WPBT2's Star Gazers

Episode #14-13 "The Martian Opposition of 2014"
Air Dates March 31, 2014 - April 6, 2014



FIVE MINUTE EPISODE SCRIPT
JAMES: WELCOME TO STAR GAZERS! IíM JAMES ALBURY, DIRECTOR OF THE KIKA SILVA PLA PLANETARIUM IN GAINESVILLE FLORIDA.

MARLENE: AND IíM MARLENE HIDALGO, SCIENCE TEACHER FROM MIAMI, FLORIDA.

DEAN: †AND IíM DEAN REGAS, ASTRONOMER FROM THE CINCINNATI OBSERVATORY. ITíS BEEN A LITTLE OVER 2 YEARS, BUT WE GET TO CELEBRATE SOMETHING REALLY SPECIAL NEXT WEEK!

JAMES: THATíS RIGHT, DEAN! THE RED PLANET MARS WILL BE AT OPPOSITION!

MARLENE: AND WHEN MARS IS AT OPPOSITION, ITíS CLOSEST TO US AND AT ITS BIGGEST AND BRIGHTEST.

DEAN: WHEN OBJECTS ARE CLOSER AND BRIGHTER, THIS MAKES THEM MUCH EASIER FOR VIEWING!

JAMES: SO LETíS TALK ABOUT THE UPCOMING OPPOSITION OF MARS AND WHY SOME OPPOSITIONS ARE BETTER THAN OTHERS. LETíS SHOW YOU!

(STOP AND FLY)

DEAN: MARS HAS FASCINATED ASTRONOMERS FOR CENTURIES. EVEN THE SKY WATCHERS OF ANTIQUITY WERE MESMERIZED BY THE PECULIAR MOVEMENT, BRIGHTNESS AND COLOR CHANGES OF MARS.

MARLENE: EVERY 26 MONTHS OR SO, MARS GOES FROM A PALE ORANGISH-YELLOW TO A BRIGHT ORANGISH-RED. MARS GOT ITS NAME BECAUSE ITS RED COLOR REMINDED THE ANCIENT ROMANS OF BLOOD, WAR AND VIOLENCE. SO, THEY NAMED IT AFTER THEIR GOD OF WAR.

JAMES: THE ANCIENT GREEKS GAVE THE RED PLANET THE NAME ARES, THE NAME OF THE GREEK GOD OF WAR, AND THE BABYLONIANS NAMED IT NERGAL AFTER THEIR GOD OF PESTILENCE AND DEATH.

DEAN: SO, EVERY 26 MONTHS THE BRIGHTENING OF MARS REMINDED PEOPLE OF THIS CELESTIAL CONNECTION WITH THE GOD OF WAR, AND THEY CAME TO EXPECT THE UNLEASHING OF WAR, REVOLUTIONS, DISASTERS AND DEATH. EVEN THE SYMBOL FOR MARS IS THE STYLIZED ROMAN SWORD AND SHIELD.

MARLENE: BUT WHY DOES MARS CHANGE COLOR, SIZE AND BRIGHTNESS EVERY 26 MONTHS? LETíS GO INTO SPACE AND FIND OUT!

(STOP AND FLY)

MARLENE: IF WE VIEW OUR SOLAR SYSTEM FROM HIGH ABOVE THE SUN, WE CAN SEE THE ORBITS OF BOTH EARTH AND MARS. EARTH TAKES A LITTLE MORE THAN 365 DAYS TO ORBIT THE SUN, WHILE MARS TAKES ALMOST 687 DAYS. WHEN MARS AND EARTH ARE AT THEIR CLOSEST TO EACH OTHER, MARS IS SAID TO BE AT OPPOSITION. WHEN A PLANET IS AT OPPOSITION, ITíS EXACTLY ON THE OPPOSITE SIDE OF THE SKY FROM THE SUN.

DEAN: THE TRICKY PART ABOUT MARTIAN OPPOSITIONS IS THAT SOMETIMES MARS IS MUCH CLOSER TO US AT SOME OPPOSITIONS THAN AT OTHERS. FOR EXAMPLE, THE MARTIAN OPPOSITION OF AUGUST 2003 WAS ONE OF THE CLOSEST OPPOSITIONS IN RECORDED HISTORY, WHERE EARTH AND MARS WERE ONLY 34.6 MILLION MILES APART.

JAMES: COMPARE THAT TO THE OPPOSITION OF MARCH 2012 WHEN MARS WAS A WHOPPING 62.6 MILLION MILES FROM EARTH. THE REASON THAT MARSí DISTANCE VARIES SO MUCH, IS BECAUSE OF THE SHAPE OF MARSí ORBIT. JOHANNES KEPLER DEMONSTRATED THAT PLANETARY ORBITS ARE NOT PERFECT CIRCLES, BUT A SHAPE CALLED AN ELLIPSE. MARSí ORBIT IS MORE ELLIPTICAL THAN EARTHíS, SO THERE ARE TIMES WHEN MARS IS MUCH CLOSER TO THE SUN THAN AT OTHERS.

