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From: TerryMosel@aol.com
Date: Mon, 27 May 2002 19:22:56 EDT
Subject: (no subject)

Hi all,

Some of you will know that I have been trying to find more details of the 
record-breaking close approach of Mars in August 2003. Some sources were 
saying it would be the closest approach in the last 4,000 years, some in the 
last 6,000. I even heard that it would be the closest in the last 30,000 
years!

To try to get a definitive answer I have been corresponding with Jean Meeus 
in Belgium, widely recognised as a leading authority on such matters. In an 
email just received he tells me that the last approach of Mars closer than 
that of 2003 took place in the year -57,601 (57,602 BC)!

In 2003, that will be an interval of 59,604 years - say 60,000 years! Now 
that's quite amazing, by any standards! The minimum distance will be on 27 
August at 09.51UT. Meeus quotes a figure of 0.37272 AU; my Skymap Pro 8 
programme is optimistically more precise with a figure of 0.3727192 AU! 
That's about 55,687,800km, or about 34,603,740 miles for Imperial dinosaurs 
like me!

And that record won't be beaten until 28 August 2287, when the distance will 
be a mere 0.3722540 AU (again according to Skymap Pro 8). Only an interval of 
284 years this time, because of secular variations in the orbits of Earth & 
Mars, particularly the eccentricities, longitudes of perihelia, and longitude 
of Mars' ascending node. And that one will itself be beaten on 3 Sep 2650, at 
a distance of 37201 AU (per Meeus).

Whatever the number of decimal points of accuracy, it's certainly going to be 
an occasion to celebrate! The media will be very interested, especially with 
the recent news of large amounts of water-ice on Mars, and of course the 
End-of-the-Worlders and astrologers will be having a field day! And Mars will 
of course be spectacularly red & bright, with a magnitude of -2.9: brighter 
than Jupiter at its best. And it will be a good bit higher up in the sky than 
at last opposition, with a S declination of about 16 degrees: not great for 
us, but acceptable!

So why should we let them have all the publicity and fun? I think we should 
organise as many public events as possible - certainly with a serious 
content, but why not with a little fun too?

Is it too fanciful to imagine that the makers of the Mars Bar might sponsor 
some events? Even if not, I suggest that all the major players should 
consider planning some events very soon!

I would be glad to hear comments, critical or otherwise!

Terry Moseley


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