Tuesday, August 12, 2008


I got this email from my mom today. Normally, I forward her emails to my other blog, Pam's Inbox, because they're forwards of email jokes. In this case, it's an interesting email about Mars. Mom didn't author this, and I have no idea who did, so it will have to remain uncredited for now.
I decided to post this because it could be visible during the Perseid meteor shower, which peaked this morning.
I'm planning to heading out in the wee hours of the morning with Rachel, a SLR camera, and the tripod. She's never seen a meteor shower and I want to see if I can photograph it. Our challenge will be to find a good dark view of the southern sky. We may have to study our big map of NW Oregon and see if we can find a good spot up in the mountains that's clear of Douglas Fir trees.
Wait - What are Douglas Fir trees? Those are the super tall coniferous trees that we are famous for - they're on our license plates. Do you watch Ax Men on the History Channel? http://www.history.com/minisites/axmen Those are the trees and that's the terrain we may be heading into. There are very few towns and homes up in the mountains, so it will be dark and easy to spot the meteors.
I'll post any pictures I get, if they turn out.
Anyhoo, here is mom's email about the Mars event:

From: Donna K
Sent: Tuesday, August 12, 2008 7:58 AM

The Red Planet is about to be spectacular!

This month and next, Earth is catching up with Mars in 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 before it happens again.

The encounter will culminate on August 27th when Mars comes to within 34,649,589 miles of Earth 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 it will rise in the east at 10p.m. and reach its azimuth at about 3 a.m.
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 12:30a.m. That's pretty convenient to see something that no human being 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.


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