looked up into the sky and said oooohhhh isnt that a big star. Deary me! replies he, thats no star viewed from afar, thats just a plantet, get it right god damitt!
  • Jeez (Score:2, Insightful)

    by LooseChanj (17865)
    "According to Agg over at OCAU, this is probably the reason for all the Mars probes launched over the last few months."

    Does this really need to be said?
  • Wouldn't it be great if Shenzhou-5 [spacedaily.com] had a few "undisclosed capabilities" such as planetary landings, and the Chinese decided to shock the world and be the first to Mars. For all of you out there that know more than I about the hardware needed, distances involved and the orbital mechanics of it, would this be within the realm of possibility?
    • You'd have to have a fairly large spacecraft (read, MUCH larger than anything currently launching except the Shuttle which is largely empty cargo space anyway). The reason for the size is because the trip (even one-way) would take months and you need to keep the human crew fed, warm, and breathing. It would be quite easy based on spacecraft size alone to determine if someone were going for something more than an orbital joyride.
    • For all of you out there that know more than I about the hardware needed, distances involved and the orbital mechanics of it, would this be within the realm of possibility?

      The launch window to Mars has now closed which means that the relatively low energy trajectories used by our space probes are no longer available.

      So if the Chinese were to go, they'd better have built one big-ass engine to send them there.

      Best wishes,
      Mike.

  • Azimuth? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    At the beginning of August, Mars will rise in the east at 10 p.m. and reach its azimuth at about 3 a.m.

    I would have thought, whatever its azimuth is at any given time, there it is already.
  • War of the Worlds (Score:2, Interesting)

    by p51d007 (656414)
    I think it would be great if some national radio show would rerun Orson Wells radio adaptation of the H.G. Wells classic "war of the worlds" which aired on halloween night in the 30's. For those of you who never heard it, it so panicked the east coast that most of it's residents thought the martians had invaded the world LOL
  • by vikrant (198696) on Sunday August 03, 2003 @07:25PM (#6602156) Homepage Journal
    An article in the Most popular mars daily paper reads:

    Little green men on Mars are being warned about the upcoming close encounter with our appearently beautiful neighbor, Earth.

    The inhabitants of the planet Earth are known to be greedy, territorial and suicidal (they have enough nuclear power to blow their planet 10 times over. We still don't understand why they call our planet "The God of War"). They have already consumed their home planet, and are expected to be looking towards us during this encounter. Some of them may even try to hop on to our side. Reports confirm 2 or 3 rocket ships launched earlier this year moving towards Mars.

    Continue staying underground in caves. Build no canals, humanoid faces or any other structures on the surface reflecting presence of intelligent life on our planet. continue the planet wide dust storm as it will repel the earthlings.

    Earth will probably stink because of high leavels of pollution.

    ---
    The secret source of humor is not joy but sorrow; there is no humor in Heaven.
    -- Mark Twain

  • I don't like to question the submitters, but this has to be one of the most questionable references I've ever seen here.

    How about next time quoting somebody from an orgnaization that is involved with the spacecraft? NASA, ESA (European Space Agency), NASDA (Japan's Space Aerospace Agency) and even CSA (Canadian Space Agency) have all got hardware on the way and probably could provide a inforamtion that is more useful and authoritative than what was put here.

    A good start would be explaining why you would
    • I was wondering the same thing. I mean I just don't see the connection :-) I suppose it must have to do with the angle, since as many other posters have pointed out, the Southern Hemisphere (and Austrailia was specificly mentioned) would have the best viewing. However, I think that is quite a reach to OCAU.
      • The funny thing (to me) is that I wasn't actually quoted, I was paraphrased. What's that Slashdot creed about not reading the source article? :)

        My original newspost on OCAU:
        ---
        From Dark_Greg: A rather interesting astronomical phenomenon can be observed over the next month, with Mars being closer to earth then it has been in at least 5,000 years, with some estimates putting it at 60,000 years. Needless to say you wont get another chance to see this again in your lifetime. Details can be found here [elitegeek.org]. Tha

      • I was wondering the same thing. I mean I just don't see the connection :-) I suppose it must have to do with the angle, since as many other posters have pointed out, the Southern Hemisphere (and Austrailia was specificly mentioned) would have the best viewing. However, I think that is quite a reach to OCAU.

