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Mars at Opposition - Earth at Transitition

Hemos posted about 11 years ago | from the learn-more-about-it dept.

Space 210

chuckpeters writes "An astronaut friend told us about how the nuts out there seem to think that Mars is going to collide with the earth or the moon, or the gravitational forces are going to rip the earth apart or cause massive earthquakes. While in a co-workers office listening to a co-worker take a call about the possibility of such calamities, our astronaut friend yelled "Quick, duck! It's Mars"! No longer welcome in that office, he's back worshiping launch complex 39A. The true gravity of the situation is much less benign. The fact is I have never seen Mars look so bright or red as the other night, it's definitely time to gaze at the red planet. NASA isn't going to be worrying about Mars colliding with Earth, but they will be keeping a close eye on Mars. During this close approach, NASA will be inviting the public to help decide what areas on the red planet to photograph." More information below about the unique position of the red planet - take advantage of this once-in-a-3x-lifetime event.

On August 27th, Mars will be closer to Earth than in all of recorded history. The event is a rare display of orbital events in the cosmic clockwork of space. It is the chance of a lifetime for everyone to go out and see Mars and never before, and never again in our lifetimes!

The event is much more than just an opposition though because Martian oppositions occur about every 25 months.

What makes this opposition so special? This year, the Mars opposition occurs at the same time that Mars is at perihelion, which means Mars, in its orbit, is closest to the Sun and near when Earth is at aphelion (farthest point from Sun.)

At 5:51 a.m. EDT on the night of August 27, 2003, Mars will be within 34,646,418 miles (55,758,006 km) of Earth. To compare this to an earlier opposition: in 2001 when Mars was last at opposition, the red planet was more than 41 million miles (67 million km) from Earth. The most recent perihelion and opposition took place in September 1988 when Mars passed within 36.5 million miles (58.7 million km) of Earth.

When will Mars be this close to Earth again? The next, closer approach will occur on August 28, 2287 when Mars will be 34.62 million miles (55.69 million km) away. But we won't be around for that one, so you don't want to miss this close approach!

When and Where to see Mars - Best viewing is about midnight in the southern sky. One good way to find more precise viewing of Mars as well as identifying the various features, is using Xephem. We put together some tables which include local sunset times and Mars rising times for August 27th for various locations in the US, Europe, Middle East etc...

Currently Mars is moving the opposite direction from all the other planets. While the other plenets appear to be moving towards the east over time, Mars is displaying retrograde motion and moving westward.

Because Mars is so small it's difficult to see details most of the time or in small telescopes. Since Mars is going to be so much closer than usual, even a 4 inch telescope will show details not normally visible. There are also various filters you can use to enhance observing. Mars through a Telescope: Getting the Most from the Red Planet covers what equipment to use and what specific features to look for on Mars.

Although one night has been advertised as "the night" when Mars will be closest, the red planet will appear large and bright for the next few months. Mars will also be changing seasons and that means you will be able to spot changes in surface features over time. It's summer in the southern hemisphere of Mars and the south polar cap is melting rather quickly. If you observe over a period of days you will be able to see the terrain underneath the ice appear.

Go out and enjoy this cosmic show, but you needn't worry about any unexpected cosmic collisions, Mars Will Not Kill You."

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Martians! (5, Funny)

miknight (642270) | about 11 years ago | (#6782800)

Finally I will be able to peer into craters that house the martians. I hope they're as attactive as Amy of Futurama...

Re:Martians! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6782864)

"Aaaaah!!! You perv!"

well, (3, Funny)

waitigetit (691345) | about 11 years ago | (#6782801)

I, for one, welcome our new Martian overlords.

or something...

Nuts (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6783211)

Why is there no link to any of these nuts' web pages?

An astronaut friend (1)

jester (8414) | about 11 years ago | (#6782808)

How many people can say they have an astronaut friend ?

Re:An astronaut friend (1)

LooseChanj (17865) | about 11 years ago | (#6782913)

Not me, but I can say I've worked on their peecees. And I've been to pad 39A too.

Re:An astronaut friend (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6783408)

No they won't.

Re:An astronaut friend (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6783294)

"Astronauts" are getting to be a dime a dozen. For now they're just useless appendages on the space program anyway -- with or without shuttles flying.

Anyone can get into space nowadays. All you need is money and political connections. And the nerve to risk getting turned into debris.

id software employees . . . (2, Funny)

mr_luc (413048) | about 11 years ago | (#6783416)

. . . SIT DOWN.

Carmack is cool, but he ain't an astronaut . . . yet. :)

Re:id software employees . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6783971)

...neither is Lance Bass, ever!

Speaing of Mars... (-1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6782812)

When will Brazil send a manned mission there?

Oh wait a minute....

:>)

Makes me smile. (5, Funny)

CGP314 (672613) | about 11 years ago | (#6782816)

This special event takes place because of the specific positions of Mars and Earth in their orbits.

