Hands down the biggest celestial event of the year will take place on the night
of July 27 - the closest approach of Mars since 2003. The red planet is now seen
rising in the south east at midnight local time and will continue rising a bit earlier
each night until the big night when it is up at 9:15 p.m. local time and close to
the full moon. Follow Mars now as it continues to brighten over the next few weeks
and will be even brighter than the planet Jupiter.
Ever since the Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli claimed to have seen "canals"
that he called "canali" on Mars in 1877 suggesting these could be artificial structures
hence a possible civilization, we have had a fascination with the search for life.
Of course science fiction writers and movie makers have had a field day with suggestions
of alien life namely "Martians".
Mars is the only planet we can explore and plans are in the works to send the first
human mission in 2024 – estimates from Elon Musk. A one way trip even when the two
worlds will be closest in January 2025 the trip will still take seven months.
Known as "The Backyard Astronomer", Gary Boyle is an astronomy educator, guess speaker
and monthly columnist for the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. He is now honoured
with renaming of Asteroid (22406) Garyboyle. Follow him on Twitter: @astroeducator