Friday, October 28, 2005

I hate going for long rides. I can’t sleep. I can’t read in a moving vehicle all that well. So unless someone is feeling gabby, I’m one bored little monkey. My bus ride to Washington DC was no different. The seats weren’t all that comfortable. I couldn’t sleep. Reading was going to be a no go. So there I sat one bored little monkey. I looked out the window and saw Mars shining brightly off in the southeastern sky. I found it almost poetically ironic that as I traveled to DC for a rally promoting the end of the war in Iraq that the brightest light in the night sky would be Mars, the planet named after the God of War.

Mars the so-called Red Planet was thought to be red because it was covered in the blood of the soldiers slain in battle. It turns out the real reason for Mars’ coloration is less brutal; it’s covered in iron oxide dust or rust if you will. Also Mars is far from red really. It’s more of a pale orange like a baby aspirin.

Percival Lowell once saw what he thought to be canals on Mars. He thought some civilization must have been using the Martian Polar ice caps to irrigate more arid terrain. He was wrong. Later observations of Mars revealed no such features on Mars. In fact, there is still some debate about if he really saw the canals or what it exactly he saw.

Some of you may have received an E-mail stating that Mars this August will be as big as the Full Moon and as close to as it has been in 60,000 years. That’s wrong to. Mars is as close as it’s going to get to us, for about fifteen years, right about now. It will never be as large as the Full Moon in our sky unless something very drastic happens to our orbits. It was 2003 that Mars was as close as it’s been to us in 60,000 years not this year.

Though you may be thinking that Mars is a bit of a let down as a planet, nothing could be farther from the truth. The Olympus Mons, an extinct volcano on Mars, stands 88,600 feet tall and it’s width stretches 335 miles across. It is the biggest mountain in our solar system and would cover Ohio if it was placed on Earth. The Valles Marineris, a canyon on Mars, is 4,500 km long by 200 km wide by 11 km deep. It is ten times longer and seven times wider and seven times deeper than the Grand Canyon. Though Mars has a tenous atmosphere it is occasionally covered by planet wide dust storms that obscure Mars for any observation.

Mars is far from a let down. So is the rest of our universe including our planet, Earth. Our Universe is brimming the fasinating things. Yet, people don’t care. I just don’t get it. How could you not want to learn and observe and come to understand the world around you and where that world calls home? After all, the more you understand the world around you the more tolerable that long bus trip is going to be.

Keep looking up.


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