I love sentences like that. Mars will be the closest to Earth it's ever been, because Mars will be the closest to Earth it's ever been!

Re:Makes me smile. (0)

kermitron (701247) | about 11 years ago | (#6782921)

Nicely put.

Re:Makes me smile. (2, Informative)

aborchers (471342) | about 11 years ago | (#6783074)

You paraphrased

This special event takes place because of the specific positions of Mars and Earth in their orbits.


as

Mars will be the closest to Earth it's ever been, because Mars will be the closest to Earth it's ever been.


Am I missing something? That's not how the sentence reads to me. It says that the distance will be small because of a rare coincidence of the orbital positions of Mars and Earth, specifically Mars at perihelion and opposition simultaneously. In other words, the orbital geometry leads to a relatively small physical separation.

Of course, I couldn't find this at all in the basic post, so I assume it is in one of the linked items. Perhaps there is some additional context...

Re:Makes me smile. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6783330)

Am I missing something? That's not how the sentence reads to me. It says that the distance will be small because of a rare coincidence of the orbital positions of Mars and Earth,

That's the point. The distance between the two planets is small because the distance between the two planets positions is small... Get it? It's redundant. The next sentence clears up the matter, but it also means the sentence in question is a waste of space and should have been omitted.

Re:Makes me smile. (1)

aborchers (471342) | about 11 years ago | (#6783396)

That's the point. The distance between the two planets is small because the distance between the two planets positions is small...


But that's not what the sentence said. It said the physical distance is small because of the orbital positions (think angular positions on a model of the solar system, not x,y,z positions in space).

I guess it's redundant if you've fully internalized the relationships of spatial separation to orbital geometry, i.e. an astronomer might immediately realize that minimal E-M separation is implied by E at aphelion + M at perihelion + M at opposition, but it's hardly so obvious as to make it irrelevant to an lay essay explaining why Mars and Earth are close together.

As I said, I can believe I'm missing some subtlety by not reading the full text. Which of the links contains the actual text?

Linux on the desktop (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6782817)

It's a once 4000000000000000000000xlifetimes experiance.

Re:Linux on the desktop (2, Informative)

aborchers (471342) | about 11 years ago | (#6783041)

It's a once 4000000000000000000000xlifetimes experiance.


That depends on whether you're looking forward or back to count your lifetimes. It will be closer in 2287 than it is this time.

Mars? (4, Funny)

Pig Hogger (10379) | about 11 years ago | (#6782820)

I hear they gonna deep-fry it in Scotland.

Mars... A rediculous liberal myth! (-1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6782821)

It amazes me that so many allegedly "educated" people have fallen so quickly and so hard for a fraudulent fabrication of such laughable proportions. The very idea that a gigantic ball of rock happens to orbit our planet, showing itself in neat, four-week cycles -- with the same side facing us all the time -- is ludicrous. Furthermore, it is an insult to common sense and a damnable affront to intellectual honesty and integrity. That people actually believe it is evidence that the liberals have wrested the last vestiges of control of our public school system from decent, God-fearing Americans (as if any further evidence was needed! Daddy's Roommate? God Almighty!)

Documentaries such as Enemy of the State have accurately portrayed the elaborate, byzantine network of surveillance satellites that the liberals have sent into space to spy on law-abiding Americans. Equipped with technology developed by Handgun Control, Inc., these satellites have the ability to detect firearms from hundreds of kilometers up. That's right, neighbors .. the next time you're out in the backyard exercising your Second Amendment rights, the liberals will see it! These satellites are sensitive enough to tell the difference between a Colt .45 and a .38 Special! And when they detect you with a firearm, their computers cross-reference the address to figure out your name, and then an enormous database housed at Berkeley is updated with information about you.

Of course, this all works fine during the day, but what about at night? Even the liberals can't control the rotation of the Earth to prevent nightfall from setting in (only Joshua was able to ask for that particular favor!) That's where the "Mars" comes in. Powered by nuclear reactors, the "Mars" is nothing more than an enormous balloon, emitting trillions of candlepower of gun-revealing light. Piloted by key members of the liberal community, the "Mars" is strategically moved across the country, pointing out those who dare to make use of their God-given rights at night!

Yes, I know this probably sounds paranoid and preposterous, but consider this. Despite what the revisionist historians tell you, there is no mention of the "Mars" anywhere in literature or historical documents -- anywhere -- before 1950. That is when it was initially launched. When President Josef Kennedy, at the State of the Union address, proclaimed "We choose to go to the Mars", he may as well have said "We choose to go to the weather balloon." The subsequent faking of a "Mars" landing on national TV was the first step in a long history of the erosion of our constitutional rights by leftists in this country. No longer can we hide from our government when the sun goes down.

