All set for a close view of Mars

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM Aug. 26. Tomorrow, astronomy enthusiasts in the city will have an opportunity to get a closer view of the planet, Mars, as it zooms nearer to the Earth than it has come in the last 73,000 years.

Arrangements have been made to view Mars through telescopes at both the University Observatory and at the Science and Technology (S&T) Museum.

At the S&T Museum, a three-inch refractor telescope has been set up in the old building. The public will be allowed to view the planet from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. till August 29. According to a Museum official, the prime viewing time would be from 7-30 p.m. onwards, when it has become sufficiently dark.

Officials at the observatory, opposite the Kanakakkunnu palace, have readied a five-inch refractor telescope to enable the public to get a view of the Red Planet. The observatory will be opening round-the-clock on August 27 and August 28. The planet will become visible in the southeastern sky for about two hours after sunset, the observatory officials said.

On August 27, at 3-21 p.m. Indian Standard Time (IST), the distance between Earth and Mars will be only 55.758 million km. On August 28, Earth and Mars will be in `opposition', meaning that the Sun and the two planets will be lining up in space. During this `opposition', the two planets will be less than 56 million km apart, which is closer than during any opposition since 1924.

Earth and Mars will come this close, again, only on August 28, 2287.

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