Mars observation tonight

Lindsay Sainlar

A small army of astronomers from the physics and astronomy department led wide-eyed stargazers up five flights of stairs and through the halls of Thompson Complex Central Wing Tuesday night.

They were there to see what associate professor Richard Gelderman referred to as “a glorious red orange object in the sky.”

Gelderman informed the crowd of students, children and Bowling Green residents that the large, bright, rusty-colored light in the sky was the planet Mars orbiting near Earth at a closer distance than it has in over 60,000 years.

To celebrate, the Hilltopper Astronomy Club and fellow astronomers from Western are providing free telescope viewing sessions for anyone interested.

Bowling Green junior Charles Poteet, president of HAC, said the chance to view Mars through a telescope is too valuable an experience to pass up.

The largest telescope available for viewing tonight is 12 1/2 inches in diameter.

Poteet said that through the lens, people will be able to view a round, bright planet and a few minute details, such as the southern pole of Mars, which is completely covered in ice.

For some, this close encounter with Mars is a dream come true. Princeton sophomore Shelly Smith said she has wanted to be an astronaut since she was five years old.

“My goal in life is to be the first woman on Mars,” said Smith, who hopes to work for NASA one day.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience; Mars will never be this close again,” she said with a smile. “It’s great that people can come out and use the telescopes themselves, not just get a lecture on what’s going on, but also get to see it for themselves.”

Given the millions of miles separating Earth and Mars, Smith said she is amazed that the red planet is still visible to the naked eye after sunset.

Gelderman advises people to at least look at Mars through a pair of binoculars if they can’t come out for the observation.

“It’s something you ought to do,” Gelderman said. “At least notice it’s there; let nature show you something about itself.”

Reach Lindsay Sainlar at [email protected]