Re:Mars... A rediculous liberal myth! (1)

ralphclark (11346) | about 11 years ago | (#6782877)

Yeah well, it doesn't work just substituting "Mars" for "Moon". Mars doesn't orbit Earth, for one thing.

Re:Mars... A rediculous liberal myth! (-1)

waitigetit (691345) | about 11 years ago | (#6782884)

Actually, it makes as much sense like this.

Vatican Observatory (links within) (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6783361)

It may make you feel better by posting this whether for amusement value alone or to pat your back if you're a liberal, but even the Vatican has an observatory.

http://clavius.as.arizona.edu/vo/
From the above link, "The Vatican Observatory, one of the oldest astronomical research institutions in the world, has its headquarters at the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, Italy, outside Rome. Its dependent research center, the Vatican Observatory Research Group (VORG), is hosted by Steward Observatory at the University of Arizona, Tucson, USA."

Info about the Vatican Observatory
http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15309 a.htm

Why do programs take so long to start under Linux? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6782823)

I understand it with programs like OpenOffice, but why does a simple calculator-program take several seconds to open? In Windows, Photoshop takes only sligthly longer to open than some simple card game on Linux on the same machine.

And it's not like my machine is underpowered. It's an AMD XP 2000+ with 1 GB of memory.

The pyramids (5, Interesting)

shione (666388) | about 11 years ago | (#6782831)

10bux and free beer, that most people vote for the face and pyramids. I want to see a martian looking back at me through his telescope.

For an interesting read on the Face on Mars, I recommend the books by Graham Hancock. He doesn't actually say in his book that aliens built it or make any wild assumptions/conclusions but he does investigate it in a professional manner built solely on science and photographs and correspondence with reliable people working in NASA.

Re:The Face (-1, Troll)

fleafan (547786) | about 11 years ago | (#6782853)

Further info on this subject can be found in Mickey Mouse vol. 12/95 with a special guest appearance by Uncle Scrooge.

Re:The Face (1)

shione (666388) | about 11 years ago | (#6782868)

If you don't believe it, fair enough but that's just makes even more reason to photograph the area again to settle it once and for all.

Re:The Face (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6782984)

They did photograph it again, several years ago. It's a series of mountains, the Face was created because of the shadows. Once they went over it again, it was just another bunch of mountains.

Re:The Face (4, Insightful)

gilroy (155262) | about 11 years ago | (#6783159)

Blockquoth the poster:

even more reason to photograph the area again to settle it once and for all

No, this issue will never be "settled once and for all". The people who believe in the Face on Mars already believe it against photographic evidence, and they do not trust NASA. So why should they believe more proof from the "worldwide scientific conspiracy"?


Things like the Face cult are just the background noise we pay for having the ability to dream and to believe.

Re:The Face (1, Insightful)

kermitron (701247) | about 11 years ago | (#6783655)

You're absolutely correct there. A while back NASA released photographs of 'the face' and essentially showed that this 'structure' does not resemble a face. Some combination of a light trick and other various factors I admittedly can't recall at this moment.

Of course there's always the chance that these photographs are doctored, but I doubt that it would have taken NASA this long to initiate some sort of coverup concerning the martians.
(Besides, allowing people to believe in things that seem outright ludicrous to others does more than any organised conspiracy could accomplish).

Maybe I'm overly cynical about it. The face on Mars is a freaky photo if you take it at... well... face value, but not necessarily signifigant.
Of course I'm sure everyone would like to believe in a link between martian pyramids and Giza, because that's still one of our big unsolved mysteries with results based only on hypothesis' (unless something major slipped completely by my geek radar).

Re:The pyramids (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6783020)

Graham Hancock is one of the kooks who use to go on Art Bells show. Hardly credible

aliens and earth (4, Funny)

abhisarda (638576) | about 11 years ago | (#6783036)

Sometimes I think the surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us.

Re:The pyramids (1)

Paulrothrock (685079) | about 11 years ago | (#6783099)

Nah, it'll be Utopia Planitia, to check on the progress of the Enterprise.

God I'm a dork.

blackout? (5, Interesting)

Barbarian (9467) | about 11 years ago | (#6782832)

Another blackout would be nice about now.

Re:blackout? (1, Insightful)

the uNF cola (657200) | about 11 years ago | (#6782947)

You know, that is a little insensitive.

Yeah, too bad all the people on emergency/medical devices, up 42nd floor ofices, in our 90degree weather or 15 miles from home w/o a subway would be screwed.

Not to mention people IN electrically driven devices when the power dies, such as elevators, rollercoasters, subways.. /end rant

Re:blackout? (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6782991)

medical devices have backups. Hospitals have generators. You can take the stairs out of your cube farm and actually go outside for once. People in subways, elevators, etc. eventually got out.

The only person this is being insensitive to is the one person who died because of the blackout. Everyone else needs some bit of excitement.

