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Jed Boal ReportingRight now and for the next week or more you can spy an impressive celestial sight in the eastern sky. The planet Mars appears brighter than it will again for another 13 years.
We know more about the Red Planet than ever before. The earth had a close encounter with Mars two years ago and rovers Spirit and Opportunity have roamed the planet's surface for 21 months. Mars was closer in 2003, but more favorably positioned in the sky this year.
Seth Jarvis, Clark Planetarium Director: "Whether you like it for its mythological reasons, or just cause it's pretty, or I get excited about the science of saying, 'Hey, this is where people are going to walk in the future,' mars is really worth seeing right now."
Look to the east, slightly to the north. It will technically be brightest Saturday night. Early Sunday morning, mars will be in "opposition."
Seth Jarvis: "The sun, earth and mars are all in a straight line with mars being opposite the sun, separated by 180 degrees."
Mars is the only planet with surface features we can see from Earth-based telescopes. Mars is only 43-million miles from Earth, it's usually 200 million miles away.
Seth Jarvis, Clark Planetarium Director: "What we know about mars today is vastly more than we knew about mars at the last opposition in 2003, which is infinitely more than we knew in the previous history of studying mars."
We know Mars was wetter and probably warmer at one time, even hospitable to earth-like life. The big question now is whether there is evidence of past life.
Thirty years ago, man walked in space. With all of the information and knowledge we're gathering on mars right now, it's very conceivable that a youngster staring into space tonight will be able to walk on it's surface thirty years from today.
Seth Jarvis: "I'm counting on some kid in the first grade to be walking on mars by the time they're in their 30's."
If it's cloudy this weekend, don't worry, the Red Planet will be visible well into January. Mars will now slowly drift further from Earth as it orbits the Sun.