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Mars in 186 Seconds

By thelizman in Science
Sat Aug 23, 2003 at 05:44:45 PM EST
Tags: Science (all tags)
Science

On Wednesday August 27th, skywatchers the world over will have a special treat. The planet Mars will be a mere 34.6 million miles (55.7 million kilometers) from Earth. This astronomical stones-throw represents the closest Mars has been to Earth in nearly 60,000 years, and the best chance for a really good look at a planet that has tempted humanity since ancient times.


You can already see the "Red Planet", and in many places it is the brightest dot in the sky. Mars is expected to have a peak magnitude (brightness) of -2.9. By comparison, Venus (often called "The Evening Star" or "The Morning Star" because it is visible in at dusk and dawn) reaches a magnitude of -4.0.

Mars in History

Western Culture has had a love affair with the planet Mars since ancient Egypt. It was about CA 1500 B.C. when Egyptian temple priests wrote of Mars as Horus. These priests also noted the retrograde motion of Mars. It was another 1200 years before Aristotle noted that Mars must be farther from Earth than the Moon, since it passed behind the Moon.

In spite of its prominance in early astronomy, Mars didn't become sexy until Italian astronomer Giovanni Virginio Schiaparelli made the first comprehensive telescopic survey of Mars. In his observations, Schiaparelli noted that there were "channels" on Mars. He also called dark areas oceans, and light areas continents. The Italian word for "channels", cannali, was mistranslated as "canals" leading some to believe that there was intelligent life on Mars to build these canals. The observation that Mars has an atmosphere, and the discovery that Mars was similar in size to Earth fueled speculation that Mars would harbor intelligent life.

Mars Attacks

In 1898, H. G.Wells authored a book called "War of the Worlds", in which Martian invaders nearly conquered Earth, but were forced to retreat presumably because the terrestrial microbes were deadly to them. The book was a tremendous success, and was adapted for a radio broadcast by Orson Wells. The now infamous "War of the Worlds" radio show was framed as a news broadcast, and unwitting listeners took the broadcast seriously, causing a national panic. In 1953, "War of the Worlds" was updated for Hollywood, becoming one of the most famous classic Sci-Fi flims. So successful was the movie version, that it shored up lagging sales of the now 55 year old book, and managed to inspire a short television series. Mars continued to figure prominently in Sci-Fi even after the Viking Landers failed to find any evidence of life on Mars at all. However, that hasn't kept some from speculating that Mars once supported life.

Life On Mars

Today, Mars remains an active topic of interest to astronomers, astrophysicists, and astrobiologists. Mars is the least hostile of the other planets, and the colonization of Mars has been a dream of Space enthusiasts since mankind first shot to the stars. Werner Von Braun, proposed an ambitous program to get to Mars that involved a system of orbital space stations and lunar bases. Ambitious though it was, his proposal was the most feasible and is currently the method by which China plans to get to and colonize Mars. American scientists are still focusing on more direct methods.

Mars in 186 Seconds

In the past, scientists studying Mars via space probes have been stymied by the same problem online video game players have - lag. During the late 70's, it would take more than 44 minutes to receive a response from the space probes. When the Soujourner Rover drove around Mars in 1997, it took 17 minutes for radio commands and replies to journey between Mars each way. But on August 27th, it will only take 3 minutes, 6 seconds for a radio or light wave to travel between Earth and Mars. That's a mere 186 seconds. To go from 22 minutes to 3 minutes explains just how close Earth and Mars will come to each other.

Viewing Mars

Finding Mars will depend on your location in on the planet. Your best bet is to contact your local Planetarium to see if they are hosting any special viewing events. If you plan to do it yourself, just keep an eye on the sky. You will have no trouble finding Mars - it's the bright reddish-orange dot. Astronomy software such as Starry Night or Celestia will help you find the planet in the sky, and will let you explore the known universe.

While Mars can be seen with the naked eye, it's rather uninteresting. You'll get more viewing pleasure with an inexpensive telescope, or a good set of field binoculars. More ambitious amature astronomers might even surrender their web cams and enter the world of CCD Astronomy.

As far as astronomical events go, our close encounter with Mars is incredibly exciting. Our long fascination with Mars and potential future for exploration there holds an incredible interest for the human race. In truth, you'll probably not spend more than 10 minutes staring at it unless you have a good telescope, but for many skywatchers it will truly be an exciting event.

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Related Links
o Mars
o magnitude
o Venus
o Horus
o retrograde motion
o Giovanni Virginio Schiaparelli
o H. G.Wells authored a book
o War of the Worlds
o radio broadcast
o Orson Wells
o War of the Worlds [2]
o television series
o Viking Landers
o Mars once supported life
o astrobiolo gists
o Werner Von Braun
o ambitous program to get to Mars
o China plans to get to and colonize Mars
o focusing
o Soujourner Rover
o local Planetarium
o Starry Night
o Celestia
o web cams
o CCD Astronomy
o Also by thelizman


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Mars in 186 Seconds | 117 comments (116 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
The Mars colonization. (1.88 / 9) (#1)
by Vesperto on Sat Aug 23, 2003 at 02:50:18 PM EST

Whether you agree that the human race will totally destroy this planet's biological diversity through ignoring the greenhouse effect caused by fossil fuels or not... ok, assuming you agree and that in some decades this ball will be non inhabitable, it seems as though Mars is the next in line, while Earth will be usefull only to Hollywood as a Mad Max scenary.

The amusing thing (to be, obviously, this is my post), is that we know virtually nothing about our oceans, which just so happen to cover over half of the Earth's surface. Considering a nearing apocaliptic future, i'd waste my money studying the oceans, not other planets. A matter or priority, that way we'd have some more centuries of expansion time to screw up the oceans and then move to Mars.

As stupid as it may seem, the idea of buying your piece of land on the moon isn't new and it won't surely fade away. The issue is of course that no one owns anything out there, let alone some jerk who never went there. As far as i could speculate, only the Americans and Russians would own a part of it, maybe a 50Km radius around their respective flags. When/if the Mars-colonization race starts, things will be no different if no changes 'till then are made. We'll either see a multimillion dollar Oklahoma race to ___, or people will decide to stop being jerks and cooperate.

What about all the other planets? I'm no astronomer but i think the solar system is yet to be totally mapped and some planets have many moons. What about Europa? What are the odds and things to have in account when studying these probabilities and who are the geeks behind it?

And there will be spaceships someday!

If you disagree post, don't moderate. Alimaniere forf

Cost-benefit (5.00 / 1) (#3)
by ZorbaTHut on Sat Aug 23, 2003 at 03:07:59 PM EST

I, personally, am more interested in going into space than learning how to colonize the oceans. Look at it this way - if we learn how to colonize the oceans, we've got one big body of water we can colonize. Plus, if anything catastrophic happens to Earth, we're still dead.

On the other hand, if we colonize other planets, hey, we've got *dozens* of planets and moons out there. Plus if anything catastrophic happens to Earth, well, it'll suck, but at least there will still be remnants of humanity out there.

[ Parent ]

True... (2.00 / 1) (#6)
by Vesperto on Sat Aug 23, 2003 at 03:18:16 PM EST

...but it would still be much more cost-effective to collonize the oceans. Still, i'd prefer to colonize a way to erradicate world hunger first and then worry about space exploration. Nonetheless i'd love to live in (since on gets a little bit too hot) the moon and maybe vacation in the Pacific.

If you disagree post, don't moderate. Alimaniere forf
[
Parent ]
Treaties (5.00 / 1) (#8)
by Tatarigami on Sat Aug 23, 2003 at 04:36:09 PM EST

Under international treaties, no nation or individual can exclusively own any real estate off-Earth. Which doesn't actually make it impossible, it just means that anyone who tries is going to have the rest of the looking for a way to make it un-happen.

[ Parent ]
Eh (4.00 / 1) (#11)
by ShooterNeo on Sat Aug 23, 2003 at 05:40:36 PM EST

That's odd, the UN was also against war with Iraq. The only nation that has the resources to even *think* about colonizing space is America, and it likely will be that way 50 years in the future when and if it actually happens. Actually, by that point, the EU might have a shot...but the point is, any nation that can actually put settlers up to claim land in space will likely have plenty of weaponry to back it up.

[ Parent ]
Wrong and wrong (4.75 / 4) (#16)
by Edit Queue on Sat Aug 23, 2003 at 06:01:13 PM EST

Not only does Europe have the capability to go to the Moon and Mars (and have already sent their own probes to do it), they have the better launch location and can get more weight up and out on a faster trajectory.

China is already planning to go to the Moon by 2005, and while I think that's a bit optimistic, they are already ahead of the US and will be in a position to go on to Mars from there with only some modifications, whereas the US will by that time be at least five years behind. China has a mandate and sense of national honor. They are trying to prove themselves to the world and have unlimited resources, much the way the US did in the 60s.

