Faculty members at Genesee Community College are offering the public an opportunity - along with a treat - to view Mars later this month. Coordinated by Michael Crittenden, professor of physics, and Claudia Moore, executive vice president for academic affairs, the college will set up a Celestron NexStar 11-inch telescope at the south end of the building, near the library, for a viewing from 9:00 to 10:00 PM, Friday, October 28, 2005. In case of cloud cover, the date will be Saturday, October 29th.
"This is almost exactly when we will be closest to Mars," said Crittenden, noting that Mars will be approximately 43 million miles (69 million km) away from the Earth, closer than the average distance. Crittenden noted that Mars "passes (nearer to the Earth) once every two years. It will be the brightest thing in the sky. With a little luck we might be able to make out polar ice caps and maybe some dark markings."
At that distance, even inattentive sky watchers will notice the red planet rising at sundown and soaring overhead at midnight. The actual "opposition" occurs during the first week of November when Mars is exactly opposite from the Sun, Crittenden added.
All those who come to the campus to see Mars will receive "Mars" candy bars, or other Halloween treats courtesy of the science and marketing communication departments of the College.
Mars will look like a bright red star - a pinprick of light, certainly not as wide as the full Moon. Crittenden said he hopes the weather cooperates. If a storm system settles in, he said, he may have to postpone the viewing. "It's something I'd have to decide at the last minute," he said.
To find out if the event is on, a telephone voice mail message will be available 585-343-0044 x6616 after 5:00 p.m.