UNCA to Host Mars Viewing on August 27;
Planet in Closest Approach to Earth in Thousands of Years
This month Earth’s orbit is catching up with Mars, resulting in the
closest approach between the two planets in recorded history. "That
means the planet will be bigger and brighter for viewing by humans since
before the dawn of human civilization," said Randy Booker, UNCA
Physics Department chair and professor.
UNC Asheville’s Physics Department and the UNCA Society of Physics
Students will host a viewing of the historical close approach of Mars from
10 p.m. to midnight Wednesday, Aug. 27. Telescopes will be set up on the
UNCA Quad. In case of heavy clouds or rain, the observing session will be
held from 10 p.m. to midnight on Thursday, Aug. 28, in the same location.
The viewing is free and open to the public.
"On August 27, Mars will reach its ‘perihelion opposition,’
meaning that it is approaching the sun at its closest while at the same
time approaching Earth at its closest point in orbit," said Booker.
"The combination of the two will enable Mars to reach its largest
possible size in the sky, 25.1 arc-seconds in diameter, and for it to
shine at magnitude -2.9. This magnitude will mean that Mars will be
shining brighter than Jupiter and almost as bright as Venus."
Booker noted that the large size and increased brightness of the planet
will make Mars a fascinating object to view with telescopes. Mars will
appear as an orange-red object glowing brightly in the southeastern sky
after sunset. It will be visible in the southern sky around midnight and
can be seen in the southwestern sky between midnight and when it sets
around dawn. Mars will also shine big and bright for several weeks before
and after August 27.
For more information, call Randy Booker, UNCA Physics Department chair,
- Dr. Randy Booker, UNCA Physics Department chair, at 828/251-6442
- Jill Yarnall, UNCA Public Information Assistant Director, 828/251-6526