Before you tell me what an idiot I am, please make sure you've read at least a couple books on the subject, such as Andrew Chaikin's A Man on the Moon (ISBN 0-14-009706-6), Gene Kranz' Failure is not an Option (ISBN 0-425-17987-7) and Donna Shirley's description of getting Pathfinder to Mars in Managing Martians (ISBN 0-7679-0240-8). These are all beginner books, but they'll give you a start.

The first two things the US needs to send humans to Mars is a set of balls and the ability to accept that it won't work perfectly every time and people will die. Dying in deep space has got to beat dying in a car wreck.

"Oh man, I'm so lame. -- Rusty
[ Parent ]

I'm right (4.00 / 1) (#43)
by ShooterNeo on Sun Aug 24, 2003 at 12:55:15 AM EST

Actually, my point still stands.  We're not talking about lunar trips, which America did in 1969.  I'm talking about actual colonization, which is a several orders of magnitude larger project.  At the moment, America is the only one even close (and by 'close' I mean many decades away).

My OTHER point, which you missed, was that any super-power that DOES manage to set up colonies (whether it be China, EU, USA, or a new player) has PLENTY of weaponry to back up their claim, making any treaty meaningless.  All three players (China, EU, USA) have nuclear tipped ICBMs.

The treaty was simply a 'feel good' measure that will no longer be worth the paper its printed on the day exploitation of resources in outer space is feasible.

[ Parent ]

Economics (5.00 / 1) (#49)
by yooden on Sun Aug 24, 2003 at 03:18:42 AM EST

The only nation that has the resources to even think about colonizing space is America, and it likely will be that way 50 years in the future when and if it actually happens.

You are either severly overestimating the USA's possibilities or underestimating the EU's. Look at the number regarding economic power, look at how the USA tend to spend its money nowadays, then think about Russia's insane experience with long-term space occupation and who they are more likely to team up with.

Most Europeans just don't see a reason to spend huge amounts of money on space colonization, as the current space program is enough to provide TV, GPS and the occasional spy satellite.

If the EU would really want to step into space, it would. The USA is probably a step ahead, but there is more than one entry on the short list.


[ Parent ]

Actually (4.00 / 2) (#13)
by ShooterNeo on Sat Aug 23, 2003 at 05:51:18 PM EST

Why colonize mars?  Given the enormous distances, it would seem to be a far simpler project to build additional human settlements by :

Armies of von neuman style self replicating machine process lunar ore for raw materials.  They then launch it into space into orbit via giant electromagnetic accelerators.  The raw materials are built into gigantic ringlike colony stations, where the inhabitants enjoy a full g of gravity and theme park like ambience for the entire WORLD.  

The energy comes from gigantic orbiting solar plants that likely concentrate the energy with kilometers of mirrors, thin as foil, and convert the energy with a heat engine.  Once the energy is expressed as electrical potentials, microwaves are used as a transport mechanism to 'beam down' the power to run the facilities on the moon and on earth (because launching kilotons of material into orbit REALLY eats the juice).

At some point the earth itself might someday be used for raw materials.  The 'topsoil' would be scraped off and carefully transplanted into more of these giant ring structures (along with all the accompanying life).  You could easily have some big enough to match the surface area of the earth or better.  At which point, these self replicating machines would access the enormous mass of this planet to complete collasal engineering projects.  Perhaps (fast) interstellar vehicles could be launched or even space/time itself could be experimented with given sufficent energy.  

At some point, the mass of the planet mars as well as much of the rest of the rocks in this solar system would also be utilized.  Perhaps even some of the gas of jupiter could be collected for some greater purpose.

[ Parent ]

A few things. (5.00 / 1) (#25)
by Vesperto on Sat Aug 23, 2003 at 07:31:01 PM EST

It would probably be more economic to tunnel the moon instead of living in ring-stations and you can get solar power all the same on the moon. Using the Earth for raw materials would destroy it even more, i'd aim at the opposite - rid it of humans for some centuries. As for "beaming up" all life you'd have to build one huge Noa's ark to do that and you'd be screwing up ecosystems down there - better to just leave it alone, make it illegal for humans to land there, surround it with mine fields. Of course either the Moon or Mars would have to be used as replacements. Since the moon has no atmosphere nor does it have a metal core that would enable the creation of such a shield, Mars would somehow have to do. You wouldn't need to drill holes in the Earth to get raw materials, there's an asteroid belt as replacement (assuming you'd want to preserve Earth since it's pretty much unique around here). Collecting gasses would be usefull, expecially if used for spacecraft fuel. I digress.

If you disagree post, don't moderate. Alimaniere forf
[
Parent ]
well (5.00 / 1) (#42)
by ShooterNeo on Sun Aug 24, 2003 at 12:49:25 AM EST

This is a fruitless argument, ultimately.  Without access to both exact details of future technology and collasal brain resources, it really isn't possible to say for certain what the easiest and most practical route is.

  Yes, the energy costs would be lowest, probably, to drill tunnels in the moon.  I like the 'space wheel' idea though because one would have a bit more freedom in the artificial environments that can be created.  As I said, think disneyland times 100 (and cooler, with plenty of X rated entertainment as well since disease and unwanted pregancy could be readily eliminated with this kind of control)

As for transplanting earth life into giant specimen bottle cans...yes, I can see that some would be lost.  Leaving it alone won't preserve is necessarily either...natural selection would continue to occurr and the products of evolution would continue the process of change.  Controlled environments would enable one to preserve earth life as it is right now.  

However, it comes down to resources...our descendents may want to use the mass of the earth for some project that they consider far more important than trivial losses to the life on its surface.  Think of it this way...sapient life is a matter of computing power.  

If you used the mass of the entire earth to build computing structures and their support gear one would have the equivalent of quadrillions of human beings in thinking power.  Whether discrete individuals, a single entity, the point remains a quadrillion human beings of thought far outweigh the death of a few earth organisms.  

Even the entire human race would be fairly un-important by comparison.  

Minefields?  Not possible to 'mine' three dimensional space, it would require too much mass.  Orbiting lasers that zap incoming craft might be more plausible.

Gas might be useful for propellant...but I can think of more efficient means of transport both in solar system and for interstellar journies.

Interstellar trips have to be powered by anti-matter, period.  Nothing else comes close.  (unless wormholes are possible).  

Anti-matter powered starships would neccessarily be extremely narrow and very small.  The passengers and parts of the ship's thinking processes would just be teleported in in transit and after arrival with quantum teleportation.

For in-system, just use entangled quantum particles, sent from node to node in our solar system.  One could readily teleport the key memory state particles of any thinking creature this way.  Far more efficient than bulky ships, and much faster at a nice speed of light transfer speed.  

[ Parent ]

/me enjoyed reading parent post. (none / 0) (#45)
by Vesperto on Sun Aug 24, 2003 at 01:13:50 AM EST

This is a fruitless argument, ultimately. - true, i don't think posting on a website will change the world either. :-)

The tunnel drilling cam from Heinlein's The moon is a harsh mistress, but i do enjoy 2001 - A space odissey's spinning wheels. About those, disease and unwanted pregancy could be readily eliminated with this kind of control - for startes, proper sexual education would prevent both; but what about the first residents? Would they be filtered (disease-wise)? That would be sorta discriminatory.

If life forms get wiped out by evolution i'm cool with it, what annoys me is when they're wiped out by homo sapiens. Of course our decendants could all (considering it would be "common sense" then, a cultural fact, no biggie) just see Earth as a source for resource and use it. If not, space-mines (hype up your imagination) laser-oriented in order to create a geodesic dome around Earth woud be a lot and probably costly - but effective. :-) Or a bunch of satelites with nifty laser-guns. After reading 'anti-matter' for the first time i was completely steamrolled by your argument, so i'll just nod :-) the worm whole thing is an interesting scifi fact, it reminded me of Event Horizon, with Sam Neil and pre-Matrix Laurence Fishburn, only the Event Horizon (a military research ship) used an artificial black whole. Pretty nifty scifi/horror movie.

If you disagree post, don't moderate.
[ Parent ]

Ironies (none / 0) (#96)
by epepke on Tue Aug 26, 2003 at 05:33:47 PM EST

You know, every so often I hear people say, "why should we explore space when there are plenty of problems right here on Earth?" The ironic thing is that the very idea of a planetary greenhouse effect was largely a result of studies of Venus and Mars.

I agree with your advocacy of exploration of the oceans; the only problem is that it's way the hell harder, because the ocean is both 1) opaque, and 2) heavy.

Another irony: The best maps of the ocean floor we have come from satellite ranging of the surface of the ocean. Due to the differing densities of water and rock, the gravitational effects of mountain ranges in the ocean produce variations in the surface of the ocean. These variations are ridiculously tine, much smaller than waves, but by doing the measurements over and over and over again and averaging, you can get a pretty good idea.


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
I posted then moderated. (none / 1) (#107)
by Xenex on Wed Aug 27, 2003 at 09:37:44 PM EST

As far as i could speculate, only the Americans and Russians would own a part of it, maybe a 50Km radius around their respective flags.
Russians have yet to set foot on the Moon. Therefore, they don't have a flag erected there. And while replying; where did you pull the 50 kilometre number from exactly?

