Sunday, 10 August 2003: 11:00 AM
Mars in the Spotlight: The 2003 Apparition
The orbits of Earth and Mars bring these two planets relatively close to one another about every two years. But on August 27, 2003, Mars will be nearer to Earth — only 34,600,000 miles away — than at any time in recorded history. On that date, and for many weeks before and afterward, Mars will outshine every star and planet except Venus, making it easy to spot after dark. Simple charts will be presented showing where and when to find Mars in the evening sky. When seen through a telescope, the planet will show a distinct, salmon-colored disk. Under good conditions and using higher magnification, backyard viewers should be able to see dusky light and dark surface markings and maybe even one of its dazzling white polar caps. By late summer, Mars may be engulfed in a widespread and perhaps global dust storm. At that time, six spacecraft will either be en route to Mars or already there studying it.