Tuesday, February 08, 2005

ARE Men From Mars?

I doubt it.

There was a lot of ballyhoo in the press back in August 2003 about the red planet Mars and its closest approach to the Earth in almost 60,000 years, but most people probably missed seeing it. About 35 million miles is as close as it came and it only appeared as a bright red starlike point in the sky, if you knew where to look.
Here is what you may have missed: Mars in all its glory as it appeared through my 8-inch amateur telescope on August 21, 2003. I jury-rigged my Nikon digital camera to the telescope, took a series of pictures and combined them to form the image you see here. I must have lucked into a night of good seeing because not many pictures from the worldwide amateur community using comparable equipment came out very much better. Pure luck.

The white spot at the top is the icy south pole, and the dark circle below it and to the left is the tallest mountain in the entire solar system, Olympic Mons, more than twice as tall as our Mount Everest.

If this kind of stuff tickles your fancy, find an astronomy club near you and attend one of their free public star parties. You'll be able to look through bigger telescopes than mine and your hosts will be happy to take you on a tour of the wonders of our universe.


-- Dalton Hammond

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