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Peeking Through The Clouds

Lunar & Planetary
Photo © 2003 Rick Day
The May 15th Total Lunar Eclipse

From: The Cosmic Citizen ­ Official newsletter of the AOAS - Volume XVIII, Number 3, June / July 2003

The most horrific month for tornadoes in history broke its reign just long enough for some die­hard amateur astronomers and our guests to view a very dark Total Lunar Eclipse on May 15that the Ft Smith Art Center at 423 N. 6th Street downtown.

I must admit, it did not look like we'd be able to see anything as the afternoon of the 15th wore on. The clouds kept building and moving in from the west and the Weather Channel only showed more to come all the way back to western Oklahoma. But at7:45 PM, a glint of sunlight crept out from under a break in the clouds, and I decided to make the trip over, even if it meant a wasted trip.
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Mars 2003!

The Red Planet is getting closer day by day... and on August 27, 2003, Mars will be a mere 34,646,418 miles away from Earth - the closest it has been in over 73,000 years. In preparation for the best Mars viewing ever, now would be a great time to reacquaint yourself with our close neighbor.

Stargazers have long been fascinated with Mars because of its reddish color and quick movement through the stars. A Martian day is about 25 hours long, and the passage of its seasons takes 23 Earth months (this is the time it takes Mars to complete its orbit of the Sun). With its elliptical orbit, the distance between Mars and Earth varies at different oppositions. The angular diameter (the size of the disk as it appears from Earth) ranges from as small as 4" (arc seconds) to about 25". The closer we are to Mars, the larger it appears.

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