Great chance to take a look at the Red Planet
Now is a great time to look to the night skies and get a great glimpse of Mars according to the East Sussex Astronomical Society.
The famous Red Planet is currently approaching its closest point to Earth for 11 years and can be seen by the naked eye as well as offering a rare chance for astronomy fans to get a great look at the Martian features.
Andy Lawes, founder and chairman of East Sussex Astronomical Society, said: “On May 31, Mars will be 47.2 million miles from our planet and will remain close and bright for the first two weeks of June.
The planet will be visible for much of the night if the skies are clear and can be seen without a telescope, its red hue against the night sky shines brightly in the South East.
“Those with a moderate sized telescope may be able to make out some fascinating features on the planet.
At its furthest, the distance between Earth and Mars can reach up to 250 million miles but the closest was in August 2003, when the two planets were just 35 million miles apart.
“If you miss that chance to see it, you will be disappointed to know it will be another 300 years before the planets get that close again.”
He went on to say: “Mars also forms a triangle of celestial sights, which include the planet Saturn and the red star Antares, which will twinkle brightly as its usually faint light is distorted by temperature ripples in the atmosphere.
“The name Antares is from ancient Greek meaning “Anti Mars” or “Mars’ rival”.
“Mars quite large in the sky at the moment, about 18 seconds of arc across (0.3 degrees). It looks very red because it’s so low in the sky and because the surface of Mars is covered in Iron Oxide (rust).”
Star charts are available on the ESAS web site www.esas.org.uk.
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