Mars Rising

Sometimes I wish I had a really nice telescope and knew how to use it. This week is one of those times: it's a great chance to see Mars. Phil Plait says:

When Earth does lap Mars, the Red Planet’s on the opposite side of the sky from the Sun, rising at sunset and setting at sunrise — we say that Mars is at opposition when that happens. When it does, we get two advantages in one: it’s at its closest point, so it’s bigger in telescopes, and it’s up all night so you can observe it at your convenience. This happens next in just a few days, on January 29, 2010.

I tried looking at some online star charts and couldn't make heads or tails of them. So I was glad to discover Stellarium, a free, cross-platform, open source planetarium progam. It's very intuitive and fun to use. One cool feature is the ability to click on an object (like Mars) and zoom in with the scroll wheel. In yesterday's cloudy weather it was better than going outside, but I hope tonight will clear up so I can see the real thing!

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