Not so close encounter


I’m glad I don’t have to explain to a non-human from Mars why each day Americans set fire to dozens of little pieces of paper, and then put them in their mouths. This month and next, Earth is catching up with Mars, an encounter that will culminate in the closest approach between the two planets in recorded history. The next time Mars may come this close is in 2287. Due to the way Jupiter’s gravity tugs on Mars and perturbs its orbit, astronomers can only be certain that Mars has not come this close to Earth in the last 5,000 years, but it may be as long as 60,000 years. The encounter will culminate on Aug. 27 when Mars comes to within 34,649,589 miles and will be (next to the moon) the brightest object in the night sky. It will attain a magnitude of -2.9 and will appear 25.11 arc seconds wide. At a modest 75-power magnification, Mars will look as large as the full moon to the naked eye. Perhaps this additional gravitational magnetism will help our Community College District balance their budget without increasing our property taxes again.

And that is all I have to say (sure).

Tom Fakehany