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Tech Corner Last Updated: 2, Apr 2018 - 10:02

Mars Rising . . .
By SETI Mayo
25, Aug 2003 - 09:51

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Well folks it's not often that you get a chance to be able to show off your knowledge of the night sky to your fellow Castlebar people but here's something that you can point out to all your family and friends if you get a clear night over the next week or so.

Mars Rising over Castlebar, can you 'spot' it ?

The planet Mars is currently at its closest approach to Earth, that means that although it's still an awful distance away in mileage terms it's closer now than it usually is and that makes it an easier object to view in the night sky.

Last night whilst travelling on a country road outside of town I couldn't help but spot what appeared to be a really bright star with an orangey colour to it, hanging low in a sort of Southerly direction. I then remembered reading an article about Mars being so close this week (normally you forget about celestial events in the west of Ireland because the clouds cover up the sky when there's something worth observing).

Circled here to make it easier to spot

I took a few shots with the digital camera but I didn't think that it'd pick up anything but I was surprised with the level of detail that the camera can capture - I've circled Mars as taken in the dark of the countryside on the third of the pictures that I uploaded for this article. The digital camera will actually capture a lot of the stars although they may appear as red, blue or green as opposed to little pinpricks of white light. With a film camera you'd have to have a long exposure but this digital technology is great and I believe that many amateur astronomers are taking photos that are better than Hubble telescope photos just by banging a digital camera on to the end of their telescopes.

Anyways when I got back into to town I was still surprised to be able to see Mars so clearly even on a brightly lit street. So I took another couple of shots and I've included one taken from Staball Hill (Thomas Street) in town at about one in the morning looking towards the Military Barracks.

I've checked my references today to confirm that it was Mars that I was looking at and you can do this too with one of the many shareware programs out there like skyglobe or distant suns.

Taken from outside the town, away from the light pollution

Click for larger image

You can download a copy of skyglobe or distant suns from the following websites :

A good guide to finding Mars in the Castlebar night sky at the moment is to find the plough (Big Dipper, Great Bear to our US and Canadian viewers) and then turn 180 degrees and you should then be facing in a southerly direction, and Mars should be hanging there above the horizon. It's probably the brightest thing in the sky at the moment so get out quick and have a look before the moon comes back and drowns it out.

Here's a link to a site that will provide you with a little more information on observing Mars with the naked eye.

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