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It's 'Mars Madness' at APSU! Public invited to view this once-in-an-eon event

August 13, 2003

Like astronomers worldwide, Austin Peay faculty members in the physics and astronomy department are excited about an extremely rare opportunity to witness an amazing phenomenon occurring this month within our solar system.

On Aug. 27-28, according to NASA reports, the Earth will be as close to Mars as it has been in thousands of years.

August 13, 2003

Like astronomers worldwide, Austin Peay faculty members in the physics and astronomy department are excited about an extremely rare opportunity to witness an amazing phenomenon occurring this month within our solar system.

On Aug. 27-28, according to NASA reports, the Earth will be as close to Mars as it has been in thousands of years.

APSU's commemoration of this event has been dubbed “Mars Madness.” On the evening of Thursday, Aug. 28, Dr. Spencer Buckner and Dr. Alex King, both associate professors of physics and astronomy, will set up several telescopes in front of the Dunn Center, so anyone interested can observe Mars at its closest approach to Earth in all of recorded history.

Buckner said, “Because of the way Jupiter's gravity affects Mars' orbit, astronomers are certain Mars hasn't come this close to Earth in at least 57,000 years.

“And it may be several hundred years before it gets this close again.”

This close alignment of Earth and Mars will occur when Mars comes within 34,649,589 miles of Earth, becoming the brightest object in the night sky, except for the moon.

“Mars will be easy to spot,” Buckner said. “At minimal magnification, it will look as large as a full moon. In early August, Mars will rise in the east at 9 p.m. and reach its zenith about 3 a.m., but by the end of August when the two planets are closest, Mars will rise at dark and reach its highest point in the sky about 11:30 p.m.”

In addition to public viewing of “The Red Planet” through telescopes in front of the Dunn Center from 8-11 p.m., other Mars Madness plans include:

“Welcome to Mars,” a short presentation by King, will be repeated at 7:30 p.m., 8:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Aug. 28 in the Sundquist Science Complex, in rooms E106A and E106B, which are high-tech class rooms that, when combined, seat 200 people and enable the audience to view on several screens the images on the speaker's computer.

A bus will shuttle people between the Dunn Center field and the Science Complex, where King's “Welcome to Mars” and relevant discussions will be ongoing.

In the Tommy Head Atrium of the Sundquist Science Building, members of the APSU Astronomy Club will be selling Mars and Milky Way bars, as well as Star Bursts, to raise money for club projects.

“Humankind has always been fascinated with Mars,” King said. “It's the only other planet in the solar system we'll be able to personally explore one daythat is, we'll be able to walk on the surface of Mars, touch Martian soil, see a Martian sunrise. The prospect of going to Mars is really quite exciting.”

Dr. Jaime Taylor, chair of the department of physics and astronomy, said, “It's wonderful our generation will witness something no other human being has seen.

“Bring your children and grandchildren and share this special evening with them. No one alive today will ever see this phenomenon again.”

For more information on Mars Madness, telephone 6241 or go to www.apsu.edu and click on the homepage of the APSU department of physics and astronomy.