And a follow up story on Mars, Bad news is brewing...
- Planetary Activity
Veteran Mars observer Donald C. Parker reports that significant
have taken place on Mars in the last 48 hours. "I'd call it a dust
not a dust storm," he advises. "Let's hope it stays put!"
Beginning on July 1st, Parker noticed a marked weakening, or
the conspicuous dark feature Syrtis Major in images taken with his 16-
Newtonian reflector in Coral Gables, Florida. Yet just the previous
another Mars expert, Jeffrey D. Beish, had described Syrtis Major as
and normal when viewed visually with his own 16-inch at Lake Placid,
Florida. Parker also noticed some bright ochre spots rimming the
basin and partially obscuring the Iapygia region (between Hellas and
Major). Similar spots around Hellas had been imaged by Texas amateur
Grafton on June 28th.
By early this morning, July 2nd, it was clear that something major
taking place. Parker noted that the isolated clouds he'd seen over
the night before had coalesced and expanded to form one cloud, bright
viewed in red light. The coalescing cloud is on the side of the
can currently be studied most easily from the Americas. It is
Martian latitude 25 degrees south, longitude 294 degrees west.
"It's scary. This is almost a repeat of what happened in 2001," says
Parker. "But with Mars, who knows? Maybe we'll get lucky and it will
go away. We should know in a day or two."
Parker credits Beish, former Mars recorder for the Association of
Planetary Observers, with having predicted this localized event
the day. In Beish's view the dust cloud is unlikely to become
Rather, it may be the precursor of a global dust storm that Beish
a distinct possibility for September.
SKY & TELESCOPE's guide to this year's Mars apparition appeared in
2003 issue. An abridged version is on our Web site: