Mars closes in

Today, the planet Mars will be 69 million km from Earth — the closest it will be for the next 13 years.

Shevill Mathers, Leatherwood Online’s sky guru writes:

Astronomers around the world will be making the most of this close approach of the planet Mars.

The term ‘planet’ is not a scientific or astronomical term but has been used since early times to describe a ‘wandering star’.

Throughout history there has possibly not been another celestial body that has generated so much mystery, especially when the marking on the planet’s surface were described as ‘canals’ due to a mis-translation from an Italian paper describing these markings.

The ‘wanderings’ are now referred to as the planets orbit around the sun. Being an eccentric orbit,  Mars comes close to earth at intervals.

In the meantime, a new dust storm is brewing on Mars, and it’s a big one.

Longtime Mars observer Joel Warren reports: “This morning I imaged the most spectacular and intense cloud I’ve ever seen on Mars. The speed at which it developed is quite remarkable.”

In Racine, Wisconsin, Mark Schmidt saw it, too, and he took pictures through his 14-inch telescope; see below. The dust storm, denoted by black arrows, looks strangely like an octopus.

This is a great time to look at the planet through a backyard telescope. You can find Mars rising in the east at sunset. It looks like a intense pumpkin-colored star.