Here at JPL, phones are ringing off lots of different hooks with
members of the public asking about viewing Mars tomorrow night.
I've even received calls from scout leaders planning "Mars
Spectacular" viewing events. I wish there was a scout badge
for critical thinking. :-(
Some of you folks may be getting questions too, so I thought you
might like these sound bytes.
A misleading chain letter hoax has been going around since June
2005. The subject line of the chain letter is often 'Mars
Spectacular". It's a recycled chain letter from 2003, but with
the year omitted, and additional misinformation added. The
"date" of the special viewing night, according to this email
is tomorrow, August 27th. August 27th was the date of Mars
Opposition 2003. Some people read chain letters, and without
applying any critical thinking, assume they must be true. Then
they forward them to everyone they know, who forward them.....on and
on and on.
- The email is recycled and refers to Mars at opposition August 27th
2003, 2 years ago.
- Earth and Mars make a close approach every 2.2 years. Mars
opposition in 2005 is October 30, 2005.
- NASA has this article about it: Beware the Mars Hoax
- Sky and Telescope Magazine has this: Don't get snookered by
- 2005 will be a spectacular year to view Mars at opposition, but
not this weekend. Mars will be a beautiful reddish "star"
in the sky early in the evening from late October 2005 through spring
2006. Suggest that people contact a local science center or
astronomy club near that time for locations of Mars viewing events.
- If people want to see Mars right now (and avoid embarrassment if
they planned an event Saturday night) they have to stay up late. Mars
rises in the east at about 11 p.m. and is high overhead at about 3
a.m. The last three mornings, Mars and the moon have been sharing the
sky, dancing together on the ecliptic plane of our solar system. Mars
is gorgeous in the western sky at dawn every morning.
- There are two bright objects in the western sky right after the
sun sets right now. Some people may think one or the other is
Mars. They are not. Venus is the lower (and brighter) of
the two and Jupiter is higher and 6 times fainter. These are the
planets to view right now. Save Mars for later in the year.
I created a Mars 2005 page http://www.otastro.org/Mars2005/
As Mars becomes visible earlier in the evening, we'll be planning more
viewing events, and updating this page.
Mojo and I are off the to the Oregon Star Party tomorrow
We'll be back after labor day, and our next sidewalk dates are
September 9th Pasadena and September 10th Monrovia.
Jane Houston Jones
Senior Outreach Specialist, Cassini Program
JPL - 4800 Oak Grove Drive, MS 230-205
Pasadena, CA 91109 818-393-6435
Cassini Saturn Observation Campaign