Astronomy Picture of the Day

Mars in View

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Mars in View


Very good telescopic
views of Mars can be expected in the coming
weeks as the
nears opposition on December 24th.

Of course, opposition means opposite
the Sun in planet Earth's sky -
that occurs every 26 months for Mars.

more elliptical orbit, the actual
date of closest approach to Earth will be December 18,
when Mars will be within about 88 million kilometers of
our fair planet.

Situated in the constellation Gemini and rising after evening twilight,
the bright, ruddy disk of Mars will reach nearly 16
arcseconds in diameter
(about 1/100th the diameter of the Full Moon).

In this already exceptional image taken on November 18, north is down
and surface markings around the sprawling, dark, albedo feature
Syrtis Major
are remarkably clear.

The image was recorded with a video camera and filters on a 1 meter
telescope at
Pic Du
, a mountain top observatory in the
French Pyrenees.

Taking advantage of the shorter travel distance near opposition,
NASA launched
the Phoenix
lander to Mars in August, scheduled to arrive in May 2008.

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