It's what's not there that makes what's there what it is.
[ Parent ]
Just how much better will Mars look compared... (3.20 / 5) (#4)
by the on Sat Aug 23, 2003 at 03:09:37 PM EST

...to how it has looked over the last couple of years? Well, imagine viewing a candle a mile away on a dark night. Now imagine moving that candle 50 yeards closer. That's the difference. More or less.

--
The Definite Article
Not really (none / 0) (#19)
by localroger on Sat Aug 23, 2003 at 06:12:49 PM EST

Well, imagine viewing a candle a mile away on a dark night. Now imagine moving that candle 50 yeards closer.

More like moving the candle to only a quarter mile away. Still pretty far off, but a lot easier to see.

What will people of the future think of us? Will they say, as Roger Williams said of some of the Massachusetts Indians, that we were wolves with the min
[ Parent ]

well (none / 0) (#21)
by peace out on Sat Aug 23, 2003 at 06:38:58 PM EST

Mars obviously varies in appearance a lot more than that over the last couple years. The orbit of the earth is 150 million miles and the orbit of Mars is about 225 million. So as the planets orbit the Sun the distance between Earth and Mars ranges from (225-150) 75 million miles to (225+150) 375 million miles. And Mars's apparent brightness is also determined by what percentage of it's lit surface we see, which varies a lot also. If you meant that every time were are close to Mars, that distance does not vary that much (due to the elliptical orbits of both planets) then ya, you are correct. Currently Mars is extremely bright and it isn't just hype. But the 60,000 years thing is pretty much hype. It's true but not very important or meaningful to the casual observer.
Peace Out - World Peace Now!
[ Parent ]
Exactly (none / 0) (#82)
by the on Mon Aug 25, 2003 at 02:46:06 PM EST

If you meant that every time were are close to Mars, that distance does not vary that much
Exactly. These events are not all that rare.

--
The Definite Article
[ Parent ]
Your principle is sound. (none / 0) (#84)
by FieryTaco on Mon Aug 25, 2003 at 04:17:41 PM EST

But your numbers are messed up. Earth is something like 93 million miles from the Sun. Mars is like 141 million miles. Both are average orbital radius. The distance between Earth and Mars tomorrow night, will be approximately 34 million miles. (Yes, I realize that 141-93 = 48. Let's keep in mind that the orbits are roughly elliptical.)

[ Parent ]
I noticed mars in the sky the other night. (4.25 / 4) (#5)
by 0x29a on Sat Aug 23, 2003 at 03:11:08 PM EST

It was brighter than any other point of light. It was really strange, as I had mistaken the glow for an airplane. It was just odd to see something that bright in the sky that was not a normal color, as I happen to look at the sky for short periods every night, and I have become accustomed to what I *should* see.

I could not help but think of what it would be like in an earlier time to see something so abnormal in the sky. I wondered what kind of thoughts it might provoke.

We can guess at one such thought... (none / 0) (#7)
by Entendre Entendre on Sat Aug 23, 2003 at 04:00:26 PM EST

Some Roman, back in the day, thinking it was the god of war looking down upon them...

--
Reduce firearm violence: aim carefully.
[ Parent ]

naked eye (none / 0) (#63)
by bcrowell on Sun Aug 24, 2003 at 08:53:47 PM EST

Here is an applet that shows you the locations of the naked-eye planets in the night sky. It's actually pretty common for a planet to be the brightest thing in the sky.

The Assayer - book reviews for the free-information renaissance
[ Parent ]

-1, astrology (1.53 / 13) (#9)
by RobotSlave on Sat Aug 23, 2003 at 05:01:20 PM EST

I'm a patient man, but there are only so many times I can listen to a bong-bubbling hippie tell me about an awful day at work caused by the dread proximity of Mars.

I swear, it's happened four or five times a day for weeks now, and it's getting to the point where I'm in danger of tearing my tolerant-smile muscles.

This article, I fear, will only encourage the filthy-birkenstocks brigade.

Ah, (2.00 / 1) (#14)
by Hide The Hamster on Sat Aug 23, 2003 at 05:58:27 PM EST

so I see that you are not skilled in The Art of Condescension. There is only one good way to get rid of hippies, and that is to make it known that you hate them.


Free spirits are a liability.

August 8, 2004: "it certainly is" and I had engaged in a homosexual tryst.

[ Parent ]
Guffaw! (3.00 / 2) (#34)
by RobotSlave on Sat Aug 23, 2003 at 09:42:20 PM EST

That you would condescend to me with regard to the Art of Condescention is matter fit only for the lowest forms of comedy.

But you knew that, I hope, and are merely hamming it up for the vulgar groundlings out there?

[ Parent ]

but its about astronomy (2.60 / 5) (#15)
by axxad on Sat Aug 23, 2003 at 05:58:28 PM EST


__________________________________________________

I'M WAITING! They've denied me posting for a while, you knwo: rule of too many posts. The diaries section should be converted to free-form art entity. I could research AI code for it. WhatDOyouThink?
[ Parent ]

Wow (3.50 / 2) (#24)
by LookingGlass on Sat Aug 23, 2003 at 07:28:00 PM EST

You have tolerant-smile muscles?

[ Parent ]

Yes. (3.50 / 2) (#33)
by RobotSlave on Sat Aug 23, 2003 at 09:37:00 PM EST

Buff, highly-developed, marathoner's tolerant-smile muscles.

And they're getting worked, I tell you.

[ Parent ]

Yes (4.42 / 14) (#10)
by truth versus death on Sat Aug 23, 2003 at 05:24:40 PM EST

But what about the weapons of mass destruction? Greater proximity means greater danger to American lives. I think we should invade Mars to end the threat once and for all.

"any erection implies consent"-fae
[ Trim your Bush ]
Marvin says . . . (5.00 / 3) (#12)
by acceleriter on Sat Aug 23, 2003 at 05:49:03 PM EST

. . . "Being invaded makes me very angry-very angry, indeed!"

[ Parent ]
You would like that, wouldn't you? (3.50 / 2) (#17)
by BinaryTree on Sat Aug 23, 2003 at 06:02:06 PM EST

An invasion of Mars would add more fuel to your ideological hatred of the US, which you love to revel in.

[ Parent ]
The great danger (5.00 / 9) (#18)
by truth versus death on Sat Aug 23, 2003 at 06:08:29 PM EST

The great danger of Mars is that in they gas their own people. If you are against invasion, you support they gas their own people. We must stop they have uranium from African they gas their own people. You're either with us, or you hate America!

"any erection implies consent"-fae
[ Trim your Bush ]
[ Parent ]
No no no... (none / 0) (#26)
by Vesperto on Sat Aug 23, 2003 at 07:34:39 PM EST

They gass their own... well... chicken!

If you disagree post, don't moderate. Alimaniere forf
[
Parent ]
Remember kids... (none / 0) (#47)
by Hatamoto on Sun Aug 24, 2003 at 01:53:10 AM EST

... true patriots buy SUVs.

If you reduce your power, oil or gas consumption, THE TERRORISTS WIN!

Also, buy a big mac.

--
"Innocence is no defense." - Federal District Judge William H. Yohn (People v. Mumia Abu-Jamal)
[ Parent ]

maybe (none / 0) (#23)
by banffbug on Sat Aug 23, 2003 at 07:16:54 PM EST

it's a simple hatred of the current president and his stringmasters stooges.

[ Parent ]
Yes, mine too. (none / 0) (#65)
by OzJuggler on Mon Aug 25, 2003 at 02:03:29 AM EST

I'm only thinking that way in the context of this article because it was written by thelizman. I was all fired up to post a comment like "I'm less interested in how far away Mars is and more interested to hear why you haven't invaded it yet."

Had it been written by anyone else, I would probably just take the article at face value and think "Oh okay, it's just some astronomy geek publicly drooling over his favourite heavenly bodies."

Mars was the Roman god of war. I'm surprised k5's favourite former Pentagon warmongerer didn't mention that fact in his article. It would have come up in comments soon enough. (Oh it just did!) But I realise this tenous explanation for thelizman's interest in Mars is unnecessary, since he might actually be a normal human being with diverse interests - rather than the pure militarist he usually chooses to show us.
"And I will not rest until every year families gather to spend December 25th together
at Osama's homo abortion pot and commie jizzporium." - Jon Stewart's gift to Bill O'Reilly, 7 Dec 2005.
[ Parent ]

Militarist. (5.00 / 1) (#105)
by thelizman on Wed Aug 27, 2003 at 03:22:54 PM EST

I prefer jingoist.

