David Aguilar
(617) 495-7462

Christine Pulliam
(617) 495-7463

pubaffairs@cfa


CfA Press Release
 
 Release No.: 03-20
For Immediate Release: August 22, 2003

Catch "Mars Fever" at Center for Astrophysics

On August 27, 2003, the planet Mars will be closer to the Earth than it has been at any point in the past 60,000 years. In recognition of this rare opportunity, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) invites you to catch "Mars Fever!" During Mars Fever Week, CfA will host a series of free public events to view the Red Planet and learn about the past, present and future of that fascinating world.

"Last night, through the 61-inch telescope at our facility, Mars was unbelievable! You could see the South polar ice caps and lush green markings that might make anyone believe the Martians were doing some major gardening! All that was missing were the glints of sunlight off the sides of the Martian spaceships heading for Earth! This truly is a once in a lifetime opportunity to see and experience our next door neighbor in space," says David Aguilar, Director of Public Affairs at CfA.

Mars Fever Week runs from Sunday, August 24th through Thursday, August 28th.Each day features its own unique experience:

Viewing at Oak Ridge Observatory
Sunday, Aug. 24 (rain date Monday Aug. 25), 7:30 - 10:00 PM

  • Mars Fever Week opens with a bang, as we view the Red Planet through the LARGEST OPTICAL TELESCOPE east of the Mississippi - the 61-inch-diameter Wyeth reflector. A lottery drawing will select 40 people to view through this giant telescope. A 16-inch-diameter reflector and other telescopes will be open to all.
  • Tours of the observatory will run from 7:30 - 8:30 PM. Viewing from 8:30- 10:00 PM (weather permitting).
  • Oak Ridge Observatory, 40 Pinnacle Rd., Harvard (directions online at http://www.cfa.harvard.edu/ep/marsfever1.html)

Mars: Then And Now
Tuesday, Aug. 26, 8:00 PM

  • Professor Samuel Kounaves (Tufts University) will answer questions on Mars geology such as: How did this planet evolve from a mild, possibly even inviting environment to harsh desolation? Might primitive life have developed and survived those climate changes, eking out a meager existence within underground aquifers?
  • Rooftop observing through telescopes will follow the lecture, weather permitting. Phillips Auditorium, 60 Garden St., Cambridge.

Observing The Face Of Mars
Wednesday, Aug. 27, 8:00 PM

  • David Aguilar (CfA) will discuss the history of Mars observing by such luminaries as Percival Lowell, as well as what you can expect to see through modern Earthbound telescopes. Will you see visions of Martian canals as Lowell did?
  • THIS NIGHT ONLY TO CELEBRATE THE CLOSEST APPROACH OF MARS...CfA will hold a special drawing. The winner will take home a beautiful framed color lithograph of Percival Lowell's Mars, drawn in 1894, complete with canals!
  • Rooftop observing through telescopes will follow the lecture, weather permitting. Phillips Auditorium, 60 Garden St., Cambridge.

Exploring Mars
Thursday, Aug. 28, 8:00 PM

  • Space expert Jonathan McDowell (CfA) will review the history of exploring Mars, from the Mariner flybys of the 1960s to the flotilla of spacecraft currently on their way to our neighboring world.
  • DON'T MISS THIS OPPORTUNITY to see a full-scale model of the 1997 Sojourner rover, on loan from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory!
  • Rooftop observing through telescopes will follow the lecture, weather permitting. Phillips Auditorium, 60 Garden St., Cambridge.

CfA also will offer daily Mars weather reports during Mars Fever Week. To learn about the day's weather forecast for Mars, visit http://www.cfa.harvard.edu/ep/marsweather.html

Throughout Mars Fever Week, the Red Planet will be easy to see without a telescope, shining as a bright reddish "star" in the southern sky. Simply find a location with a clear view of the southern horizon. The brightest point of light that you see is the planet Mars! Mars will be visible from sunset through sunrise, rising in the southeast and setting in the southwest.

Headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) is a joint collaboration between the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and the Harvard College Observatory. CfA scientists organized into six research divisions study the origin, evolution, and ultimate fate of the universe.

For more information, contact:

David Aguilar, Director of Public Affairs
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
Phone: 617-495-7462 Fax: 617-495-7468
daguilar@cfa.harvard.edu

Christine Lafon
Public Affairs Specialist
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
Phone: 617-495-7463, Fax: 617-495-7016
clafon@cfa.harvard.edu

 
 
Section Photo