What's Up December 2007: Mars, Mars and more Mars
This is the best month to look at Mars because Mars is going to be closest to Earth.
I'm Jane Houston Jones at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
Earth is a little closer to the sun so it orbits a little faster, and Mars is a littler farther away from the sun so it orbits a little bit slower.
But every two years or so we get really close to Mars
And we have what's called opposition.
That means that Mars and the sun are on opposite sides of the Earth.
If you just step outside and look to the East, after the sun sets, you'll see a bright orange star-like object and that's Mars and it's brighter than anything else in the sky. There's nothing else brighter.
Some of the features through a telescope will look sort of like a peachy color and kind of a dark gray color on some of the other features.
To see those colors you really will need a larger telescope but you'll still be able to see some contrast through the very smallest telescope.
The north polar area of Mars is really interesting and really worth looking at this month because Mars is just ending its winter and during the wintertime on Mars' north pole, there's a cloud that covers the ice caps.
As Mars finishes winter and begins spring, this polar cloud starts to dissipate and underneath the cloud is where the polar ice cap is.
Now we're not sure if we'll be able to see it in December or not but you won't know without looking.
This month if you want to see the side of Mars where the rover Spirit is, look at the beginning and at the end of the month.
And for Opportunity, you'll want to look at Mars on the 15 th.
You won't be able to see the rovers, even with a telescope but it's really nice to know where they are.
Besides the rovers, there are several spacecraft that are orbiting the planet.
Mars Odyssey and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter are just two of them.
The European Space Agency's Mars Express is also orbiting.
That's all for this month, I'm Jane Houston Jones.