Re:blackout? (2, Insightful)

the uNF cola (657200) | about 11 years ago | (#6783001)

You forget about the home stuff, the people in wheel chairs and the people who suffer in the ovens which were once subways underground, in the festering bowls of nyc.

Yeah, excitement.

Re:blackout? (1)

isorox (205688) | about 11 years ago | (#6783065)

I was riding home last night and I pulled off at a clearing. Not a drop of light polution for 5 miles, and only about 20,000 people within 50 miles. Beautiful view of the entire sky. I just lay there, looking up for about 10 minutes, until a car past and stopped to see if I was ok!

Someitmes living in a backwater has its advantages.

Re:blackout? (0, Redundant)

Typingsux (65623) | about 11 years ago | (#6783720)

How is this modded to interesting when it's ignorant?

The parent post would apply if you desired to view dim astronomical objects. You can see the moon and planets from the deepest urban center since they're so bright.

Retrograde motion (4, Informative)

Capt'n Hector (650760) | about 11 years ago | (#6782837)

Just to clear something up in the post, retrograde motion won't affect viewing at all. In fact, the only way someone could detect retrograde motion would be to take very precise measurements over a few days. It's not as if mars or any other planet moves opposite the stars on any given night. But this is slashdot, you all knew that.

You mean it's not When Worlds Collide? (4, Funny)

putaro (235078) | about 11 years ago | (#6782838)

Crap, that means I have to junk the giant ski jump and space craft I've been building in the backyard. At least I had the satisfaction of putting together my list of who gets to go and who gets to stay behind.

SCO is behind all this!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6782859)

Pasted from http://www.madpenguin.org/

Can I help to stop SCO?
The term fraud, as defined in any garden variety dictionary, refers to the premeditated/deliberate act of deceit used in the interest of unlawful and/or unfair gain. When it comes to the SCO Group, no definition could be more fitting. As an individual, it is difficult for an individual to stand up to abuse such as this, but in strength comes in numbers.

The National Fraud Information Center, located at www.fraud.org, is an excellent sounding board for the Linux community if we use it correctly and en masse. Once this organization has information pertaining to fraudulent activity, they alert the proper local/state/federal government agencies.

We've done most of the dirty work for you so all you will have to do is simply cut and paste into the online form:

Name of Company or Individual being reported: The SCO Group

Company URL: http://www.sco.com/

Company E-Mail Address: info@sco.com

Company Address 1: 355 South 520 West

Company Address 2: Suite 100

Company City: Lindon

State/Province: UT

Zip Code: 84042

Company Phone: (801) 765-4999

Company Representative First Name: Darl

Last Name: McBride

How did you first encounter this company/individual: Other

Amount of Money Requested: 699.00

Amount of Money Actually Paid: 0.00

Date of Transaction/Initial Contact: August 5, 2003

Summary of Events: This is where, in your own words, you can describe SCO's actions against you (or even more fitting, the world). Make a good case... this is your moment to shine.

There are obviously some variables that you will have to fill in to fit your circumstances. For instance, if you need to 'license' one desktop copy of Linux, you will need to replace 699.00 with 199.00. You get the idea.

That (0, Troll)

CowBovNeal (672450) | about 11 years ago | (#6783060)

crunching sound you hear is not of earth and mars colliding, its the sound of a server crying for mercy from a slashdotting.

WOW!! (-1, Offtopic)

Steeltoe (98226) | about 11 years ago | (#6783114)

I just saw CowBovNeal!!

He's here. Live!!! *faint*

I'll never wash my eyes again.. hmm, I never wash my eyes! *DOH!*

I can see it now... (1)

vudufixit (581911) | about 11 years ago | (#6782842)

Richard Hoagland's followers spamming scientists to "please focus on the Cydonia area."

Mars disaster... almost as serious as... (0)

botzi (673768) | about 11 years ago | (#6782845)

This [starryskies.com] is the VERY IMPORTANT Mars timeline. This [mts.net] is another chronology timeline(also futur events;oPP). You may see how between 1999 and 2009 there's a large empty place(the second one). In fact, it's reserved for:
2004 - First contact. Angry Martiens destroy the Earth.(reason : Massive spying on alien's private life in summer 2003.)

Even cheapskates like me can see the disc. (5, Interesting)

Glytch (4881) | about 11 years ago | (#6782846)

On a whim, I pointed my cheap 2 megapixel/no optical zoom digital camera towards Mars, and I was astonished to find that I could actually make out the disc of the planet. I'm hoping I can pay off my layaway for a 3MP/10x optical camera before Mars gets too far away.

Re:Even cheapskates like me can see the disc. (5, Informative)

planet_hoth (3049) | about 11 years ago | (#6783086)

If you weren't using a telephoto lens or a telescope or something else to magnify the image, then it probably wasn't the actual disc you were resolving. It was probably just the excess light from Mars "bleeding" onto adjacent detectors on the surface of the camera's CCD. Or maybe the camera had trouble focusing?

