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Mars can be seen today; Moon to be biggest Saturday
New Delhi, Jan 28 (IANS/Agencies):
Published on 29 Jan. 2010 12:52 AM IST
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If you missed the Jan 15 annular solar eclipse don’t fret as another celestial treat is in store for the skygazers. Mars which takes about 687 days to complete one revolution around the Sun comes close to Earth once in two years. The Red planet is also going to form an Opposition with Earth. An Opposition is said to take place when Earth lies directly between Mars and Sun. The ideal time to witness the Opposition would be at 01:37 am on Friday, Jan 29 morning. To view the planet, just point the telescope towards the eastern skies and one can see a distinct, reddish disc, said Director of Science Popularisation Association of Communicators and Educators C B Devgun. “Another interesting thing to look out at the time of opposition is that Mars goes through its retrograde motion and later returns to its regular prograde motion - making interesting loops in the sky,” Nehru Planetarium Director N Rathnasree is quoted as saying in news reports. The last time the planet was close to earth was in Dec 2007 and it is expected to come close to Earth next on Mar 5, 2012. The next opposition of Mars will take place two years from now, on Mar 3, 2012. Meanwhile The ISRO said on Wednesday that maiden human space flight to Mars would be a global mission through a consortium by 2030. ‘Manned mission to Mars will be a global effort and will be undertaken by a consortium of space-faring nations,’ Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chairman K. Radhakrishnan told reporters here. Noting that international collaboration and cooperation would be the order of the day in future space exploratory missions, Radhakrishnan said the global endeavour would be to put a man on the red planet by 2030. ‘Since a human space flight to Mars is not only prohibitive, but also demanding as the journey alone would be about 250 days, the ambitious mission will pose scientific and technological challenges to all space agencies,’ Radhakrishnan said on the margins of a an event. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) of the US and the European Space Agency (ESA), a consortium of space-faring nations in Europe, signed an agreement in October 2009 to expand collective capabilities, resources and expertise for exploration of Mars. As a leading space-faring nation, India with its low-cost but high-end launch vehicle technology will be a part of the international consortium for the manned mission to Mars. ‘India will be associated with other space-faring agencies in the manned mission to Mars, with scientific experiments to be carried on the Martian surface,’ Radhakrishnan said after releasing a book titled ‘Moon Mission: Exploring the Moon with Chandrayaan-1’. The book on India’s maiden unmanned lunar mission is authored by S.K. Das, a former member (finance) of the space department. Referring to the second lunar mission (Chandrayaan-2) scheduled for launch in 2012-13, the Indian space agency chief said it would repeat some of the experiments carried by Chandrayaan-1 and its unfinished task as it was aborted 10 months after its launch Oct 22, 2008. ‘Chandrayaan-2 will land a Rover on the moon to collect samples and relay the data back to the earth,’ Radhakrishnan noted. Good news for sky gazers, the moon will be closest to the earth on that day and will appear to be bigger and brightest of the year, a scientist said Thursday. Explaining the reason, director SPACE (Science Popularisation Association of Communicators and Educators) C.B. Devgun said: “Some full moons are genuinely larger than others and the one on Saturday will be huge.” The moon will be 15 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter than we will see for the rest of the year, he said. “This is because the moon’s orbit is an ellipse with one side 50,000 km closer to earth than the other. In the language of astronomy, the two extremes are called ‘apogee’ (far away) and ‘perigee’ (nearby). “On Jan 30, the moon becomes full, three hours after reaching perigee, making it bigger and brighter than we are going to see for the rest of 2010,” said Devgun. The moon at perigee will look bigger than it looks in all other positions, as the apparent size of closer objects is always more. “As this is the second full moon of the month, this will also be a blue moon,” said N.S. Raghunandan Kumar, general secretary of the Planetary Society of India.

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