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True-color image of Mars taken by the OSIRIS instrument on the ESA Rosetta spacecraft during its February 2007 flyby of the planet. Source: European Space Agency and Max-Planck Institute for Solar System Research for OSIRIS Team

​Contact: Ann Hatch
214-378-1819; ahatch@dcccd.edu

For immediate release — July 17, 2018

(DALLAS) — Close encounters of the Martian kind are coming, beginning with the waning hours of Monday, July 30, leading into the best view of the Red Planet at 2:51 a.m. on July 31. For a few hours, mere mortals can almost touch Mars when it’s only 35.78 million miles from Earth.

That perspective won’t come again, by telescope or the naked eye, until Aug. 28, 2287 — almost 270 years from now. (Stargazers had a slightly closer look at Mars in the late summer of 2003.)

Don’t miss it! Members of the Texas Astronomical Society will bring their best telescopes to the campus of Brookhaven College so that students and members of the general public can participate in the free 2018 Mars Close Encounter event.

Eager Mars watchers can peer through telescopes from 9 to 11 p.m. on Monday, July 30, in the outdoor plaza area between the K and X buildings at Brookhaven, which is located at 3939 Valley View Lane in Farmers Branch.

“Approximately every 26 months, Earth and Mars are located on the same side of the solar system. Because their orbits are elliptical, the two planets can be very close together,” said Charles “Chaz” Hafey, astronomy and calculus faculty member at Brookhaven College. “At such times, Mars appears very bright. It’s easier to see with the naked eye and also is an excellent sight in telescopes during that time.”

Hafey added, “The Red Planet comes close enough for exceptional viewing only once or twice every 15 to 17 years. The closest approach of Mars since 57,617 B.C. occurred on Aug. 28, 2003, when the distance between Earth and Mars was 34.6 million miles. The two planets won’t be that close again until 2287, when its approach will be nearer to the Earth than it was in 2003. Close approaches also will occur in 2020 and 2035, but not as near to Earth as the one we will see this month.”

If clouds or rain occur on July 30, interested viewers can call the Brookhaven College Astronomy Hotline at 972-860-4301 after 3 p.m. for updated information about the Mars event scheduled that Monday. If the event is clouded out, the back-up date for viewing will be Tuesday, July 31; however, the back-up day viewing only will be offered if the July 30 event does not occur.

For general details about the 2018 Mars Close Encounter, check these sites:

mars.nasa.gov/allaboutmars/nightsky/mars-close-approach/

earthsky.org/astronomy-essentials/why-is-mars-sometimes-bright-and-sometimes-faint

space.com/40724-summer-of-mars-2018.html

For more information about the Mars viewing event at Brookhaven College on July 30, contact Hafey by email at chafey@dcccd.edu or Huey Stevens, observing coordinator for the Texas Astronomical Association, at tasobserving@gmail.com.

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