Enthusiasts rush to position for viewing mars opposition
Children and adults alike swarmed around the Newtonian Reflector and the Celestron Refractor telescopes at Anna Science Centre Planetarium on Saturday, awaiting their turn to view mars opposition, a celestial event that occurs every 26 months.
An important event for mars observers all over the world, the opposition occurs when the mars, the first of the five superior planets (which lie outside the Earth's orbit) is at a point diametrically opposite to the Sun, when viewed from the earth.
When a planet is in this position, it's in a configuration that brings it closer to the earth. Being fully illuminated by the sun, it appears large as well as bright.
“Since the mars appears to rise during sunset and set during sunrise, it remains visible throughout the night, though the exact time of opposition is after midnight, around 1.40 am,” said S. Jaya Paul, scientific assistant, Anna Science Centre Planetarium.
Further explaining the phenomenon, he said the mars would be at a distance of 10.08 crore km from the earth during this opposition, and that it would appear big and red for a few weeks following March 4. “Earth-based telescopes can get the best views of the polar ice caps and dark markings that change with the planet's seasons,” he said.
“I am really excited about seeing the mars through the telescope and on Monday when I go back to school I would tell all my friends about what I saw at the planetarium,” said Abdul Razak, class IX, John Britto Matriculation School.
A number of parents who had brought their children to witness the opposition seemed as excited as the little ones. “On Friday, I noticed a bright red star on the sky and I checked with the planetarium about the star, and if they were organising a viewing,” said L. Supraja, mother of eight-year-old Neshaa.
I wanted my daughter to have a clear look at the opposition. The mars came closest to the earth during a previous opposition in 2003, when the distance between the two planets had shrunk to 5.5 crore km.
On an average, the mars and the earth are at a distance of 38 crore km from each other.
For the benefit of those gathered at the planetarium, the telescopic view of the opposition was displayed on a telescreen as well.