While I’m on subjects Astronomical… don’t forget to keep an eye on Mars. On August 27/28 it will be at its’ closest approach to the Earth in recorded history. Calculations show humans have not had a Mars show this good in perhaps 50000 years. It is hard to be certain because chaos takes its’ toll when you run the solar system backwards that far.
This close approach is called an “Opposition”. It means the Earth and Mars are both in a line with the Sun and on the same side. It happens once every year when the Earth on its’ inner, faster track around the Sun catches up with the dawdling outer track Mars. The orbits of Mars and Earth are both slightly elliptical so the distance between the two varies with where the two bodies are on their elliptical paths. When Mars is at its’ closest to the Sun at the same time Earth is at its’ farthest, we have especially good views. The one coming up later this month is spectacular.
This does not mean you will see a Martian disk with your unaided eye. It does not even mean you will see views like a Hubble telescope from that cheap refractor you got for Christmas when you were aged twelve. However, if you have any amateur astronomer friends, they may be acting like giddy twelve year olds for the next two months. They will certainly be showing up at the office with bleary eyes and silly grins.
They will see detail they have never dreamed of seeing before. Of course there might be a global dust storm just after Opposition… in which case they will stare at the largest blurred reddish disk they’ve ever seen.