        Essentially you want to minimise the amount of energy you need to send a probe away from the planet. You are quite right about needing most energy to climb away from Earth, but you then need addition

    • ...I would have thought it would take as much energy climbing out of Earth's gravity well regardless of how far away the target is...

      Think of getting a probe to Mars as two steps:

      1. Getting off the Earth and out of the gravity well.
      2. Travel immense distance to Mars.

      If Mars is closer, then not as much fuel is needed for step two. If there isn't as much fuel needed for step two, then the load will be lighter for step one. If everything is lighter in step one, a smaller rocket can be used to lift the wh

  • Hauled out my little 8" equatorial reflector to a dark sky site Friday night and had spectacular resolution of surface features. Southern polar cap was crystal clear as were many other surface features that I can't describe very well without a map of Mars handy. That was only at 120-240x. 2 years ago, at the last opposition, I looked at Mars through a scientific grade 12" refractor, and it was just a featureless orange ball. This year is much better. The closeness aspect isn't really so much of an imp
  • > According to Agg over at OCAU, this is probably the reason for all the Mars probes launched over the last few months.

    Agg must be a friggin rocket scientist to put those to together, or not for reiterating the obvious.

    Planetary travel is all about delta V.

  • This explains why Mars has been so clear and bright in the night sky in recent weeks. A distinctly orange tinted bright light in the sky to the south...

  • It's going to be great watching the data come back from the 4 (I think) probes to Mars. There should be a lot of interesting video and photos over the next couple months. I hope all of the probes make the journey in one piece.

    BTW. Anyone know how "spread out" these probes are supposed to land? I hope that at least one is aimed at one of the polar regions.

    One more thing, to all people who say, "So what, Mars almost as close every 15 years." Well, how long do you expect to live? Every 15 years is s

    • I hope all of the probes make the journey in one piece.

      Amen to that, we've had amazing luck so far. So let's wish all well - although since I'm over the road from the Beagle 2 team, I have to wish them a little bit more luck than the others.

      Anyone know how "spread out" these probes are supposed to land? I hope that at least one is aimed at one of the polar regions.

      They're all aimed at low latitudes close to the Equator. For them to reach the poles takes a fancy flightpath and a bit more fuel. It a

  • Some sort of weird thing is going on in Northern New Jersey. Not sure what it is, but evidently there was some kind of an explosion and communications with a town was lost...

  • Couple of quick links.

    Mars in 2003: Which Side Is Visible?
    http://skyandtelescope.com/ [skyandtelescope.com]

    Mars at Its All-Time Finest
    http://skyandtelescope.com/ [skyandtelescope.com]
  • According to some web site about overclocking, this is probably the reason many Mars probes have been launched recently

    Could you not be bothered to find out for sure? Why is your source for this non-information a web site about overclocking?

    Oh, wait, it's okay. This isn't real journalism.

    • What's really funny is that the window for launching the probes was mentioned every freaking time one of them went up, but apparently international news isn't as reputable a source as "elitegeek".

  • I realise slashdot isn't really a forum for astrology or any of that weird hippy shit you can't measure, test or quantify...

    ... but does anyone else think its weird that classically speaking Mars is the planet/god/symbol for war?

  • I quickly snapped some pics of Mars tonight before the storm clouds rolled back in. This is probably what you can expect to see through a pair of binoculars or telescope throughout the middle of August.

    http://www.techfreakz.org/astro2/?slide=25

    Oh, and you don't have to live in a dark area to see it. The pics were taken 15 miles outside of NYC.
  • by SurturZ (54334)
    I was wondering what that great big red dot in the sky was.

    Oh wait, I'm hung over.
  • According to http://www.earthsky.com/2003/es030826.html

    --
  • According to Agg over at OCAU, this is probably the reason for all the Mars probes launched over the last few months.
    Dammit if Agg said it, it's good enough for me.
  • No one would have believed in the first years of the twenty-first century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man's... ...Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us.

You can measure a programmer's perspective by noting his attitude on the continuing viability of FORTRAN. -- Alan Perlis

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