From: TerryMosel@aol.com Date: Sun, 6 Jul 2003 13:52:47 EDT Subject: Dusty Mars, Sky at Night, IAA Solar Day Hi all, 1. MARS DUST STORM? Beginning on July 1st, Don Parker noticed a marked weakening, or lightening, of the conspicuous dark feature Syrtis Major in images taken with his 16-inch Newtonian reflector in Coral Gables, Florida. Yet just the previous morning another Mars expert, Jeffrey D. Beish, had described Syrtis Major as dark and normal when viewed visually with his own 16-inch at Lake Placid, Florida. Parker also noticed some bright ochre spots rimming the Hellas impact basin and partially obscuring the Iapygia region (between Hellas and Syrtis Major). Similar spots around Hellas had been imaged by Texas amateur Ed Grafton on June 28th. By early yesterday morning, July 2nd, it was clear that something major was taking place. Parker noted that the isolated clouds he'd seen over Iapygia the night before had coalesced and expanded to form one cloud, bright when viewed in red light. The coalescing cloud is on the side of the planet that can currently be studied most easily from the Americas. It is centered at Martian latitude 25° south, longitude 294° west. This morning Parker noted that the "cloud" had doubled in size and appeared to be a bona fide storm. "It's extremely bright," remarks Parker, and "it looks like the dust has spread in the past 24 hours." The storm has grown such that it is now covering part of the Hellas basin and has extended east into Mare Tyrrhenum. "It's scary. This is almost a repeat of what happened in 2001," adds Parker. "But with Mars, who knows? Maybe we'll get lucky and it will just go away. We should know in a day or two." Parker credits Beish, former Mars recorder for the Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers, with having predicted this localized event almost to the day. In Beish's view the dust cloud is unlikely to become widespread. Rather, it may be the precursor of a global dust storm that Beish feels is a distinct possibility for September. [From Sky & Tel]. (Cloudy skies for the past three nights when Mars has been observable have frustrated my own attempts at viewing: T.M.) 2. The SKY AT NIGHT tonight (Sun/Mon), 12.50, looks at satellites & spaceprobes which are studying the universe. 3. The Irish Astronomical Association's public 'Solar Day' at Carnfunnock Country Park, Drains Bay, a few miles N of Larne on the main , will be on Saturday 19 July, at 2 p.m. to about 5 p.m. This is a superb venue, with an excellent selection of sundials in the walled garden, and we have always had at least some good views at all previous events at this location. There is a cafe, a maze, nice walks, BBQ areas, views of Scotland, so it's a good location for the whole family. Astronomy Display, & talks if cloudy. IAA members with telescopes get in free, normal admission charges for others. I hope that Derek Heatly will be able to come again, and tell us of his flight into near-space! See the full page feature on him in today's Sunday Life - he's the Page Three pin-up!
Good Luck Derek! Clear Skies, Terry Moseley
Last Revised: 2003 July 16th
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