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From: TerryMosel@aol.com
Date: Tue, 28 May 2002 16:03:18 EDT
Subject: ISS, Shuttle & Mars

Hi all,

The ISS is now making a nice series of evening passes over Ireland. I saw it 
last night far brighter than predicted (about mag -2), and it also brightened 
again to about magnitude -1 even after it had started to fade as it sank 
lower in the East!
   And with the Endeavour Shuttle Launch due on Thursday we may see both 
together, approaching each other slowly as they prepare to dock. More details 
later once we know when Endeavour has launched.
   In the meantime, look out for ISS tonight (Tues) rising in the SW or West 
at about 23.04 and again at 00.40, Wed night at 23.42 and again at 01.18, 
Thurs night at 22.44 and 00.20. Those times are for Belfast: look up to 15 
minutes earlier the further South and West in Ireland you live. Each pass 
takes it fairly high up in the South, before it starts to sink and fade 
(usually) in the East to SE. Full details from: www.heavens-above.com

MARS: Prepare yourselves for a treat in August 2003!  IAA members at least 
already know that the opposition of Mars in late August 2003 is going to be 
the best for a long long time. That's because Mars will be very much closer 
and brighter than usual, and also much higher up in our sky than it was at 
the last opposition. Even then it was a spectacular glowing red coal, very 
low in the Southern sky. Next time it will be even brighter than Jupiter at 
its best! And at a respectable altitude above the horizon too. In fact the 
next opposition of Mars will be the closest to Earth for - well, how long?

First reports said 'for 4,000 years'! Then someone said '6,000 years' i.e. 
since before Newgrange, Stonehenge or the Pyramids were built. Then I heard 
'For 30,000 years', which was hard to believe!

But I have just learned from Jean Meeus in Belgium, an established authority 
on such calculations, that that's wrong. He says (personal communication) 
that it will be the closest for 60,000 years! Well, OK, - 59,603 if you want 
to be precise! The reasons for this being such a record-breaking close 
approach are too complicated to go into here, but if you want another nice 
figure to impress your friends, tell them that Mars will come within 
55,687,800km, or about 34,603,740 miles, of the Earth on 27 August 2003. And 
that that record won't be broken until 22 August 2287, when most of us will 
have ceased observing.

With the recent confirmation of huge amounts of water ice just below the 
surface of Mars, interest in the Red Planet then is bound to be huge.

The IAA, and I'm sure other groups, will be organising some special events 
around then, so keep that period free....

Terry Moseley

Last Revised: 2002 June 5th
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