For comparison, I have a 2 megapixel camera with 3x optical zoom, and when I hook it up to my 3.5" newtonian telescope, the disc is still tiny. You really need a telescope or a serious telephoto lens to be able to resolve the disc.

Re:Even cheapskates like me can see the disc. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6783145)

Get a better camera.

My 5Megapixel one with a proper night filter can even (although it is faint) pick up the secondary (vertical) ring going from north ot south pole on mars.

Re:Even cheapskates like me can see the disc. (0)

Captain_Chaos (103843) | about 11 years ago | (#6783265)

Are you sure you're seeing the actual disc, and not just pixel bloom?

OH NO!!!!! (-1, Offtopic)

bersl2 (689221) | about 11 years ago | (#6782852)

THE SKY IS FALLING! Run away! Run away!

Dear Lameness Filter:
I am yelling.

Lockwood is a Negroid. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6782855)

Scott Lockwood is a homosexual (or gay) Afro-American (or Negroid). Vlad is unintelligent (or stupid).

Fun gravity calculations (5, Informative)

DrXym (126579) | about 11 years ago | (#6782866)

Click here [badastronomy.com] to see how much gravitational effect Mars will have. Basically, a neglible amount.


I bet that won't stop the wackos getting worked up into a lather. After all, astrologers and their ilk have never let facts, figures or even reality get in the way before now, so it's doubtful they'll start any time soon.

oh whats going on in this artic (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6782867)

tl;dr

Martians knocking???!!!! (1)

nerdhere4news (701279) | about 11 years ago | (#6782869)

Martians are here and its time for some Independence Day stuff!!!! Lets have a look at the one eyed, long eared martians(from now on, people will get to know how the real martians look).

Re:Martians knocking???!!!! (0)

yRabbit (625397) | about 11 years ago | (#6783083)

I thought they had eye-stalks and either one or two eyes, or they were wolves. You know? Yorps, gargs, and vorticons.

Look carefully.. (2, Interesting)

adeyadey (678765) | about 11 years ago | (#6782870)

If your eyesight is good you can see this.. [msss.com]

Ha! They say no danger, (0, Funny)

YOU LIKEWISE FAIL IT (651184) | about 11 years ago | (#6782888)

...but space has a terrible secret, my friend!!1!

Do you have stairs in your house?

Re:Ha! They say no danger, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6783515)

i am protected

Re:Ha! They say no danger, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6783870)

Don't trust Anonymous Coward.

He is malfunctioning.

Close? (5, Informative)

LooseChanj (17865) | about 11 years ago | (#6782894)

This approach will be only 12,000 miles closer than one in 1924.

It's nice to see people taking an interest, but c'mon...Viking [nasa.gov] took better pictures.

Re:Close? (2, Insightful)

MrPink2U (633607) | about 11 years ago | (#6783098)

Yes, Viking did take very nice pictures. The pictures show more detail than I could ever dream of seeing with my naked eye.

BUT looking at a picture is nothing like looking at it with my own eye(s).

Re:Close? (1)

elel (698520) | about 11 years ago | (#6783816)

Have you ever looked at Mars through a telescope from unclouded rural skies? It's breathtaking. The fact that you can clearly see the surface of the planet as well as you can is amazing. It being this close is a pretty cool thing to any astronomer. Granted Voyager did take some great shots of the planet's surface, but I like looking at things with my own eyes.

Arrrrrrggghhhhh (-1, Offtopic)

ExEleven (601282) | about 11 years ago | (#6782896)

Has anyone seen the news, it got closer, ahh, the gravity is ripping my arms of my keyboard

Arrrrgggghhhh!

ROFLMAO...+1 Funny! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6783395)

Silly goose! It said in the synopsis that gravity from Mars cannot affect us on Earth. But you knew that, right? ;)

I like your style of humor, buddy :P

Yum... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6782904)

one more bar please. It's my favorite.

Million to one? (1)

Kaemaril (266849) | about 11 years ago | (#6782914)

Let's see now. Ogilvy states that "The chances of anything coming from Mars are a million to one..."

Terry Pratchett would have us believe (in Guards! Guards!) that events where the chance of something happening are EXACTLY a million to one, are guaranteed to happen ("It's a million to one chance, but it might just work!")

Put those two together and ...

If you see any large weird cylinders lying on the ground which look to be really, really hot ... don't try to open them! :)

Grover's Mill (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6783090)

The probablility of Martians being able to make it across Route 1 to lay waste to Princeton is exactly zero.