Further, the name "Mars" is not the original name for the planet. It's been called "Nergal" by the Babylonians, "Horus" by the Egyptians, "Ares" by the Greeks, and the Romans as usual copied the use of the greek name for their God of war, and romanticized it as "Mars". Since astronomy got its modern start in the Classical period, the Western world uses "Mars". The Chinese call it "Huo Hsing", the Japanese call it "Kasei". So, the meaning of Mars isn't as important as you would think. However, your ethnocentric analysis is...I sense a Freudian/Jungian conflict brewing.


--

"Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
[ Parent ]
I think what you meant... (none / 0) (#115)
by OzJuggler on Mon Sep 01, 2003 at 02:01:14 AM EST

I think what you meant was that the planet we call Mars is not related to War in other cultures that know of that planet. It was insufficient to say that Mars is called by different names.

Lacking any understanding of Jungian and Freudian analysis (thank heavens), I can't make any retort about my alleged inner conflicts. What I can say is that I do not feel at all conflicted by calling that planet by the name used by my Western-centric culture - the name "Mars".
"And I will not rest until every year families gather to spend December 25th together
at Osama's homo abortion pot and commie jizzporium." - Jon Stewart's gift to Bill O'Reilly, 7 Dec 2005.
[ Parent ]

I don't know about the rest of them but (none / 0) (#116)
by craigd on Tue Sep 02, 2003 at 06:17:31 PM EST

Ares is a war name, and Huoxing is "Fire Star", which is close enough. Warmonger. All I've seen lately is a little red dot in the sky. When the rovers land I'll probably write a graeat story about my experience with the current Mars mission.


A man who says little is a man who speaks two syllables.
[ Parent ]
I fully support this invasion. (5.00 / 1) (#38)
by Zerotime on Sat Aug 23, 2003 at 11:18:18 PM EST

After all, we won't be laughing when it sprouts engines and smacks into the surface of the Earth.


---
"You don't even have to drink it. You just rub it on your hips and it eats its way through to your liver."
[ Parent ]
Book Plug (none / 0) (#20)
by lauraw on Sat Aug 23, 2003 at 06:19:01 PM EST

A few years ago I got interested in Mars after reading the Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson. I thought they were excellent books. They're not for everyone, though. I categorize them as "sociological" or "political" SF, because they track a set of interesting characters against the background of long-term political and social evolution of a Mars colony. In this way I find them a bit similar to some of CJ Cherry's books like Downbelow Station and the Foreigner series.

In Robinson's Mars books, the planet is as much a character as any of the people -- moreso in some ways. You really get a feeling of what it might be like to be at the bottom of Valles Marinares with a landslide rushing at you, or on top of Olympus Mons staring out at the rest of the planet.

Another book plug (none / 0) (#30)
by ad hoc on Sat Aug 23, 2003 at 08:58:49 PM EST

Don't forget the whole John Carter of Mars series by Edgar Rice Burroughs. True classics.


--

[ Parent ]
I loved those books as a kid! (none / 0) (#68)
by Yaroslav The Wise on Mon Aug 25, 2003 at 11:56:27 AM EST

Thanks for reminding me of them. I truly enjoyed them as a kid! You can find them for free, online at Project Gutenberg. Enjoy.

[ Parent ]
Have you read? (none / 0) (#36)
by Metatone on Sat Aug 23, 2003 at 10:52:56 PM EST

The Years of Rice and Salt, by the same author? I liked that one, I'm searching for someone who's read both to give an idea if the Mars books are in a similar vein of thought.

[ Parent ]
The Years of Rice and Salt (5.00 / 2) (#40)
by lauraw on Sun Aug 24, 2003 at 12:21:25 AM EST

I did read The Years of Rice and Salt a few months ago. (I'll read almost anything by KSR at this point.) I wasn't as fond of this book as I was of the Mars trilogy, but it's still fairly good.

The main thing the books have in common is, well, their humanity. He does a good job of developing characters in both works, and you really get a feeling for who the characters are, how they feel, and what they care about. The scope is also similarly sweeping in both. I'm not very good at comparing books, really, so I'll just throw out a few of my observations of the two.

TYoRaS stands way above most of the other alternative history or "historical SF" I've read. I'm not a huge fan of the genre, but I have read a few of Poul Anderson's books. Anderson's The Boat of a Million Years is in a similar league, but doesn't make you think as much, and his Time Patrol series is fluff compared to Robinson's book. (Entertaining fluff sometimes, but still fluff.) On the other hand, Connie Willis' Doomsday Book, which could arguably included in this genre, is much better than either TYoRaS or Anderson's stuff. It's one of the best books -- SF or otherwise -- I've ever read. Anyone who doesn't find themself caring about the characters in it is a robot.

I found the explorations of other cultures in TYoRaS very interesting, especially the parts about Islam. I'm not an expert on religions either, but the conflict between the different interpretations of Islam rang true to me. The aspect of the book I liked least was the whole reincarnation thing. I don't have any philosophical objection to it; I just found it confusing. "Now wait. Who is this character again?" Maybe some of it was because I have a short attention span. For whatever reason, it made it harder for me to care about the characters as much.

The Mars trilogy is also a strong exploration of human motives and emotions. Its characters "grabbed" me a lot more than in the other book. Some of this is because most of them are scientists and engineers, and I resonate with that mindset because I'm one too. The characters definitely aren't one-dimensional. Some of them change quite a bit through the series, especially if you read all three books. There's a joke near the end about a secret brain-reversal ray having been applied to a couple of them.

As I said before, the planet itself figures fairly strongly in the Mars books. Robinson does a very good job of setting scenes and making you feel like you're really there in Valles Marinaris, on the northern ice cap, or lost in a dust storm up on the plateaus. The technology also plays a fairly strong role, particularly some posited advances in automation and nanotechnology. They're within the realm of possibility, but I had to suspend my disbelief a bit. Some people might find these parts tedious, but I liked them.

There were a few parts of the books that bogged down a bit for me. The most notable was the exploration of the character Michel's (a psychiatrist) theories about personality, psychology, and philosophy. Some of it was interesting, but it seemed to drag on. A few of the "bad guys" seemed a bit one-dimensional too, though some of them do develop through the series.

On the whole, I'd definitely recommend the Mars books, particularly the first one.

[ Parent ]

Thanks... (3.33 / 3) (#53)
by Metatone on Sun Aug 24, 2003 at 09:46:07 AM EST

Thanks for taking the time to answer me there, I'll definitely give the Mars books a try soon. Funnily enough, whilst I enjoyed the alternate history parts, the reincarnations scenes are what really grabbed me about TYoRaS, but then I gre up steeped in Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam, so the book was bound to resonate strongly for me in that way I suppose. If you did ever consider the alternate history angle to be interesting, "The Redemption of Christopher Columbus" by Orson Scott Card is worth a read. The character depth was rather uneven though. Whilst we're at it, for character depth, "The Notebook, The Proof, The Third Lie; Three Novels by Agota Kristof" is quite haunting.

[ Parent ]
Pastwatch (none / 0) (#58)
by lauraw on Sun Aug 24, 2003 at 03:02:31 PM EST

Yeah, I liked Card's "The Redemption of Christopher Columbus". I was a bit dubious when I bought it (hey, I was bored), but it turned out to be quite good. I've liked almost all of Card's books that I've read, with the notable exception of the "Homecoming" series, which I gave up on fairly quickly. The whole messianic thing in most of them gets a bit predictable sometimes too, but they're still good and mostly very well written.

[ Parent ]
KSR (2.50 / 2) (#60)
by nusuth on Sun Aug 24, 2003 at 05:20:54 PM EST

My opinion is that KSR, as a general rule, sucks donkey balls. I formed this opinion upon being tortured thru 8 books by him, no less. The first books of Mars trilogy and Orange Country trilogy are exceptions to this rule.

As for TYoRaC, I can't think of a way to write it. It is just real history with some names and location changed until he runs out of technology. Then it gets real silly. Also I found his understanding of oriental cultures quite insufficient to write such a book.

[ Parent ]

corr. (none / 0) (#61)
by nusuth on Sun Aug 24, 2003 at 08:04:20 PM EST

 As for TYoRaC, I can't think of a less imaginative way to write it.

[ Parent ]
An Objection (2.66 / 3) (#22)
by PhillipW on Sat Aug 23, 2003 at 07:04:18 PM EST

You have a paragraph titled "Mars Attacks," and then go on to talk about War of the Worlds, and fail to mention Tim Burton's fabulous mid 1990s film, Mars Attacks. I'm sure this is a mistake of some sort, but I have to object to your forgetting to mention the Tim Burton film, which is overwhelmingly viewed as better than the HG Wells book.

-Phil
You're nuts (4.50 / 4) (#29)
by ad hoc on Sat Aug 23, 2003 at 08:54:27 PM EST

the Tim Burton film, which is overwhelmingly viewed as better than the HG Wells book

You could convince me (easily) that Tim Burton's movie is better than the film version of War of the Worlds. It is not, however, better than the book. The book War of the Worlds is far richer and explores social contexts that neither movie touches.


--

[ Parent ]
Why do you run? We are your friends! (4.25 / 4) (#37)
by loucura on Sat Aug 23, 2003 at 11:14:05 PM EST

ZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzAP!

