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No Meeting In August

September Meeting – Thursday September 13, 2018; 7PM
Science Center, room 1407 at the Georgia Southern University Armstrong Campus
11935 Abercorn Street, Savannah, GA 31419

Mars Opposition, Close Approach To Earth And A Mighty Dust Storm… – July 2018

Over the next couple of weeks, if the weather permits you should go out sometime in the evening and look for Mars. Right now Mars is the second brightest planet in the sky (exceeded only by Venus). On the evening of Thursday July 26th, Mars will reach opposition in our sky. In very simple terms this basically means it will rise in the East Southeast (ESE) within a few minutes of the Sun setting in the West Northwest (WNW); about 8:45 p.m. EDT. It will be visible all night long and will set just as the Sun rises Friday morning.

By 10:55 p.m. EDT it will be about 20 degrees high in the Southeast and it should be fairly easy to find as it will be the bright pale orange dot to the lower left of the Full Moon. The glare from the Moon will make it a bit more difficult to see, but since it’s the only orange like object of any significant brightness in that part of the sky, and it’s near the Moon, it should be apparent.

If you are up to the challenge of getting up early on a work day, at 3:50 a.m. EDT on Tuesday July 31st Mars will reach it’s closest approach to Earth in the past 15 years. The two planets are close to each other roughly every 26 months; but the distance varies (over a range of about 30 million miles). This time around it will be 35.8 million miles away from Earth at it’s closest. That is the closest it’s been since 2003, when it was a little over 34 million miles away. It won’t be this close again in my lifetime.

Mars is best observed through a telescope (even a small telescope will do). The polar cap is usually easy to spot because it stand out as a white spot on the edge of the orange planet (this time around it should be the Southern Polar Cap). Through larger telescopes, other surface details are usually visible (no you can’t see the rovers). However, this time around I make no prediction as to what will be visible because for the past month there has been a global dust storm (A Might Dust Storm) occurring on the planet. It’s still worth the shot to go out and look, especially if you have a telescope because you just never know. As I wrote at the beginning, any evening over the next few weeks should be good for Mars as it will still be bright and there is a good chance of seeing some surface detail, but even if Mars doesn’t cooperate there’s also Saturn and Jupiter to look at right now, so any evening at the eyepiece would be a winner.

 

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