You don't need a great telescope... (4, Interesting)

Nice2Cats (557310) | about 11 years ago | (#6782923)

...to see at least one feature: The ice cap at the (uh) South Pole. I have a rather inexpensive, no-name type that my wife bought me on sale -- no frills like counterweights or what the real ones have, and it shakes like crazy when you try to focus -- but after spending about half an hour fumbling along in the darkness at three in the morning, there it was. Beautiful.

One poster mentioned software for star gazing. Go with kstars [kde.org] by Jason Harris et al. Cool graphics, neat features, and the next version will control your telescope for you (if your telescope supports this, of course, unless your computer has SkyNet support). Part of the KDE desktop.

What fooling around with telescopes has taught me is how unbelievably limited our general education is. Consider yourself well educated? Well then. Go out and look up at the Moon tonight -- you've seen it hundreds, thousands of times, right? Now name the features. Which is the Sea of Tranquility? Where is Tycho (now that is really easy)? Even worse are the stars: Yes, you can find the Polar Star (Australians and Neu Zealanders are excused), but then? Name ten stars, any ten stars.

If you are anything like me, you know the different classes of Quake II monsters better than the Moon. Somewhere, somehow, that bothers me; but then maybe I've just been staying up too late at night...

Re:You don't need a great telescope... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6783218)

If you are anything like me, you know the different classes of Quake II monsters better than the Moon. Somewhere, somehow, that bothers me; but then maybe I've just been staying up too late at night...

Your post is a serious one. We should all stop and ponder what you've written here and consider it prior to loading up our next favorite game of the moment, and consider how our time may be better spent. Sure, a lot of us are getting fatter as a result of sitting around most of our lives, but we're also growing dumber, or we were dumb to begin with. Even many of us who have been to college for any length of time. But this can change. The world is so interesting, there's so much to learn and marvel at: from the smallest moving creature to the blazing sun above..and yet most of us spend more time running through imaginary worlds via games/movies, or pissing away our precious time in gossip or other petty activities. Why live life with blinders on? Oh but many of us do. The blinders take the forms of TV, gaming, gossip, etc. and place us within an imaginary world of our making, while our bodies stand cluelessly within the real world.

Life is precious, it's time to stop wasting it.

Re:You don't need a great telescope... (2, Informative)

avrincianu (605446) | about 11 years ago | (#6783726)

Acrux, Alcor, Zeta Ursa Major, Alcyone, Alya (double star), Antares, Izar, Menkent, Polaris, Pollux, Prima and Secunda Giedi, Sadr, Vega. More than 10 :D.

[shameless plug] If you're curious to see how they look like, go here: Some pictures of deep space objects [avrincianu.as.ro] [/shameless plug]

But I think you are right. The level of general education decreases over time. People read less (I know people that don't remember when was the last time they opened a non-techhie book). They use odd source of information and believe all the crap that's fed into their brains through the tv sceen or (some) websites (see the hoax: "Conspiracy Theory: Did we actually land on the moon ?" -- I don't remember the address, but a google search wil reveal it).

And I don't play Quake. I play Orbiter Space Flight Simulator [orbitersim.com] . It's the sort of serious fun that makes you learn some physics and remember some of the math you've forgotten, let alone the joy of flying the Discovery to Jupiter (you know, 2001 - A Space Odyssey) or of a "short" trip to Mars, just to celebrate the occasion (less fuel burn :D).

We've been lucky this year. (4, Informative)

hndrcks (39873) | about 11 years ago | (#6782942)

For those of you who viewed the last good opposition a few years back, you may remember the dust storms that kicked up and obscured just about all surface features. The dust storms are all too common this time of 'year' on Mars, but they seem to be holding off. I got a great view of Syrtis Major and the southern polar cap last week.

Of course, after you drag the scope outside and view Mars, point that thing a little further north and west and catch Uranus and Neptune too! (Ok, hold the jokes about our seventh planet.)

Obligatory disc world reference (1)

Pflipp (130638) | about 11 years ago | (#6783005)

Didn't Terry Pratchett already write about that strange red light [harpercollins.com] being another "planet" on a collision with "Earth"? Now that would be a spectacle to witness...

The changes of anything coming from Mars... (-1, Offtopic)

gidds (56397) | about 11 years ago | (#6783027)

At midnight on the twelfth of August, a huge mass of luminous gas erupted from Mars and sped towards Earth. Across two hundred million^W^W^Wthirty million miles of void, invisibly hurtling toward us, came the first of the missiles that were to bring so much calamity to Earth. As I watched, there was another jet of gas. It was another missile, starting on its way.

sorry (1, Informative)

jtroutman (121577) | about 11 years ago | (#6783032)

Just to be a pedant:
The true gravity of the situation is much less benign.
This means it's worse than it seems, kind of like a double negative. Less benign = more malignant...
But view of Mars really is cool right now, I've been shooting it with a friends 8" telescope and getting some great photos.

