‹‹ Looking Up

Red Rover

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New Hubble portrait of Mars
Credit NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA), J. Bell (ASU), and M. Wolff (Space Science Institute)
New Hubble portrait of Mars

This week Hal lets us know what that bright red object in the night sky is.  

What’s bright and red and pretty darn close right now? Southern Colorado listeners can see the answer in the evening sky right now. The beautiful crimson planet -- Mars. Mars is just about as bright as it ever gets in our sky, and is as close as it’s been in the last dozen years. It’s definitely worth a look, and even small binoculars may show you something remarkable, though a small telescope will do the best job. 

We've got Rover from Mars.. go ahead caller...
Credit nasa/JPL
We've got Rover from Mars.. go ahead caller...

  Because of the orbits of Earth and Mars, this June is a wonderful time to get a very good look at the angry red planet.

Mars is the only planet in our solar system entirely populated by robots. Various orbiters and rovers continue to send back remarkable information and gorgeous pictures. We’ve detected what seems to be  strong evidence of liquid water in Mars’ past, and intriguing hints that there may still be some water there today.

In the southern Colorado sky, Mars is the brilliant, bright, and red hued object that rises around sundown. You will notice that during June, Mars will get closer and closer to another bright red object in our sky, the red star Antares. Antares literally means “rival of Mars,” and these two objects getting nearer and nearer to each other this month makes it pretty obvious where that name came from. Both are bright and red, but for very different reasons.

Antares is red because it is a massive red supergiant star, over 400 times bigger than our own Sun. Mars is red because, well, simply put, it’s rusty. The surface of Mars contains very high amounts of iron oxide. And we all know what happens when you mix iron and water – you get rust. So grab a can of WD-40 and come to a star party so we can show you our favorite rusty planet.

If you’d like to take a closer look at Mars, or any of the other wonderful and amazing things in the sky, please visit CSASTRO.org for a link to information on our monthly meetings and our free public star parties! 

This is Hal Bidlack for the Colorado Springs Astronomical Society, telling you to keep looking up, Southern Colorado!