Astronomers around the world today (both professional and amateur) are marking the spring International Astronomy Day. Happening twice per year, International Astronomy Day is designed to give amateur star-gazers, space geeks, and the curious public a taste of astronomy.
This year, the day falls fortunately close to an even near a dear to the Mars-fans like us - the Mars Opposition of 2016. Ok, so what's an opposition? It's when a straight line can be drawn from the Sun, through Earth, to Mars and happens only every 26 months. Check out this image from the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada's Roy Bishop to see the past and future oppositions.
The opposition happens on May 22nd at 11:11 UTC (that's 7:11AM EDT and 4:11AM PDT). Mars will be 0.50321 AU from Earth at this time (75,279,144 km or 46,776,291 miles), and with the sun shining directly at it over our shoulders it will be very bright and easy to spot. So, what better day than IAD to kick off a two week long event happening online through our website, our Facebook page, and of course, our podcast. What can you expect this year?
I'll be posting a series of blog posts throughout the event that will cover a wide variety of topics, including:
Our Twitter account (@We_Martians) will be summarizing fun facts, astronomical history, blog articles, and other news from around the world on astronomical events. It's a fun way to engage with me and other astronomy accounts as the event unfolds. We'll use the hashtag #MarsOpp2016 for all tweets related to the event.
Our Instragram (@wemartians) will feature astrophotography, images of and from notable observatories, and other imagery relating to planetary astronomy and the Mars opposition.
Check out Facebook (/wemartians) for the central hub of all things for this event. Comment on the articles to join the discussion and share your own stories and photos.
Our podcast (released later during the event) will be a very special episode and our first "on the scene" interview at a real live observatory. We've got a special guest who will cover all sorts of astronomical topics as they relate to the Mars opposition and more!
Astronomy is for everyone. If you get a chance to step outside this May and spot a bright, red Mars (or any other cool picture of the night sky - even if it's just from your cell phone), feel free to mail it in (email@example.com) and we'll feature it through our social media (#MarsOpp2016).
Have questions about Mars, Astronomy or space in general? Let us know - we'll do our best to get you a top notch answer.
It's a great year to celebrate Mars astronomy. Join in and have fun!
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