What were they thinking? (4, Funny)

JonTurner (178845) | about 11 years ago | (#6783066)

"NASA will be inviting the public to help decide what areas on the red planet to photograph."

Why? NASA asking the public for advice about planetary exploration is like, well, Nerds asking Slashdot for relationship advice.

Re:What were they thinking? (0)

Kombat (93720) | about 11 years ago | (#6783283)

NASA asking the public for advice about planetary exploration is like, well, Nerds asking Slashdot for relationship advice.

Not even close. It's more like NBA forwards asking Slashdot for relationship advice.

Re:What were they thinking? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6783477)

Just as long as they photograph a few Martian cities I'll be happy. Maybe they can even get enough detail to see the little green men.

Re:What were they thinking? (1)

tgd (2822) | about 11 years ago | (#6783539)

Why? Isn't the answer to that obvious? Because the public pays for NASA, the public and their attitude towards space exploration is a lever they can use to move Congress, and considering the waste of decades projects like the space station have turned into, they need all the public support they can get.

Overhyped "once-in-a-lifetime" statements (3, Troll)

dpbsmith (263124) | about 11 years ago | (#6783113)

Oh, come on. Mars is in opposition every couple of years. Does anyone think it will look THAT much bigger and brighter subtending 25.1 seconds this year than it did in Jun 2001 subtending 20.5 seconds?

And if you do care about sitting in the front row of the theatre instead of two rows back, well, Mars is in opposition near the point where the two orbits are closest every 15 or 16 years or so. In August of 1971 it subtended 24.8 seconds of arc.

This once-in-60000-years or whatever is a silly technicality. There will be one magic bit of time lasting--how long?--when it will set the Guinness record for closest approach in umpty-thousand years but your view of it will depend a lot more on the weather and the local street lighting and whether your neighbor's tree is in the way.

It's a great time to look up and see Mars looking so nice bright and red. Or, at least, distinctly orangish to a middle-aged eyeball who can barely detect a difference in color between Vega and Arcturus. And if you have any kind of telescope, you really should run out to your nearest schoolyard and point it at that bright orangy star in the southeast.

But almost equally good opportunities occur every couple of years.

"Have you heard/About the stars/Next July we collide with Mars/Well, did you evah?/What a swell party this is!"--Cole Porter

Re:Overhyped "once-in-a-lifetime" statements (1)

leery (416036) | about 11 years ago | (#6783524)

Does anyone think it will look THAT much bigger and brighter subtending 25.1 seconds this year than it did in Jun 2001 subtending 20.5 seconds?

Yes. Isn't that a huge difference... about 50% change in area for a disk? Yes it should look a lot bigger and brighter. Imagine if your monitor just got 25% wider and taller.

And it may be a once-in-a-lifetime chance... the weather here (on the east coast usa) is unusually clear right now, and so's the weather on mars, apparently. That's really great luck, with mars as big as it's going to be in my lifetime. It's not even likely that conditions will be this good the next 5 times mars is almost-this-big.

Re:Overhyped? So what! (3, Insightful)

NemesisStar (619232) | about 11 years ago | (#6783596)

I don't care if it's overhyped or not, it's enough for me to get up off my behind and get out and enjoy the world.

I'm privileged enough to come from a 1st world country where it is still possible to escape the city lights and see the stars properly - which is something I reckon the vast majority of slashdotters would not have experienced.

When I read about a celestial event on /. I actually take note. That Leonid shower I got inspired at 10:30 at night rang up my friends and we got together, drove for an hour and a bit into the country and were about the only people in the southern hemisphere to see the damn things due to a VERY localised and short-lived break in the clouds. It was magical and everybody present will never forget it.

The next meteor shower I went to the same place and, well, didn't see anything. But that didn't matter, because the majority of my friends were there for the leonid shower and were gaining an interest in just being outdoors and seeing the stars.

This time around, sure, it may just be a red dot in the sky, but it's the biggest this dot has been for the last 73 000 years, and well, sometimes that's just the little motivation we need to be convinced to leave our comfortable labs for an evening which will be enjoyed by all present. Except for my friend who, while watching the Matrix Reloaded, was just adding some finishing touches to his program on his laptop during the opening action scene. He'll spoil my night vision.

So in conclusion, I for one am happy for this hype and will be taking my $2 telescope out with me for a night to remember.

Mars affecting spelling (-1, Offtopic)

evodas (244473) | about 11 years ago | (#6783115)

Transitition? Now that's one that had to either be deliberate or influenced by Martians. Or is it Marsians?
We will only defeat the Martians by employing full time editors!

Re:Mars affecting spelling (0)

Detritus (11846) | about 11 years ago | (#6783214)

I noticed that too. It appears that slashdot has also decided to make it impossible to email an editor. You have to know their super sekret email address.

