On the night of April 8th, Mars will be at opposition, appearing larger in the night sky than it has for the past four years. Slooh will cover this event live on Tuesday, April 8th at 7 PM PDT / 10 PM EDT / 02:00 UTC (4/9) (International Times) with a live feed from the Canary Islands, off the coast of West Africa. Viewers can watch free on Slooh.com or by downloading the Slooh iPad app. The live image stream will be accompanied by discussions led by Slooh host and Observatory Director Paul Cox and Slooh astronomer Bob Berman. Viewers can ask questions during the show by using hashtag #Mars.
At Opposition, Mars will be positioned directly opposite of the Sun in the sky drawing the Red Planet much closer to the Earth than normal. During this event Mars will rise high in the sky from the east and will be incredibly visible shining burntorange at nearly 10 times brighter than a 1st magnitude star. This positioning will make martian features and one of its polar caps visible through moderate sized backyard telescopes, during nights of steady “seeing” and homogeneous air layers.
During the coverage our hosts will also discuss the ongoing mission of the Mars rover Curiosity which launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida on November 26, 2011 and completed its primary goals in December 2013. Curiosity is continuing to search for signs of ancient life as its mission has been extended indefinitely. Cox and Berman will review some of the major findings of Curiosity’s mission and discuss the possibilities of finding evidence of life on Mars. This will be accompanied by realtime images of Mars showing outstanding detail on its red surface.
“Mars has held disproportionate focus for humans since ancient times,” says Slooh astronomer Bob Berman. “It is neither the closest planet, nor the largest, nor the most detailed through telescopes. Nonetheless, it is the only planet in the universe that shows distinct and sometimes detailed surface features through our telescopes. It is also the most earthlike body in the known universe, with oxygen copiously bound into its soil, and water contained in its ices. Therefore, during the brief few weeks when it comes near to us every 26 months, it deserves the limelight. This year it hovers next to Virgo’s hot blue “alpha” star Spica, creating a striking orangeandblue color contrast that’s out all night long, and impossible to miss.”
Slooh’s host and Observatory Director said “The red planet has captured our imagination since we started gazing at it through telescopes. With the huge number of missions to Mars over the last few decades, it is now one of the most studied objects in the solar system. It is only a matter of time before we hear those classic words from the planet’s surface: ‘That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.’
Slooh members have been imaging the planet virtually every night this year, and thankfully, the planetwide dust storms suffered by the planet have stayed at bay this observing season.”