Mars Close Encounter Event November 7, 2005
On August 27, 2003, Mars and Earth came closer together than they had in nearly
60,000 years. The apparent rareness of the close encounter generated significant
media attention. We held a special event and had over 2000 people in attendance.
The next close encounter between Earth and Mars will be on October 30, 2005 with
opposition (see below for more information) on November 7, 2005. While the two
planets will not be as close as they were in 2003, Mars will be higher in the
sky in 2005. The proximity of the planets and high position of Mars in our sky
will result in a noticeably bright planet Mars at the end of October and early
Erroneous information about an event on August 27, 2005
There are a number of email messages circulating around the Internet describing the closest encounter with Mars in human history. The date of the event is supposed to be in August and some sources list August 27. Some of these messages list August 27, 2005, however, this information is in reference to August 27, 2003. Much of the information is approaching accuracy for what occurred in 2003, but some of the messages have been embellished a bit. "The increased attention is likely because August 27 is quickly approaching and some people know that Mars will approach Earth again in 2005."
The Science of Mars and Earth Orbits
Mars and Earth each orbit around our nearest star, the Sun. Earth is the third planet from the Sun, and Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun. Most people are aware that the Earth orbits the sun in just over 365 (365.26) days. Mars orbits the Sun in 686.98 Earth days. The Earth will overtake and go past Mars on an average of 779.74 days, which is just over two Earth years. This explains why the last encounter was at the end of August 2003 and the next encounter is at the end of October 2005.
Opposition occurs when Mars is on the opposite side of Earth from the Sun. The three solar system bodies will form a straight line with Earth in the middle. It is during opposition that Mars and Earth have their close encounters. Because of the relative “tilts” of their orbits, the closest encounter of the two planets can be as many as ten days from the date of opposition. The next opposition will be on November 7, 2005 and the closest encounter will be on October 30, 2005. During opposition, Mars will rise in the east as the Sun sets in the west.
The close encounter event on November 7, 2005
The RPSEC will hold a special event on the date of opposition, 11/7/05. The close encounter in 2005 will not be mathematically as close as the encounter in 2003. In 2003, Mars came within 34,700,000 miles of Earth. In 2005, Mars will come within 44,200,000 miles. However, a person would be hard pressed to notice a visual difference between what they see in 2005 and what they remember seeing in 2003.
We will offer the planetarium show, Mission to Mars, at 6:00, 7:00, 8:00 and 9:00 p.m. We will have telescopes set up and the observatory open so that people can have a first-hand look at the Red Planet. Mars will rise at 5:18 p.m. Eastern Standard Time and will be straight overhead at midnight. As Mars gets higher in the sky, the viewing will be better with the best viewing closer to midnight.