2287 (1)

kfort (1132) | about 11 years ago | (#6783134)

Given the state of science and biology in particular. It is entirely possible and perhaps even likely that if the human race is not extinct by then , a large number of us will still be alive. If I live to 50 I will see 500. That is why I live so recklessly.

Collisions with Mars? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6783156)

Speculation...

Of course Mars smacking with the Earth is hard to imagine but what if something were to collide with Mars while it is so close to the Earth? Isn't it possible that something colliding with Mars large enough could send fragments of Mars close to Earth? What if Mars was destroyed while it is so close? Has anyone considered these possibilities?

Please seriously consider the possibilities prior to posting your mocking response or flame. Thanks.

Mod parent up... (1)

meringuoid (568297) | about 11 years ago | (#6783415)

Of course Mars smacking with the Earth is hard to imagine but what if something were to collide with Mars while it is so close to the Earth? Isn't it possible that something colliding with Mars large enough could send fragments of Mars close to Earth? What if Mars was destroyed while it is so close? Has anyone considered these possibilities?

... +5 Funny

Re:Mod parent up... (1)

aiabx (36440) | about 11 years ago | (#6783892)

>Of course Mars smacking with the Earth is hard to >imagine but what if something were to collide with >Mars while it is so close to the Earth? Isn't it >possible that something colliding with Mars large >enough could send fragments of Mars close to Earth?

This happens. That's why we are able to find Martian meteorites in Antarctica which hint at the possibility of life. A large enough meterorite hitting Mars will knock pieces loose with enough energy to escape Martian gravity. Once this is done, it's easy for them to float through space until the earth sweeps them up.

And it doesn't destroy the earth, either!
-aiabx

Re:Collisions with Mars? (3, Funny)

valkraider (611225) | about 11 years ago | (#6783883)

What about poor Mars? What if something collided with Earth while it was this close to Mars? Couldn't it send fragments of Earth close to Mars? Has anyone considered that possibility?

Would "fragments of earth" that have been processed into spacecraft and landers and hurdled towards Mars be cause enough for alarm?

Take a Moment... (5, Insightful)

intrinsicchaos (652706) | about 11 years ago | (#6783157)

All funny comments aside, it's quite a magical experience to just look up in the sky and see the Red Planet shining there. Bathed in marslight, it's a nice reminder of just how our lives and civilization itself pales into insignificance when compared with the slow but steady motions of the heavenly skies. Beautiful moment, so take off 5 minutes every night or so to stand outside and look upwards towards the stars. Nothing like it. By the way, I saw a shooting star a few days ago in the northwest sky, anyone know what's up with that?

Re:Take a Moment... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6783562)

By the way, I saw a shooting star a few days ago in the northwest sky, anyone know what's up with that?
What you saw was some crap falling out of the sky and burning up in our atmosphere, leaving a pretty white trail for a fraction of a second.

Re:Take a Moment... (0, Offtopic)

glaHHg (468427) | about 11 years ago | (#6783667)

magical experience... For me to POOP on!

There are stars and planets in the sky? (2, Interesting)

dbleoslow (650429) | about 11 years ago | (#6783242)

Mars would have to be about 5 feet away for me to spot it with all the artificle light where I live in Tokyo.

When asked where I want to go for my vacation coming up, all I can say is, "Somewhere away from the city where I can see the night sky."

Earthquakes (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6783591)

"An astronaut friend told us about how the nuts out there seem to think that Mars is going to collide with the earth or the moon, or the gravitational forces are going to rip the earth apart or cause massive earthquakes."


We had a 7.2 earthquake here in southern New Zealand four days ago -- I need no further proof that mars is trying to kill us all.

[nzherald.co.nz]
http://www.nzherald.co.nz/storydisplay.cfm?story ID =3519390&thesection=news&thesubsection=general

Mars at Opposition (3, Funny)

Aspasia13 (700702) | about 11 years ago | (#6783603)

Why does Mars always have to keep opposing us? Can't we all just get along?

What to look at... (1)

NormHome (99305) | about 11 years ago | (#6783635)

Well I'd really like to see if that face carved out the mountain is Elvis or not!

overheard... (2, Funny)

n0mad6 (668307) | about 11 years ago | (#6783838)

...at a packing store mid last week man (at counter): Its really hot out there today. woman (customer): Yes, it really is! man: I heard that its because Mars is so close to Earth these days woman: oh, really? man: yeah, you know, because the sky...its really big... witness could bear to hear no more at this point.

Humph, _Worlds in Confusion_ (1)

mwood (25379) | about 11 years ago | (#6783996)

as IIRC Asimov put it.

Duhh.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 11 years ago | (#6784013)

I Know where the fruitcakes are getting this -Mars'o'collision stuff from. Just take a look at the details provided with the link.

http://starryskies.com/The_sky/events/mars/oppos it ion01.html

But are we going to die because we will collide with Mars or because the Sun at THAT moment is just about 4 earth diameters away ?
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