[ Parent ]
I don't want to rain on your parade, but... (4.58 / 17) (#27)
by JetJaguar on Sat Aug 23, 2003 at 07:49:24 PM EST

This isn't really as exciting as you would have us believe. While you are technically correct that this year's close approach of Mars is the closest of the last 60,000 years, what you (and most other articles covering this for the last six months) don't say is that Mars makes close approaches like this to the Earth every 15 to 17 years, and this year's approach is really only marginally closer than what would occur during a typical one of these conjuctions. In fact, the difference is so small that virtually no one would be able to tell the difference between this year's close approach and the one 15 years ago without a decent sized telescope and some special equipment to precisely measure the difference in angular size.

Otherwise, it's a good article. Regardless of the inaccuracy, this is an excellent time to have a look at Mars if you have access to a telescope of some kind. The most interesting thing to me is to watch for dust storms to kick up and observe how different parts of the planet become obscured from night to night.

Inaccuracy... (2.57 / 7) (#32)
by thelizman on Sat Aug 23, 2003 at 09:19:23 PM EST

While you are technically correct that this year's close approach of Mars is the closest of the last 60,000 years...

...Regardless of the inaccuracy...
inaccurate

\In*ac"cu*rate\, a. Not accurate; not according to truth; inexact; incorrect; erroneous; as, in inaccurate man, narration, copy, judgment, calculation, etc.

Soooooo...which is it...was I right, or was I wrong? Wait, you said I was "technically correct"....but then, I was "innacurate"...so where's the scandal?
--

"Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
[ Parent ]
Oh please! (4.50 / 8) (#39)
by JetJaguar on Sat Aug 23, 2003 at 11:45:52 PM EST

The inaccuracy is that you omitted the part about this type of event happening every 15 to 17 years.

I don't call it a scandal, I do call it overhyping an event that is much more common than you have made it out to be. Let me put it this way, as an astronomer, I have been inundated with questions from friends, relatives, and the general public over this, and if these articles that keep appearing were a little more complete, and little less full of hype, it would make my life a lot easier. The press has been given full access to all the information about this, but instead of giving a complete picture, they make this into a once in a lifetime event, and now it's being regurgitated on k5 with the same lack off attention to important details.

I'm not knocking your article, I think it's pretty good, but it's also incomplete.

[ Parent ]

It's an insignificant detail, [n/t] (2.00 / 6) (#52)
by thelizman on Sun Aug 24, 2003 at 09:18:24 AM EST


--

"Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
[ Parent ]
Oh the irony (4.60 / 5) (#54)
by JetJaguar on Sun Aug 24, 2003 at 12:45:12 PM EST

What's more insignificant? The fact that in 60,000 years Mars is only marginally closer than it usually is, or that similar events occur every 15 years?

It's seems to me that when you tell the whole story, people actually become more interested in the fact that they will be able to see Mars again in 15 years and it will be just as good, perhaps better (depending on a number of other conditions) than it is now?

You should also note that the whole 60,000 years figure is subject to a bit of error. It was generated from a computer model that becomes more and more inaccurate the farther away it is projected from real observations. It's quite possible that the 60,000 years figure is wrong, it could be 30,000 years, or even less than that.

[ Parent ]

Quit Wanking (1.45 / 11) (#59)
by thelizman on Sun Aug 24, 2003 at 03:05:36 PM EST

...seriously...it's a small issue that provided one interesting little fact. You're zealously prosecuting something which is, otherwise, not even an important point. Get a hobby, find a girl, do calculus, SOMETHING other than wanking around on an Internet web site over a something that is factually correct, but doesn't present your particular dogmatic view of how information should be presented. It's pathetic.
--

"Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
[ Parent ]
Oh - - My God! (5.00 / 1) (#67)
by Pop Top on Mon Aug 25, 2003 at 11:45:00 AM EST

I find I agree more with thelizman in this thread.

The best golfer is black, the best rapper is white, the Swiss win the friggin America's Cup, Dubya and the GOP spends money like water while the Dummy-crats call for "fiscal restraint"

- and -

Pop Top agrees with thelizman.

Maybe the Marsians are already here!

[ Parent ]

An important bit, nevertheless. (none / 0) (#103)
by Akshay on Wed Aug 27, 2003 at 03:06:59 PM EST

Tells me why I won't miss too much if I don't go out to the wilderness (even the moon seems to have disappeared in this urban sprawl) and check out Mars.

Frankly sir, I find your tone irritating and stupid; I say this as someone who's done research on (cultural) astronomy, but there's a reason why scientists (and their students) do astronomy, and not, say, someone from CNN or Fox News. When you spend entire careers in a certain field, you tend to know what's really important, and what's not. To rally against a perspective alert (and one, frankly, that I wouldn't expect mainstream media to carry through) by calling it 'wanking' only shows how closed you are to even mild criticism.

Indeed, you'd think skepticism is always healthy in the face of relentless hype, even for those with hobbies, girlfriends and an amazing ability to do calculus. But then, I suppose you'll call me as well as a soulless internet wanker, so who am I to comment?

[ Parent ]

Thank you (3.50 / 2) (#48)
by KnightStalker on Sun Aug 24, 2003 at 02:51:27 AM EST

I've read article after article about this, and none of them ever says just how much closer Mars is than normal. I've been suspecting it's not very much closer.

[ Parent ]
southern hemisphere (4.00 / 1) (#62)
by bcrowell on Sun Aug 24, 2003 at 08:50:32 PM EST

The current view from the northern hemisphere is actually worse than what you'd get from the southern hemisphere fairly frequently. The reason is that Mars's orbit is pretty elliptical, and when Earth and Mars are simultaneously close to the place where Mars's orbit comes closest to earth's, it's summer in the northern hemisphere. When it's summer in the northern hemisphere, the ecliptic is low in the sky at night, which means Mars won't be very high above the horizon. From my location (Los Angeles), Mars' maximum height above the southern horizon is about 45 degrees, which means that I'm looking through quite a bit of air to see it. If I had a chance to fly to Buenos Aires, I could see Mars straight overhead, which would be a lot better.

I did, however, get a chance to see it last night through my 8" Dob, and yes, it was cool! The polar cap was extremely bright and obvious, and I saw some of the darker surface markings. Unfortunately, in my area there has been fog coming in every night like clockwork around 11:00, so I haven't been able to do any observing when Mars was at its maximum elevation :-(

The Assayer - book reviews for the free-information renaissance
[ Parent ]

You missed. Jeff Wayne's Rock Opera. 1978 (none / 0) (#28)
by monkeymind on Sat Aug 23, 2003 at 08:14:36 PM EST

Que Richard Burton

"No one would have believed, in the last years of the nineteenth century, that human affairs were being watched from the timeless worlds of space. No one could have dreamed we were being scrutinized, as someone with a microscope studies creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. Few men even considered the possibility of life on other planets and yet, across the gulf of space, minds immeasurably superior to ours regarded this Earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely, they drew their plans against us."

I believe in Karma. That means I can do bad things to people and assume the deserve it.

Been there, done that (4.84 / 13) (#31)
by SocratesGhost on Sat Aug 23, 2003 at 09:05:35 PM EST

That's what I did several times this week with my 8" Schmidt-Cassegrain Celestron. Wish I could do it this coming week, of course, but I have a series of morning meetings so I won't be able to go out to the desert as easily.

I hadn't really focused on Mars before, preferring to look for Messier objects, but this past week has been really incredible. Using my telescope it's possible to see more than just the polar cap! Canals are not quite viewable, but I can make out large terrestrial features. Talk about exciting.

It's kinda difficult to explain why astronomy is exciting. After all, what's so exciting about a small white dot in the sea of blackness that has been there since the dawn of history and will be unchanged after I go? Then I show pictures I've taken of Rigel (a strikingly red star) or of the Orion Nebula, and they perk up because they're kind of interesting to look at. But why spend the money? And then they look through the scope. They can see the rings of Saturn or Jupiter's red spot with their own eyes. Almost as if to prove that this isn't just an image viewer, they wave their hand in front of the aperture and that's when it hits them. They're both very far away and very close to everything in the galaxy for that moment that they're looking through the eye piece.

-Soc
I drank what?


oops. stupid rigel (3.50 / 2) (#35)
by SocratesGhost on Sat Aug 23, 2003 at 09:57:24 PM EST

it's blue. not red.

-Soc
I drank what?


[ Parent ]
unhappy scoping experience (5.00 / 2) (#41)
by rpresser on Sun Aug 24, 2003 at 12:32:28 AM EST

I looked at Mars this week through my 4" Newtonian, hoping to see at least some features.  Instead, I saw an orange dot; there was some disk to it, perhaps as much as a hole punch chad shows when held 10 feet away, but absolutely uniform in color.  Is this what I should have expected?

I know some of the things that are wrong:

  • 4" isn't terribly big.

