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Emily LakdawallaOctober 19, 2005

NOW Mars is spectacular

Back in August, there was a false alarm being circulated by email that Mars was going to be super-close to Earth on August 27. Anybody who went out looking for Mars then would have been disappointed. But now we're getting very close to opposition, and Mars is getting quite bright in the night sky.

Mars will be closest to Earth in 2005 on October 29 or 30, depending on your time zone. The actual date of Mars opposition -- the moment when Earth and Mars are at precisely the same longitude with respect to the Sun -- is November 7, 2005. But because of the non-circular shapes of Mars' and Earth's orbits, Mars gets closest to the Earth a week earlier. You don't have to wait until the 29th to look for Mars; it's quite bright now. Look east in the late evening and you'll be able to spot Mars as a big, yellowy-orangey "star."

In other Mars news, A. J. S. Rayl has just posted a story about the new "Live from Mars" feature on the Mars Odyssey Thermal Emission Imaging System website at Arizona State.

Also, an interesting paper has just been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences about magnetic anomalies on Mars by Connerny, Acuña, Ness, and others. It'll be a controversial paper, I'm sure, because they are talking about a new magnetic map of Mars from the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft, and the patterns they see imply the presence of "great faults" crossing Mars that they claim are analogous to transform faults occurring in Earth's ocean basins. They're talking about evidence for past plate tectonics on Mars. I will be curious to see how this story plays out at future scientific meetings. If you're interested in the details, you can download the full text of the article through that link above.

Read more: Mars Odyssey, Mars

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Emily Lakdawalla

Solar System Specialist for The Planetary Society
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