The summer of Mars has lived up to its promise, and then some.
Although clouds marred the night of August 26, when Mars made its closest
passage to Earth, the next night was magnificent.
Sid Sidhu should be congratulated for his initiative in organizing the Mars
public viewing event at Cattle Point in Oak Bay. He deserves even more kudos for
having the foresight to know that the evening of August 27 would be clear,
unlike the night before. Sid, you've done it again!
When I arrived at the south parking lot at Cattle Point that evening, a large
crowd was awaiting a telescope. I set up immediately, and people looked at Mars
through my scope without a break for more than two hours.
I gave scores of people a brief glimpse of the Red Planet. Some people told me
they waited more than an hour for their look, and most were incredibly grateful
for the chance at even a short moment's glimpse of Mars.
Many other Victoria Centre members had their telescopes at the north parking lot
of Cattle Point that evening too, and they report similar experiences. Those who
arrived well in advance of nightfall to set up their scopes were greeted by
crowds of people anxious to see our celestial neighbour.
When the crowds subsided and I was able to spend some time of my own at the
eyepiece, I was impressed with the view of Mars' polar cap and some of its
surface features. These features showed up better that night than they had even
the weekend before. The seeing was excellent.
Out of the thousands of people who turned up at Cattle Point and on other nights
at the DAO, I'm sure some will join our ranks. And many others read or heard
about us in the media. RASCals from every part of Canada also took out their
scopes for public events and reported similar levels of public interest.
All summer we had generally clear skies, and we were amply rewarded with many
excellent looks at the Red Planet. The Mars observing season for me began at the
highly successful Cowichan Valley Star Party in late July, and it will continue
beyond our own Star Party the weekend of September 20.
If you havenąt had a look, get out your scope or join a fellow member for a look
at Mars. The Star Party will provide excellent opportunities to see Mars and
many other objects. Remember, opportunities like this summer's Mars opposition
come along only every few thousand years!