  • My vision is pretty poor. Although the focus compensates for my nearsightedness, the astigmatism remains; if I use my glasses with the scope, my eye ends up too far from the eyepiece and I can't see anything.

  • I live in a suburban area, across the river from Philadelphia, and the skies aren't dark enough. I don't have a dark place to go at the moment, although several friends have made offers.

  • My experience with using the scope is very limited; I have managed to align the finderscope, but it's still very tedious for me to find anything in the eyepiece, and I really don't know the sky well enough to look at anything but the planets.


Since I can't fix these things, at least not immediately, due to time and money constraints, I am left with a scope which isn't of much use to me....
------------
"In terms of both hyperbolic overreaching and eventual wrongness, the Permanent [Republican] Majority has set a new, and truly difficult to beat, standard." --rusty
[ Parent ]
4 inches. (5.00 / 1) (#44)
by SocratesGhost on Sun Aug 24, 2003 at 01:05:44 AM EST

yeah, that's the biggest thing holding you back from seeing more details. The larger the aperture, the more light it gathers, and that directly relates to the amount of detail. I think the rule of thumb is something like a max 50X magnification per inch of aperture, but when you push your optics to that limit, images tend to distort.

Also, you really need to get away from the city, for more reasons than just the light. For one, you're probably not elevated, so you have to view through a lot more atmosphere which will obscure your image. Don't just go out, but also go up. If nothing else, you have another good reason to go camping in the mountains.

If you're not getting a lot of use out of it because you don't know what you want to see, you may want to get yourself a copy of Sky & Telescope magazine. It lists anything interesting or points out peculiarities with the night sky for that month. Plus, I think it contains sky charts. That was my gateway into it, as well as talking to others.

Have fun!

-Soc
I drank what?


[ Parent ]
For Mars? (none / 0) (#76)
by porkchop_d_clown on Mon Aug 25, 2003 at 02:24:54 PM EST

4" should be plenty.


--
You can't raise my prices. You can't build more power plants. You can't build more power lines. Why are my lights out!?!


[ Parent ]
no, yes, maybe (none / 0) (#110)
by sonovel on Thu Aug 28, 2003 at 11:56:11 AM EST

A high quality 4" scope can show a lot of detail on Mars. However, that is about the minimum.

A so-so 4" scope (eg. a not very well collimated reflector) won't show very much.

Also, Mars is a difficult target even at best. The detail is low contrast and very subject to poor seeing. With a small scope, experience is also very important.

All the hype over August 27th is misplaced. The time to start observing Mars was weeks or months ago. This is the midpoint of this event, but nothing special happens just because Mars is at its absolute closest. But since this is the midpoint, there are still weeks of good observing left.

[ Parent ]

oh, also (5.00 / 1) (#46)
by SocratesGhost on Sun Aug 24, 2003 at 01:29:52 AM EST

There's apparently been a lot of dust storm activity on Mars lately. I lucked out on two nights and got decent viewing, but one other occasion didn't give me that much luck. You may have missed out then, as well so try again.

-Soc
I drank what?


[ Parent ]
Across the river? (none / 0) (#80)
by porkchop_d_clown on Mon Aug 25, 2003 at 02:39:34 PM EST

So, you're in New Jersey? That's a shame - otherwise I'd invite you to the next outing of the Chestmont Astronomical Society. We meet out near Exton, PA.

For a bright object like Mars, a 4" scope is plenty big. There were, I'm sure worse factors affecting your viewing: the humidty of a summer night, your own vision (as you mention) and the biggest; light pollution (which you also mention). Two things might help. In general, get a skyglow filter (Orion makes a good one) and for Mars and the other planets, get a set of color filters. Check out www.telescope.com (and www.chesmontastro.org) for info.


--
You can't raise my prices. You can't build more power plants. You can't build more power lines. Why are my lights out!?!


[ Parent ]
Try a light, blue (none / 0) (#87)
by m42gal on Mon Aug 25, 2003 at 04:54:00 PM EST

filter to bring out the details. 4 inches is plenty...just bump up the mag a little - do you have a 2x barlow? Then you're in like flynn...get in contact with your local astronomical group - many fine people will be willing to help you. Best, Stacy

St.
[ Parent ]

red, not blue ... (none / 0) (#109)
by sonovel on Thu Aug 28, 2003 at 10:48:43 AM EST

For best view of most surface features a red filter is better than blue.

Blue brings out the polar cap (only on is easily visible right now) and details of the atmosphere (clouds, limb brightening).

Yellow, orange, light red and dark red (say wratten #15, #21, #23A, and #25) are better filters for surface markings. The redder and darker are better for larger telescopes (a #25 is pretty dark even with my 10" reflector).

Powers less than 100x will show very little, maybe the south polar cap, and maybe the darkest and biggest of the dark patches.

[ Parent ]

Great post (4.50 / 2) (#51)
by TheModerate on Sun Aug 24, 2003 at 06:25:33 AM EST

"Almost as if to prove that this isn't just an image viewer, they wave their hand in front of the aperture and that's when it hits them. They're both very far away and very close to everything in the galaxy for that moment that they're looking through the eye piece."

Thats exactly what it is. We're so used to movies and television providing us with better than real images, that we've almost forgotten the difference between an image and reality. The telescope is the connection between some fantastic views of the cosmos and the reality we walk under every night. I guess its just kind of something you need to experience for yourself---a kind of reawakening of your awareness of the sky.

"What a man has in himself is, then, the chief element in his happiness." -- Schopenhauer
[ Parent ]

Inaccuracies (3.00 / 2) (#50)
by fury on Sun Aug 24, 2003 at 03:55:45 AM EST

Jet, face it: 'Inaccuracy' is a poor word choice. Everything in the article was accurate. You just have a different opinion of the relative importance of the event.

Given the chance, I bet now you'd use a different word, so stop busting the guy's chops when he's written one of the best-linking articles I've seen on K5 in months.
Kevin Fox - fury.com

No I don't. (5.00 / 4) (#55)
by JetJaguar on Sun Aug 24, 2003 at 01:15:32 PM EST

Actually, I don't have a different opinion on the importance of it. I think it's great, in fact, I'm probably far more excited about it than most people here including lizman himself. That's not the point. The point is, an important detail is missing.

When I start mentioning that this happens fairly often, every person I talk to is surprised, even delighted by this fact. They truly had no idea. Most are excited that they will have a chance to see this happen again.

My intention is not to bust anyone's chops, only to try and let people know the truth in the hype. One fairly important detail has been dropped from every piece of coverage of this event, and most people I have talked to were quite interested in finding it out, and in so doing they have also gained a larger perspective of what this one event means in relation to the grander scheme of things.

Inaccuracy may have been a poor word choice, but omitting facts that grant the reader a better perspective is just wrong. I don't blame lizman in this instance because he is just picking up bits and pieces of articles from around the net, he is not at fault. I do blame lame reporters and hype mongers for omitting facts that would help people understand what is really going on. Which is what I am trying to do.

All this nuttiness about Mars being closer now than for 60,000 years really does need some perspective. How many people understand the significance (or lack of) to be able to judge whether or not this 60,000 years number really means anything? Or is it more important than that Mars is now simply brighter, relatively easy to see, and details can now be seen with small telescopes? I don't know, but I'm betting on the latter.

[ Parent ]

Why it's important (4.00 / 1) (#56)
by fury on Sun Aug 24, 2003 at 02:03:19 PM EST

It all comes down to why is this event important? Is it because it's the closest approach, or that it's close? To me, and most of those I talk to, it's that this is the closest approach. We don't see headlines saying "Giants and Braves played extraordinarily good baseball" we see "Giants win world series" and it's not as important that they're both such good teams that it's almost chance as to which one wins on a particular day. 'Closest' is a cognitive reference point, and is what makes the story worth telling. Otherwise, there'd be no news at all, as mars gets within a few % of this distance every 2.2 years.
Kevin Fox - fury.com
Lack of perspective (4.00 / 1) (#57)
by JetJaguar on Sun Aug 24, 2003 at 02:49:15 PM EST

This may be what makes it important to you, but it shows a great lack of perspective. "Closest" is a cognitive reference point, I agree. But if that's what makes the story worth telling, rather than the chance to get a view of Mars that is only available every 15 years, then I think something is being lost in the telling of the story.

The headline may be "Giants win the world series" but without the story background, why it's a big deal and also how it's similar (or not) similar to other series, and who were the great players, then it's just another fluff piece devoid of meaningful content. Omitting the perspective, detracts from the story and makes it less interesting, unless you're only interested in reading a headline.

[ Parent ]

your local (1.91 / 12) (#64)
by turmeric on Mon Aug 25, 2003 at 12:21:30 AM EST

you are an incredible asshole to assume that eveyrone has a local planetarium. thanks for alienating about 90% of the people on the planet who might read your article.

everyone does (none / 0) (#66)
by circletimessquare on Mon Aug 25, 2003 at 04:23:26 AM EST

where do you live? tierra del fuego?

