Science Catch Ups
First off Mars... We are moving into prime Mars viewing territory once again. The very best view of Mars will be available on the 18th of December when we move into direct alignment with Mars. In other words, our position in orbit around the sun will coincide with that of Mars. A straight line drawn from Mars to the Sun would intersect the Earth. The orbits of the Earth and Mars are not perfectly circular. Sometimes those small differences add up to a spectacular view of Mars. The most favorable alignment with Mars recently was back in 2003 where the two planets were closer than they had been in 60,000 years. This alignment with Mars will not be that near, but it will be the best time to see Mars for the next seven years. I plan to haul my scope out and snap some pictures... If the skies ever clear here that is. Our new home has fantastically dark skies. It's far out in the country and situated on top of a hill. Odd how that works... When I'm living in Texas, it has the wettest year on record... Oregon on the other hand was suffering a drought. When I move to Oregon however, the weather turns wet and Texas dries up... Typical.
So at any rate, moving on...
Perhaps you've heard that a meteor slammed into Peru near lake Titicaca. Beyond the oddity of a meteor impact is the fact that the impact vaporized arsenic dissolved in the ground water of the impact site causing illness among the local inhabitants. To me however this cloud of arsenic fumes is secondary to the 20 meter wide crater that this impact created. Estimates suggest that this massive hole was excavated by a roughly basketball sized hunk of space debris slamming into the surface at supersonic speeds. Imagine such an impact in a far more populated location. The center of a large metropolitan area for example. We really need to invest in space research and particularly into defensive measures against a far larger and more devastating impactor.
Lastly I'd like to leave you with a beautiful image of the Jewel box cluster snapped by the Hubble Space Telescope.