It can not be compared to a total solar eclipse of August 20, 2017, but the Mars attack, as a local astronomer buffalo calls it, is a good reason to look at the sky.
It happens every 25 months, with Mars taking two years to turn around the sun, before the three lines up in line with the earth between the sun and the red planet. But this time, Mars is closer to the Sun, which means it's brighter in the sky and as close to Earth as it has been since 2003, no more than 35.8 million miles.
"It sounds like a long way off, but it's like next door," said Douglas Christensen of the Stockton Astronomical Society, who also referred to it as the "Brush Back Pitch" for baseball fans.
Tuesday is the day Earth and Mars make their closest connection at 1
This is because it comes two days after the full moon and the brightness of the moon decreases its telescopic view of Mars.
The planet is now visible. It rises to the east and moves across the southern sky. On Wednesday, when smoke from the Ferguson Fire poured into the San Joaquin Valley, stars were hard to spot, but Christensen predicted that Mars would be visible from about 10 in the morning. was just right. At 11 o'clock on Thursday it was even more obvious.
It glowed in the sky, not red, but a bright yellow.
Christensen, who followed his father into family business, became an astronomical enthusiast after taking astronomy in 1985 at San Joaquin Delta College. On moonless nights, or during the Stockton Astronomical Society's monthly events at the Oak Grove Regional Park (the next is August 18), it's poetic about starry sky from 5,000 feet above sea level
"Everyone casts the word around: & # 39; you're awesome, this app is great & # 39; "said Christensen. "They destroy the word and reduce the word, beat the definition, it means reverence, there are two things that do it: standing on the southern edge of the Grand Canyon at sunrise and in the night sky, on a moonless, clear night in the Sierra It hits people differently, but it does not matter to us, in a good way, the little crap you're dealing with, the stupid stuff is all gone, you make a cosmic connection, from the Carl Sagan speaks, you understand that you are a point on the globe that is a point in the Solar System, the galaxy, the Universe, and you really feel insignificant, which is awesome. "
Christensen's enthusiasm for astronomy increased him when he was in his 20s. Born in 1960, he watched Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon on July 20, 1969. He watched the development and flight of the Space Shuttle and Space Station, but it was a simple introductory course that opened his eyes to the sky
I have never taken astronomy. We had to do a science at the community college and I took geology and learned plate tectonics and earthquakes.
Last summer's solar eclipse, however, increased my interest in space, and while the Martian attack, as Christensen jokingly calls it, is exciting, it's not the only planet that's visible to the naked eye. Venus and Jupiter can also be seen.
When I was in fifth grade, we had an astronomical unit in science, and I vaguely remember that classmates had read their reports about different planets and Venus and Jupiter were safely covered. (Apart from that, could there have been a worse way to teach or interest science than to write 10-year reports by copying something from an encyclopedia and then submitting it to the class? No wonder I spoke English ( Just as Christensen was right to locate Mars in the sky, he pointed me to Venus, which shines brightly in the west shortly after sunset, and Jupiter in the southern sky between Venus and the moon, and Saturn is out there somewhere but I've never seen it.
The Heavens-Above.com website offers a map of the sky when you want to determine the stars and planets you see in. There is also a free app called Skyview that you can download On the suggestion of Christensen, I chose binoculars, and while I hoped that Mars would appear red, it was yellow.
I will continue on to a red M ars, and Christensen said he will be visible until December. It will not be as close as it will be on Tuesday.
Christensen, who must be fabulous when sharing his telescope with visitors to the Oak Grove Regional Park, likened the planet's current direction to a race for a train. 19659003] "We run all the laps around the sun, we're in the third lane, Mars is in the fourth lane, Jupiter is the fifth lane, there's room between the fourth and fifth lanes, and Pluto was running in front of the stadium," he said meaning the planet, which had lost its status as a planet and in 2006 was reclassified into a dwarf planet.
Right now it's a good time to have tickets on the finish line, because the race over the night sky is a dazzling, maybe even really great sight.
Contact reporter Lori Gilbert at (209) 546-8284 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @lorigrecord.