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

[ Parent ]
I'm pretty sure that people without access (5.00 / 1) (#75)
by porkchop_d_clown on Mon Aug 25, 2003 at 02:22:36 PM EST

to a planetarium are the same people without access to the internet, so I don't think they're in danger of being disappointed by thelizman's article.


--
You can't raise my prices. You can't build more power plants. You can't build more power lines. Why are my lights out!?!


[ Parent ]
Why do you need a planetarium? (5.00 / 2) (#78)
by JetJaguar on Mon Aug 25, 2003 at 02:32:54 PM EST

Go outside a couple of hours after sunset and look towards the east-southeast. It will be the brightest thing in the sky.

[ Parent ]
Fuck Off You Filthy Hippy (none / 0) (#93)
by thelizman on Tue Aug 26, 2003 at 08:10:54 AM EST

Everyone in the reach of this website has a planetarium within 250 miles. Hell, Baghdad has three.

You get a job yet?
--

"Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
[ Parent ]
OMG, WeRe's th3 sKyz0rrs??11/!1!!? Oh, wait.. (none / 0) (#104)
by McMasters on Wed Aug 27, 2003 at 03:21:57 PM EST

THERE IT IS.
*points up*

There are plenty of other websites full of idiots where you fit right in. Go post there instead.

[ Parent ]
What if. . . (4.00 / 2) (#69)
by Pop Top on Mon Aug 25, 2003 at 11:59:40 AM EST

. . . humanity sent a telescope (like Hubble only cheaper and better) to orbit Mars.

If this new 'scope could image the x-ray spectrum and stuff like that would be cool also.

Then all you astronomy wankers could use some fancy computers (like the kind rusty uses for K5) and do some of that interferometry stuff. Aperture synthesis imaging might sound gay but it ain't. For the cost of two Hubbles we could come close to the effective viewing capability of a telescope with a multi-million mile mirror. Can we call it the 4M observatory?

Oh yeah, we need a permanent Mars colony to help out as well.

That would be *really* hard to do, but... (5.00 / 2) (#70)
by JetJaguar on Mon Aug 25, 2003 at 12:46:49 PM EST

It would be very cool. Something like this could be done relatively cheaply and inexpensively with a radio telescope, but it would be next to impossible to do with optical telescopes using current technology.

Aperture synthesis with optical telescopes is really only working over relatively short distances. At this time baselines of a few tens to maybe 100 meters at the most, and then at only fixed distances. To send something out into space where the baseline is larger than we can deal with and changing is simply beyond what we can do with optical telescopes at this time.

With a baseline the size of Mar's and the Earth's orbit, we could easily resolve the surfaces of many stars and potentially get high resolution pictures of forming solar systems, collapsing stars, perhaps even accretion disks around nova and supernova candidates. It would definitely begin to answer a lot of questions.

[ Parent ]

Radio wave? X-ray? (5.00 / 1) (#71)
by Pop Top on Mon Aug 25, 2003 at 01:17:57 PM EST

I say do whatever is easiest with current technology. A few millon miles of baseline and we could "see" really deep into space, no? Use whichever portions of the spectrum are currently most feasible.

Heh! In "real life" the Hubble may well be de-orbited because the NASA guys can't swallow their pride and agree to service the thing with Soyuz launched from the ESA facility in Kouru. Its better to burn up the Hubble then let the dang French/Russians share the glory.  

[ Parent ]

clarity versus depth (5.00 / 2) (#72)
by JetJaguar on Mon Aug 25, 2003 at 01:39:41 PM EST

Actually, in terms of depth, it's likely that we really wouldn't be able to see any "deeper" into space than we do now. Aperture synthesis and interferometry can make pictures clearer (ie, increase their resolution), but it's actually light grasp (the amount of light you can collect) that really determines how faint and hence how far you can see.

The main reason this can be done in the radio is due to the wavelength of radio waves. With wavelengths on the order meters to kilometers, it's a lot easier to keep track of wavelength differences, and any fractional errors are much less significant. In the optical and even worse in the x-ray, the wavelengths are so short that keeping track of the wavelength differences becomes very difficult...eg, merely changes in temperature of your equipment and detectors can significantly affect the interference patterns.

[ Parent ]

Nice metaphor? symbolism? (none / 0) (#73)
by porkchop_d_clown on Mon Aug 25, 2003 at 02:14:25 PM EST

I hadn't thought about the variation in the light distance between Earth and Mars in those terms before. Good point!

Personally, though, I've always found Mars visually disappointing compared to Jupiter and Saturn.


--
You can't raise my prices. You can't build more power plants. You can't build more power lines. Why are my lights out!?!


Maybe (5.00 / 2) (#85)
by Cro Magnon on Mon Aug 25, 2003 at 04:34:06 PM EST

But I bet Mars looks better than Uranus!
Information wants to be beer.
[ Parent ]
Did you think that up by yourself? (none / 0) (#90)
by porkchop_d_clown on Tue Aug 26, 2003 at 06:42:45 AM EST

Or did somebody have to help you?


--
You can't raise my prices. You can't build more power plants. You can't build more power lines. Why are my lights out!?!


[ Parent ]
CCD Astronomy (none / 0) (#74)
by porkchop_d_clown on Mon Aug 25, 2003 at 02:20:17 PM EST

Short of cutting up the webcam, is it possible to, say, use eyepiece projection with it?


--
You can't raise my prices. You can't build more power plants. You can't build more power lines. Why are my lights out!?!


Possibly (5.00 / 2) (#79)
by JetJaguar on Mon Aug 25, 2003 at 02:37:35 PM EST

I've heard of people doing this with webcams, with varying degrees of success. I think it probably works well with things that are bright, the moon, planets, etc. But I would guess that the sensitivity of the webcam ccd's probably are not good enough for trying to take snapshots of fainter objects.

[ Parent ]
Understood. (5.00 / 2) (#81)
by porkchop_d_clown on Mon Aug 25, 2003 at 02:42:55 PM EST

I've got a 10" dob, so pictures of faint fuzzies are out of the question in any case. I'm just itching to mess around. :-P


--
You can't raise my prices. You can't build more power plants. You can't build more power lines. Why are my lights out!?!


[ Parent ]
Can be done... (none / 0) (#91)
by gordonjcp on Tue Aug 26, 2003 at 07:37:19 AM EST

There is a website out there that shows how to modify the Philips Vesta Pro cameras so you can hold the "shutter" open indefinitely. You take a lead out to the parallel port, and just pull one pin low to open the shutter.

Give a man a fish, and he'll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he'll bore you rigid with fishing stories for the rest of your life.


[ Parent ]
The Viking tests were inconclusive. (5.00 / 3) (#77)
by ethereal on Mon Aug 25, 2003 at 02:25:37 PM EST

There were two tests for life. One reported that there was life, and the other reported that there wasn't. The same two tests were tried in Antarctica, which is the most Mars-like place on Earth that definitely supports microbial life, and the same tests again split on the question of whether there was life on Earth!

Until we can design tests that clearly differentiate between living and non-living on Earth, I don't think we can know for sure what is the state of things on Mars. And that's assuming that we really could create a test for life that detects anything besides just Earth-life.

Life on Mars is pretty unlikely (especially considering recent reports that it never was warm and wet as previously thought) but it has not been conclusively ruled out.

--

Stand up for your right to not believe: Americans United for Separation of Church and State

The surface of Mars... (3.33 / 3) (#83)
by Russell Dovey on Mon Aug 25, 2003 at 03:33:18 PM EST

...is bathed in ionising ultra-violet radiation from the Sun, since the Martian atmosphere is only around 1% as dense as the one on Earth and has no ozone layer. This basically destroys any hope of microbial life existing on the surface. However, many scientists think that a subsurface water layer exists, in which lithovoric bacteria could survive. This layer (or layers) could be as close to the surface as 10 metres, or as far down as 10 kilometres. The water layer might be detected with ground-penetrating radar, but there's no way to tell if life exists there until we can drill down there and check.

"Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light." - Spike Milligan
[ Parent ]

Mir (none / 0) (#106)
by dachshund on Wed Aug 27, 2003 at 04:27:45 PM EST

is bathed in ionising ultra-violet radiation from the Sun, since the Martian atmosphere is only around 1% as dense as the one on Earth and has no ozone layer. This basically destroys any hope of microbial life existing on the surface.

Weren't there bacteria (or fungi) living on the exterior of the Mir space station?

[ Parent ]

Of course not. (none / 0) (#102)
by Akshay on Wed Aug 27, 2003 at 01:55:23 PM EST

As any crackpot theorist worth his name will tell you, the Martian surface is riddled with anthromorphic anomalies, as seen by conclusive pictures taken by the Viking mission.

Never underestimate the power of human imagination.

[ Parent ]

Inexpensive telescope? (5.00 / 2) (#86)
by m42gal on Mon Aug 25, 2003 at 04:50:03 PM EST

When you say "inexpensive telescope" I sincerely hope you don't mean the $99.00 special at Costco! These telescopes are cheaply made and because of the eyepieces that come with them, rarely get used after a couple of times.

