Let’s Talk Mars in August

Here’s a few facts about Mars right now.

You will NOT see Mars spectacularly at the end of the month. Right now Mars is a dim (+o.5 magnitude), red, star-like object in the constellation Taurus, and it rises on August 1 at 1.30 am EDT. On August 31, Mars – still in Taurus – rises at 12.30am, and has brightened to magnitude +0.28. While that it brighter than many of the stars you see at night, it’s not as bright as it will be at opposition in December (then -1.52). The fact is Mars is inconspicuous this month. The email/SMS you received, what you read online, or what you heard from the news media about how great it will be on August 27th is wrong. Period. For more on this, please see this post.

But there is some other news about Mars that is factual, and interesting:

Right now there is a major dust storm event on Mars, which has been hampering the mission of the twin rovers Spirit and Opportunity. The rover team is hoping that the dust storm will subside quickly, and that the rovers will be able to survive and resume their mission.

While people sit in wait for the dust to subside on Mars, another mission to the Red Planet is soon to be launched. The Phoenix mission, to study Mars near its north polar region, is scheduled to launch on Saturday morning, August 4th. Landing date is set for May of 2008. More information can be found at the Phoenix home page.

Phoenix on Mars
The Phoenix lander on Mars

If you would like to see an excellent documentary of the Mars Rover mission, then there is a DVD just for you. Roving Mars, which was an IMAX film last year, has been released on DVD and Blu-Ray. It’s an excellent behind-the-scenes film about the planning, launching, and exploring the Red Planet by two intrepid explorers, each going great well past their ninety day missions. You can find it locally, or you can order it from Amazon.com.

Cover to the Roving Mars DVD

More about August, non-Mars stuff, later.


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