(STOP)

JAMES: WHEN A PLANET IS AT ITS CLOSEST TO THE SUN, WE CALL THAT PERIHELION. THE PERIHELION POINT FOR MARS LIES IN THE CONSTELLATION AQUARIUS. THE POINT WHEN A PLANET IS FARTHEST FROM THE SUN IS CALLED APHELION, AND FOR MARS, THAT POINT IS IN LEO THE LION. PERIHELION AND APHELION ARE ON OPPOSITE SIDES OF A PLANETíS ORBIT AND AS A RESULT ARE ON OPPOSITE SIDES OF THE SKY. SO, IF YOU LOOK AT THE ZODIAC, WHAT CONSTELLATION IS ON THE OPPOSITE OF THE SKY FROM LEO THE LION? TA-DA! ITíS AQUARIUS! SO IF THE SUN IS IN LEO AND MARS IS IN AQUARIUS, YOU GET A CLOSE AND BRIGHT OPPOSITION, BUT SWITCH IT AROUND AND IF THE SUN IS IN AQUARIUS AND MARS IS IN LEO, YOU GET A DISTANT AND FAINT OPPOSITION.

(STOP)

MARLENE: DURING THE MARTIAN OPPOSITION OF 1956, MARS WAS EXTREMELY CLOSE AND BRIGHT. THIS HAPPENED IN SEPTEMBER, WHEN THE SUN WAS IN LEO AND MARS WAS IN AQUARIUS. THE OPPOSITION OF 1877, WHEN PHOBOS AND DEIMOS WERE DISCOVERED, ALSO HAPPENED IN SEPTEMBER, AND AGAIN MARS WAS IN AQUARIUS.

DEAN: ON THE OTHER HAND, THE MARTIAN OPPOSITION OF 1997 WASNíT VERY IMPRESSIVE. IT HAPPENED IN MARCH, WHEN THE SUN WAS IN AQUARIUS AND MARS WAS IN LEO. THE SAME THING HAPPENED IN MARCH 2012. THINGS ARE GETTING BETTER THOUGH. NEXT WEEK, ON APRIL 8TH, MARS WILL BE IN VIRGO AND THE SUN WILL BE IN PISCES. THEYíRE BOTH ONE CONSTELLATION OVER, SO ITíS NOT QUITE AS BAD.

JAMES: EACH TIME WE GO AROUND, THE OPPOSITIONS WILL GET BETTER AND BETTER, THEN IN LATE-JULY 2018, WEíLL GET THE BEST VIEW OF MARS WEíVE HAD SINCE 2003.

MARLENE: SO CHECK OUT MARS RIGHT AFTER SUNSET NEXT WEEK AS YOUÖ

ALL: KEEP LOOKING UP!

 

Episode #14-13 "The Martian Opposition of 2014"
Air Dates March 31, 2014 - April 6, 2014



ONE MINUTE EPISODE SCRIPT
JAMES: WE GET TO CELEBRATE SOMETHING REALLY SPECIAL NEXT WEEK!

MARLENE:† MARS WILL BE AT OPPOSITION!

JAMES: WHEN MARS IS AT OPPOSITION, IT'S AT ITS CLOSEST TO US AND THEREFORE IT'S AT ITS BIGGEST AND BRIGHTEST. SOME OPPOSITIONS OF MARS ARE BETTER THAN OTHERS THOUGH. WILL THIS ONE BE GOOD? LET'S SHOW YOU!

(STOP AND FLY)

MARLENE: EVERY 26 MONTHS OR SO, MARS AND EARTH LINE UP ON THE SAME SIDE OF THE SUN. BECAUSE MARS' ORBIT IS MORE ELLIPTICAL THAN OURS, THERE ARE TIMES WHERE WE CAN BE MUCH CLOSER TO MARS THAN AT OTHERS.

JAMES: FOR EXAMPLE, IN 1877, 1971 AND 2003, ALL THOSE OPPOSITIONS OCCURRED BETWEEN AUGUST AND SEPTEMBER, AND MARS WAS VERY CLOSE TO US.

MARLENE: BUT IN 1965, 1997 AND 2012, THOSE OPPOSITIONS OCCURRED IN MARCH AND MARS WAS MUCH FARTHER AWAY FROM US. THINGS ARE GETTING BETTER THOUGH. NEXT WEEK, ON APRIL 8TH, MARS WILL BE AT OPPOSITION AGAIN AND IT'LL BE A LITTLE CLOSER TO US THIS TIME AROUND. IT'LL BE IN THE CONSTELLATION VIRGO. SO MAKE SURE YOU SEE IT AS YOUÖ

BOTH: KEEP LOOKING UP!

 

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