Watch Mars in Abu Dhabi

After watching Mars at its closest approach to the Earth on Wednesday night, Nizar Salem is eagerly awaiting viewing the phenomenon when the Red Planet and the Sun will be on directly opposite sides of Earth and Mars will be visible all through the night.

Pointing at a small planet in the sky, the amateur astronomer said: “For you, it may look almost orange in colour due to reflection in the atmosphere, but as a regular observer I can confirm it as the Red Planet.”

On Wednesday night, Salem positioned his telescope on the roof of his house in Abu Dhabi towards the planet. It appeared bigger through the lens, an excited Salem said: “It is an unusual view. I used to wait hours in the desert to get a glimpse of this planet this clear.”

The head of the Emirates Mobile Astronomical Observer and a member of the Arab Union for Astronomy and Space Sciences (AUASS) told Gulf News yesterday that Mars came closest to the earth at the UAE time 10.44pm. The phenomenon occurs every two years, but according to Nasa, the US space agency, Mars was supposed to look bigger than at any time between 2008 and 2012.

For visual observers, the best view comes today when Mars will be directly opposite the sun, said Salem

He has made an arrangement for the public to watch it tonight at the Family Park Khalidiya in the capital in cooperation with community police department of Abu Dhabi Police from 9pm to 12.30am.

Watch the Red planet

* WHAT: Best view of Mars.
* WHERE: Family Park in Al Khalidiya, Abu Dhabi.
* WHEN: Friday night 9pm to 12.30am.
* Entry: Free.

Why does Mars come closest to earth only every two years?
Think of Earth and Mars as two runners on a circular race track, with lanes corresponding to planetary orbits. Earth, running fast on the inside lane, circles the course every 12 months. Mars, chugging along an outside lane, takes twice as long to go around. About every two years, Earth catches up with slower Mars and laps it.
The Earth lapped Mars again on Wednesday, January 27.
Source: NASA

The closest encounter between Earth and Mars in 60,000 years
Earth and Mars have close encounters on their cosmic course every 25 months or so. Some are closer than others, however. In 2003, the Earth-Mars distance was only 56 million kilometers, the closest they have come in 60,000 years.
Source: NASA

Why Mars is the Red Planet
Through unaided eye and telescopes, Mars appears Red because of the oxygen from water and from the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere combined with minerals, mainly iron, in the rocks and dust, said Nazar Sallem.
“It is this oxidised iron, the rust, that gives Mars its red colour. And as it’s known the name of the month March derives from Mars,” he said.
Depending on the sky conditions and using a telescope, amateur astronomers can see the polar ice cap and some darker markings on the surface and some cloud, he said.


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