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Mars Invasion 2005!
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Altitude: 50 Meters (more or less)
  Updated July 29, 2005
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« DON'T BE MISLED BY ERRONEOUS INFO ABOUT THE MARS OPPOSITION CIRCLING THE INTERNET »
Save the Date to Observe the Red Planet!
Jump Down to Observing Schedule     Jump Down to "War of the Worlds" Anniversary

Free Public Star Party for the
Exquisite 2005 Mars Opposition
The Face of Mars 2003 Aug. 26/27 by Ralph Aeschliman.  Saturday Night, 2005 November 12
Powell Hall Exhibition Center

Fall nights in 2005 may give the best views of Mars for USA observers in the last fifty years,
much better than even the very close approach of the red planet two years ago!
This will be our last chance until 2018 to see Mars this large from Earth.
And, it comes on the anniversary of the 1938 radio broadcast of a Martian invasion

Mars Symbol (click for Mars info from SEDS)

MARS IS USUALLY A DISAPPOINTINGLY SMALL OCHRE DISK IN THE NIGHT SKY EXCEPT WHEN EARTH AND MARS ARE NEAR EACH OTHER.

However, when Mars and Earth are close, Mars can shine as the brightest nighttime celestial object and reveal an yellow-orange disk large enough to show a polar cap, dark surface features, clouds and even dust storms!

In 2005 Earth and Mars will have a relatively close approach on October 30 (69,000,000 km or 43,000,000 mi). This is still about 180 times farther than the Moon is from Earth but closer than any other planet comes except Venus.

To the unaided eye, Mars will appear as an extremely bright yellowish-orange star, a "point of light" brighter than all nighttime celestial objects except the Moon and Venus*

In mid-August 2005, Mars rises about midnight and appears as a bright, orangy star low over the east northeast horizon during evening hours.

By October/November Mars will rise near sunset and soar high into the southern sky near midnight, about 85% of the way up from the south point to overhead.

Telescopic views of Mars at this time should give us splendid views of the Martian disk not often seen.

Mars is often disappointingly small but is much larger at the rare times of favorable oppositions

*Venus appears as a brilliant evening "star" low in the southwestern dusk sky, setting about 3-1/2 hours after the Sun during October/November.

Mars Doesn't Often Get This Close to Earth—Miss This Chance and You Won't Get As Good A Look For At Least 13 Years!
FAVORABLE OPPOSITIONS BETTER IN 2005

Unfortunately, close Earth-Mars approaches occur only about every 2.1 years, when Mars is near "opposition" (opposite) to the Sun's position on the sky. Even then Mars can still appear quite small in telescopes.

However, the noncircular orbits of Earth and Mars allow for favorable close approaches. See "Why the Martian Disk Changes its Apparent Diameter."

These favorable close approaches (or favorable oppositions) occur only once every 15 to 17 years. (The last was in 2003.)

During these opportune times, Mars is about twice as close to Earth compared with an unfavorable opposition.

In late August 2003 Mars had one of these highly favorable close approaches, the closest in perhaps 60,000 years!
(Ref. A. Vitagliano)

The 2005 November opposition of Mars (Table 1) is not as favorable compared with the August 2003 opposition because Mars will not be as close, as bright or as large. (See Table 2.)

But, in 2005 Mars will rise much higher into USA skies than 2003. (See Fig. 1.)

Consequently, the higher elevation of Mars in 2005 may give USA observers the best views of this planet in the last fifty years and perhaps for the rest of this century.

Also, the 2005 opposition occurs in November, which often brings more frequent clear skies to much of the USA than summer months. (The 2003 opposition occurred in August.) This is especially true for Florida which has summer monsoon-like rains.

The fall of 2005 may give many of us the best opportunity to scrutinize this planet from Earth for many years to come.


OUR OBSERVING SCHEDULE

The Alachua Astronomy Club, Inc. and the Florida Museum of Natural History
are arranging a special night for Mars viewing (including other celestial objects)
Note: Check back for ongoing updates.
Date Saturday Night, November 12, 2005
Time 7:00 p.m. until about 11:00 p.m. ET (Weather Permitting)
(If skies cloudy, telescope observing cancelled but other events listed below still held)
What
 7:00 p.m. –  7:45 p.m. Public talk about Mars by Mr. Tandy Carter inside Museum.
WHAT CAN
I SEE
ON MARS?


What Can I See on Mars (click)
 7:45 p.m. –  closing Short, continuous computer presentation about observing Mars outside front entrance of Powell Exhibition Hall.
 7:45 p.m. – 11:00 p.m.
  (time approx.)
Observe Mars, Moon & other celestial objects through club telescopes outside Museum.
10:00 a.m. –  8:30 p.m. Museum exhibits open for extended evening hours except Butterfly Rainforest. (Restroom facilities will stay open till later.)
Where Powell Exhibition Hall
(Education & Exhibition Center of the Florida Museum of Natural History)
SW 34 Street & Hull Road, UF Campus, Gainesville FL
See Powell Hall for directions and map

(If an AAC member, you are also invited to attend the AAC Mars observing star party on November 5.)



WAR OF THE WORLDS ANNIVERSARY AND THE 2005 MARS OPPOSITION
The War of the Worlds (click for book)

It is intriguing that the 2005 close approach of Mars to Earth comes on an auspicious daynearly on Halloween and the 67th anniversary of the notorious 1938 Orson Welles broadcast about an invasion from Mars!

This radio program was adapted from H.G. Wells' 1898 superb novel, The War of the Worlds and broadcast Sunday, October 30, 1938 from 8:00 to 9:00 p.m. ET. In 2005 Mars is closest to Earth at 11:00 p.m. EDT, October 29. (See Table 1.)

Notes: H.G. Wells wrote his terrifying book about an invasion from Mars in the late nineteenth century with the Martians first landing in London. Orson Welles adapted his story from the book but made major modifications for his 1938 radio broadcast including a Martian landing in New Jersey in 1938. The realism of the radio broadcast performed as a news program by CBS and the "Mercury Theatre on the Air," caused widespread hysteria, especially on the East Coast. (Various adaptations followed.)

An influential and highly acclaimed movie adaptation (based more on the Orson Welles radio show rather than the original) was released in 1953 by director Byron Haskin. This film's special effects were state-of-the art (though now dated) and used novel hovering Martian airships, and new Martian and Earth weapons (e.g., a disintegration ray and a nuclear bomb). The Martians, also, now first landed in California.

The latest film release by Steven Spielberg in 2005 returns the first landings to New Jersey but the invaders are no longer from Mars. (Some reviewers consider this latest adaptation more of a flawed, melodramatic horror film than good science fiction with too much time spent showing Tom Cruise's shaky relationship with his former wife and two insufferable children.)

Pendragon Pictures supposedly produced the first faithful film adaptation (directed by Timothy Hines) of the original novel but it was never released in theaters as intended in early 2005. A DVD version is now available.


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