This Saturday, Stargazer Observatory will be holding its monthly open house from 8:00-10:00PM (weather permitting). Despite lots of rain, the forecast actually looks pretty good for this weekend. I really hope it is because I’m looking forward to seeing Mars. The red planet is approaching opposition which means it rises as the sun sets. It’s at the opposite side of the Earth from the sun. This also places it at its closest point to us, allowing us to see a few surface features like polar caps.
It’s impossible to look at Mars through a telescope and not think of whether life once existed there. The American astronomer, Percival Lowell, was fascinated by Mars and built an observatory on the outskirts of Flagstaff, Arizona in the 1880’s primarily to look at Mars. He was inspired by a paper by an Italian astronomer, Giovanni Schiaparelli who described what he saw as “canali” on Mars. In Italian, “canali” meant channels indicating a natural origin. But Lowell read it as “canals” and was certain he saw a network of canals intended to bring meltwater from the polar caps to the desert equatorial region. He even sketched intricate designs mapping these canal networks. A few years ago, an optometrist looked at these sketches and commented how similar they are to the retinal pattern in the eye and suggested Lowell may have seen an reflection of his retina on the eyepiece and sketched that. I don’t know if it’s true, but it’s a fascinating story, nonetheless.
If you can make it this Saturday, bring a light jacket. It still gets a little cool in the evening. I hope to see you out there.
Front Range Community College-Larimer Campus
Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.