If you happen to have one of these "inexpensive telescopes", there are numerous ways to upgrade it without breaking the piggy bank. But if at all possible, try to purchase a quality telescope from any number of telescope manufacturers (Such as Meade, Celestron or Orion).

Ideally, the best views will be through telescopes that local astronomy groups provide for public viewing of MARS. Goggle your hometown with "+ astronomy groups". Best, Stacy

St.

www.telescope.com (none / 0) (#89)
by porkchop_d_clown on Tue Aug 26, 2003 at 06:40:58 AM EST

Orion sells some nice scopes almost this cheaply.


--
You can't raise my prices. You can't build more power plants. You can't build more power lines. Why are my lights out!?!


[ Parent ]
But They Work (none / 0) (#92)
by thelizman on Tue Aug 26, 2003 at 08:08:28 AM EST

When you say "inexpensive telescope" I sincerely hope you don't mean the $99.00 special at Costco! These telescopes are cheaply made and because of the eyepieces that come with them, rarely get used after a couple of times.
I was actually talking about the $99.00 telescope at Fry's Electronics. I don't usually shop CostCo, since they are Chinese owned and sell products produced on slave labor. Actually, I don't shop them at all since I'm East Coast now.

The $99 will work. However, someone who enjoys staring at Mars through a $99 telescope will love it through a $399 telescope.

One reason I brought up the CCD Astronomy is because I actually made my own CCD based telescope back when Jupiter and Saturn were occulting last year. The CCD mod was actually quite easy, but pointing the telescope was a pain in the ass. It was also noteworthy how much more obvious the spin of the Earth is, since you could'nt hold the perspective for more than 5 minutes. The advantage for CCD astronomy is that multiple people can enjoy it. I recomment self-actuated gimbal mounted telescopes, the cheapest of which I've seen is ~$300. Get one of those, Starry Night/Celestia with the appropriate plugin, and you're golden.
--

"Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
[ Parent ]
Pete, is that you? (none / 0) (#99)
by porkchop_d_clown on Wed Aug 27, 2003 at 08:57:25 AM EST

:-P

You sound like a member of our club who is a huge fan of the classic 60mm refractor. My problem with those scopes isn't the glass, it's the terribly rickety tripod.


--
You can't raise my prices. You can't build more power plants. You can't build more power lines. Why are my lights out!?!


[ Parent ]
I Assure You, It's Thelizman (none / 0) (#100)
by thelizman on Wed Aug 27, 2003 at 09:33:35 AM EST

Ich bin eine übergeek.
--

"Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
[ Parent ]
I am a jelly geek donut! (none / 0) (#101)
by porkchop_d_clown on Wed Aug 27, 2003 at 10:03:00 AM EST

Or something like that...

:-P

So, have you managed to get that refractor aimed at any deep sky objects? That's what finally drove me to building my own dob (and now buying one) - I just could not find anything more challenging than jupiter with my Meade 60mm...


--
You can't raise my prices. You can't build more power plants. You can't build more power lines. Why are my lights out!?!


[ Parent ]
Distance comparisons (5.00 / 3) (#88)
by izogi on Tue Aug 26, 2003 at 01:03:09 AM EST

During the late 70's, it would take more than 44 minutes to receive a response from the space probes. When the Soujourner Rover drove around Mars in 1997, it took 17 minutes for radio commands and replies to journey between Mars each way. But on August 27th, it will only take 3 minutes, 6 seconds for a radio or light wave to travel between Earth and Mars. That's a mere 186 seconds. To go from 22 minutes to 3 minutes explains just how close Earth and Mars will come to each other.

I like the article, and thanks for posting it. I think this quote is potentially misleading, though.

When Mars is in opposition, the communication time will always be relatively small if compared with Mars being elsewhere such as the other side of the Sun. This is what was happening in the examples you cited, and within a couple of years of any of them the communication time would have been a fraction of the times you stated. In that sense it's a regular thing.

Going back to 1980, Martian oppositions -- which happen every couple of years or so -- have all been 102 million kilometers at the furthest. This is only about twice as far as this opposition. (About 6 minutes in terms of time.)

Personally I think it's more representative to compare the close distance with other oppositions. This still shows that it's definitely close compared with how close it regularly gets, but maybe not quite as incredible as what you seem to be implying.


- izogi


I wanted to know what all the fuss was about... (none / 0) (#94)
by Zerotime on Tue Aug 26, 2003 at 11:38:36 AM EST

...so I got out the telescope, and set it up, and twiddled with the turning and raising knob things until I could see Mars.

It was a red dot (with the reflector in the middle of it if I got the focus wrong). I'd say that it was much the same sort of red dot that I saw while looking at it with my bare eyes. 'Twas a wonderfully cold and clear night, though, so I did get to see some star clusters and things (glalxies? nebulae? what the hell are those vague white ghosty things that aren't clouds?) that I wouldn't normally be able to.

Of course, I'm using a 6" scope with a 20mm lens, so I probably deserve to get a crappy view. Should I be getting a bigger/wider lens or something?

---
"You don't even have to drink it. You just rub it on your hips and it eats its way through to your liver."

It sounds like you need some magnification (5.00 / 2) (#95)
by JetJaguar on Tue Aug 26, 2003 at 01:40:17 PM EST

Your 'scope should be capable of showing details on Mars with the right magnification. I've found that about 150x or so should be good enough to start seeing large surface details, eg, the polar caps.

To figure out your magnification you need to know the focal length of your primary and your eyepiece. Then, M = Fprimary / Feyepiece. For example, the focal length of my 8" scope, is 2000mm, and the eyepiece I use for planetary observing is a 13mm, 2000/13 = 153x (approximately).

I don't know what the focal length is of your 6" so I can't tell you if the 20mm is good enough or not, but it sounds like it probably isn't if Mars just looks like a small red dot.

[ Parent ]

Cool, thanks. (none / 0) (#97)
by Zerotime on Wed Aug 27, 2003 at 01:02:06 AM EST

It's got a 900mm focal length, which only makes for 45x magnification with the 20mm eyepiece. It's okay for looking at surface detail on the moon, but I'm going to have to go and buy a much larger lens for it, I think. :)

---
"You don't even have to drink it. You just rub it on your hips and it eats its way through to your liver."
[ Parent ]
Watch out. (5.00 / 2) (#98)
by porkchop_d_clown on Wed Aug 27, 2003 at 08:53:38 AM EST

First, there's a rule of thumb which says that the limiting magnification of a scope is roughly twice its width in millimeters, so if your scope is 70-80mm don't buy a 5mm eye piece.

Second, buy the best eyepiece you can afford. www.telescope.com has a good selection; if you want to try it on the cheap, I've had very good luck with orthoscopic eyepieces from www.universityoptics.com - that's where I bought the spider, cell, focuser and eyepieces for a scope I built from scratch.


--
You can't raise my prices. You can't build more power plants. You can't build more power lines. Why are my lights out!?!


[ Parent ]
i was amazed seeing it with the naked eye (none / 0) (#108)
by kpaul on Thu Aug 28, 2003 at 12:15:06 AM EST

to be quite honest. fascinating to look up and know it was a planet - the red planet...


2014 Halloween Costumes
[ Parent ]

talking about space depresses me (5.00 / 3) (#111)
by auraslip on Thu Aug 28, 2003 at 06:35:57 PM EST

because I'll never be able to experiance it first hand. '

fuck I hate nasa
___-___

huh? (none / 0) (#112)
by adiffer on Fri Aug 29, 2003 at 05:58:30 PM EST

Maybe you are unaware of the private groups in which you can participate to make a difference?
--BE The Alien!
[ Parent ]
Personally, I'm betting on Burt Rutan. (none / 0) (#114)
by ObviousTroll on Sun Aug 31, 2003 at 08:58:41 PM EST

He's the only player in the private space-plane circus with any actual experience; and the fact that he's already doing drop tests of his craft just goes to show.

It blows my mind that he's building a space vehicle that lands at the sames speed as a single engine Cessna...


Somewhere, in America / There's a street named after my dad / And the home we never had.


[ Parent ]
You damn betcha. (5.00 / 1) (#113)
by porkchop_d_clown on Fri Aug 29, 2003 at 09:49:32 PM EST

People wonder why I never use my vacation time. The real reason is because I always planned on using it in one of those LEO hotels we were promised growing up.


--
You can't raise my prices. You can't build more power plants. You can't build more power lines. Why are my lights out!?!


[ Parent ]
Magnitude (none / 0) (#117)
by Morimoto Masaharu on Sun Jan 18, 2004 at 08:12:32 PM EST

I may have misunderstood your magnitude comparison, but if Venus has a magnitude of -4 and Mars peaks out at -2.9, Venus is still brighter. Lower numbers are brighter on that scale.
«This is Mr. Yoshida on your favorite vegetables.»
Mars in 186 Seconds | 117 comments (116 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
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