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149million Km

67.6million km


At midnight tonight Mars will be directly opposite the sun with earth located in
the middle. Earth will be 67.6 million km from Mars the closest in 13 years


Redro Janet
F1:1 frenzy
Mars makes close approach
AT midnight tonight, the
silly season officially begins
Mars begins its rush toward
earth about 10km a secOnd
and the UFO sightings will start
to mount. Luckily it only lasts
about a week.
The reality of the cosmic event.
which begins this week, is that
Mars comes the closest to Earth
it has been in more than 12 years
about 67.6 million km to
be precise.
The result is that the planet
will appear as a bright red disc
just above the horizon in the
eastern sky after 7pm_
But the only side effect of such
an encounter is the growing
number of UFO sightings
which, according to the experts..
have already begun_
Cathy. Clarke from UFO Research NSW claimed that the
cvills had been steadily growing
in the past couple of months.
-It has been very active over
the past three months
than normal," said Ms Clarke.
who takes calls from distressed
people A110 claim to have either
seen UFOs or had alien abduction experiences.
"l am sure that events like this
do have an impact. People are
not well versed about what goes
on cosmologically."

Stargazers would have already
noticed our closest planetary
neighbour growing in size for the
past few weeks.
Tonight is when Mars will be
exactly opposite the sun with the
Earth in between.
On June 22, Mars' elliptic orbit
wEll reach its closest point to
earth since 19813 when it mme to
57.5 million km
An even more spectacular view
of Mars will occur in August 2003.
Then, the planet will be closer to
the Earth than it has been for
about 6000 years adista.nce of
just 56 million krn.
Then. according to US re`
searchers, "they will really begin
to come out of the woodwork".
Previous close approaches by
Mars have been marked by a big in -UFO sightings.
Robin SaLgell, vice-president
of the Society for Popular, Afr
tronomy. said: P
you're driving
in a car and see Mars above the

tree tops, it can appear to be

following you. People wonder
what on earth it is and think
they've seen a UFO."
Nick Lomb from Sydney Observatory said the best time to
set Mars would be hi the early
evening looking toward the %wt.
With the naked eye, ft would
appear as a big red star.
But a telescope with a magniffcation of 40 or 50 is enough to
reveal the planet's major features, including polar ice caps
and possibly even clouds.
The planet appears red because of its rusty dust. caused by
large amounts of iron in its soil.
"The next few months will be a
great time to look at Mars," said
NASA astronomy professor
George Lebo.
"You won't need a telescope to
see it.
"By early June Mars will outshine everything except Venus,
the Moon, and the sun itself."
The EuropeAn Mars Express
mission is due to be launched
in 2003.
It will car -y the mainly British
Beagle If probe, which will land
on the planet to search for signs
of life.



Diameter at equator: 6786km

Orbital period (length of year): 687 days
Temperature range: -127C to 27C
Geologically old surface: covered with impact craters in southern
hemisphere. Polar caps contain water as well as carbon dioxide
Gravity at the surface: 38 per cent of the Earth's gravity

When to view the planet

The best time to see Mars is
between 7pm and 8pm for the
next nine nights
MI Mars can be seen low in the
eastern night sky just below the
constellation of Scorpio
It looks like a bright red star to
the naked eye


When viewed through a

telescope you will be able to see
the polar ice caps and land
features of Mars
Sydney Observatory will be
open at night from June 21 to
June 23 with all telescopes
pointed at Mars

Diamektr at equator: 12,756km

Orbital period (length of year): 365.25 days
Temperature range: -88C to 58C
Geologically young surface: has volcanoes, weather, erosiorLand very
few remaining impact craters

3_3UNE 2001_



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