Starting July 25, the Allan I. Carswell Observatory team at York University will be hosting free public viewings of Mars at opposition. The team will answer questions and set up telescopes on the top floor of the Arboretum in William Small Centre on weeknights at 9 p.m. to midnight, until August 1. (Viewings will not be offered Saturday, July 28 and Sunday, July 29.)
“This is not an event to miss,” says Paul Delaney, University Professor in the Department of Physics & Astronomy and director of the Observatory. “Mars will appear closer and thus brighter than it has been in 15 years, and it will not be this close or bright again until 2035!”
Like all planets in our solar system, Earth and Mars orbit the sun; but Earth is closer to the sun, and therefore races along its orbit more quickly. Mars is said to be in “opposition” when it is on the opposite side of the Earth relative to the sun. From our perspective, this means that Mars rises when the sun sets and sets when the sun rises.
The Red Planet is especially photogenic during opposition because it is fully illuminated by the sun. While Mars will still be 4,500 times smaller in apparent size than the Moon, it will appear particularly large and bright this time because it will be the closest it has been to Earth in 15 years.
Depending on the crowd of observers, visitors may be able to try their luck at imaging Mars with their cell phones through the 40-cm telescope that will be on site.
All are welcome to attend the viewings. Admission is free. For more details, visit the event page on Facebook.