Physics Department To Provide Mars Viewings Through Telescopes

  • News Photo 1533
    Photo of earth and moon taken from the surface of Mars. NASA, J. Bell (Cornell U.) and M. Wolff (SSI)
  • News Photo 1531
    Hubble telescope photo of Mars in May 2003 NASA, J. Bell (Cornell U.) and M. Wolff (SSI)
Sept. 3, 2003

by Judy Long

Mars is still within peak viewing range, and Baylor University's physics department will provide opportunities to view it through telescopes from 9 to 11 p.m., Sept. 3-4, if skies are clear. Two telescopes pointed toward the red planet will be set up on the roof of the Baylor marina. Viewing will be repeated next week if weather permits.

Mars currently is positioned 34 to 35 million miles from earth and will not be this close again for 200 years. The two planets' orbits have not brought them this close together in 60,000 years. Mars is earth's closest neighbor in the solar system besides our moon and its red coloration comes from iron oxide--rust--on the surface.

Physics professor Dwight Russell said cloudy skies and atmospheric disturbance obstructed much of last week's opportunity to observe our closest celestial neighbor beyond the moon, but that Mars will remain close enough for excellent viewing through the first half of September.

"Mars was a bright orange-red last week, and we were even able to catch a glimpse of the polar ice cap. Hopefully, the atmosphere will be more stable this week and we can get better images," he said.

Russell said an Orion 6-inch reflector telescope with a Dobsonian mount and Celestron Nexstar 9 +-inch telescope will be used for viewing. Filming of the planet will be posted on Baylor's Mars Cam web page at

Two NASA probes are on their way to Mars, which will further our understanding of the planet's surface and the possibility of its supporting life, he added.

The Baylor marina is located approximately one mile east of I-35 on the left side of University Parks Drive.

For more information, contact the physics department at (254) 710-2511.

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