Meet me in outer space

Once in a lifetime? How about once in a thousand lifetimes.

That’s how often Mars comes within 35 million miles of Earth. And on Aug. 27, humans will be able to view the Red Planet as close as Neanderthals saw it 60,000 years before.

An opportunity to witness the phenomenon that will probably only be seen by 1,000 generations superceding ours should be taken advantage of. The naked eye will have an excellent view of the red-orange planet that will light up the night.

The red-orange glow that will radiate from the tiny sphere is caused by iron oxide in the rocks and sands of the planet, which was named after the Roman god of war due to its blood-red color.

And like a warrior’s swiftness, Mars is quickly approaching at a speed of 10 km/s. Only six months ago, the planet was five times as distant.

It will be closest to Trenton at 1:46 a.m. on Aug. 27 (that means late Tuesday night, to most college students). Green Lane is an excellent spot to view all kinds of spacial happenings.

How to watch

Mars will be hard to miss, especially because of its proximity to the moon. Its brilliance and color will give it away as soon as your eye meets the sky.

While the naked eye will enable viewers to understand where the Red Planet gets its nickname from, a telescope is needed to view some of the planet’s surface features, such as ice caps and mountain ranges.

Amateur astronomers who have viewed the planet through backyard telescopes have reported great views of Mars’s southern polar ice cap. Made of frozen water and carbon dioxide, (i.e. dry ice), it reflects sunlight well.

While not many students have access to a telescope, try the observatory of The Science Complex. If that’s not open, Green Lane is the next best place. However, students must beware – with the god of war so near, trouble might be brewing.

Freaky phenomena

Astrologers believe that Mars, since it is so close, is having a profound effect on human behavior. But, before people start blaming the planet for their destructive or careless behavior, here is a breakdown of what astrologers believe the Red Planet affects the most.

Since Mars is the action planet of the zodiac, it is known to be fiery, and Mars does not disappoint. It governs energy, passion, drive and determination. It commands humans to stand up, be noticed and get things done – and yes, Mars does rule the military. Simply put, Mars speaks to the power and confident expression of the individual.

Ambition and competition are also under the influence of Mars. The planet encourages people to face challenges and to be the best they can be – or better. Aggression is part of its plan, although Mars also values courage and honor. Assertion and a daring, fearless nature please this planet.

These conflicting forces make Mars’s energy both constructive and destructive. The god of war in Roman mythology, Mars could be brutally violent. While this energy still emanates from the planet, it also harnesses this force for good. This makes stamina, ambition and achievement all part of Mars’ mantra.

And to please students, Mars rules our sexuality and sexual energy. But there are still no excuses for brash and “heat-of-the-moment” behavior. This is because Mars also governs weapons and accidents – a dangerous combination. Like a yin and yang balance, the energy of Mars can be helpful, but only if used properly.

The future of Mars

While 36 million miles will probably be the closest humans will ever get to Mars, the College hopes to bring the planet more within the reach of students. In the spring, a series of presentations on the Red Planet will be sponsored by the science department.

“We’re going to include landings, life on Mars, and a Mars fiction and fact session, where we hopefully bring in a science fiction writer to tell about myths and truths of the planet,” Paula Maas, assistant dean of the School of Science said. The department hopes to spark greater interest in the planet and in astronomy in general, and feels that the Mars phenomenon will spark much attention.

–Information obtained from and