Sunday, September 30, 2007
The Red Planet in Splendour Rises
If viewed after midnight next week, a planet beloved of many science fiction writers will be visible near the moon in our sky.
Mars is currently midway between the zodiacal constellations of Taurus and Gemini. During this week, it will rise shortly before 11 p.m. (local time). It will be visible as it rises above the east-northeast horizon. At present it is the fifth brightest star in the heavens.
As it continues to approach our planet, Mars will increase in brightness. It will surpass Sirius by 9 December and, during the second half of December it will match Jupiter.
Next Wednesday next, or actually very early on Thursday morning, Mars will hover 7 degrees or so above and to the right of the waning sickle moon as they rise above the east-northeast horizon.
The 'Red Planet' will be yellow-orange in hue. Those familiar with Edgar Rice Burroughs and Philip K. Dick no doubt will be prompted to think of all the 'life forms' and 'civilisations' that were projected upon this mysterious planet.