Iowa stargazers get a celestial treat this Halloween, with no tricks. Mars is drawing within about 43-million miles of the Earth, one of its closest passes in 60-thousand years. Christian Anderson, the space science educator at the Science Center of Iowa, says the Red Planet will be a sparkling spot in the night sky — but it’s not very big. It’s a very bright yellowish-orange dot that’ll be best seen around 8 or 9 o’clock at night in the eastern sky. Anderson says the rumors circulating on the Internet about Mars looking as big as the full moon are false. While some Iowans may spend thousands of dollars on fancy telescopes, Anderson says you don’t need any expensive equipment to see this planetary neighbor. He says all you need are your two eyes and a clear night as Mars is easy to see. Since Mars is only about half the size of the Earth, even through a telescope it won’t appear as much more than a small disc. One comparison says Mars will appear as about the size of a penny, viewed from 620 feet away. For those Iowans who do have sizeable backyard telescopes, Anderson says haul them out this weekend. Mars and Earth have been converging for months and will not be this close again for about 13 years. For more information, visit “www.nasa.gov” or “www.sciowa.org”.
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