Tonight looks good for you to get out and see the moon and Mars, but
unfortunately Jane and I have to cancel our planned outing on Colorado
Blvd. in Pasadena to deal with family matters.
Luckily the forecast for Saturday night in Monrovia looks even better
than tonight's. We might get lucky and have some good Mars viewing,
even as difficult a target as it is.
So if you're out tonight, don't forget to glance almost straight up and
see a beautiful first quarter moon. Look a bit to the east of it for a
bright pumpkin-colored star, and you'll be looking at Mars. Mars will
be the brightest star-like object in the sky.
Hope to see you on Saturday ...
Old Town Sidewalk Astronomers http://www.otastro.org
Here is some "hot off the press" space news about the recently
discovered asteroid which was expected to pass close to Mars on
January 30th. It certainly was an exciting unfolding story! Now the
probability of an impact has been reduced to 0.01%.
Here is an updated press release dated today: January 9, 2008
"Since our last update, we have received numerous tracking measurements
of asteroid 2007 WD5 from four different observatories. These new data
have led to a significant reduction in the position uncertainties during
the asteroid's close approach to Mars on Jan. 30, 2008. As a result, the
impact probability has dropped dramatically, to approximately 0.01% or 1
in 10,000 odds, effectively ruling out the possible collision with Mars.
Our best estimate now is that 2007 WD5 will pass about 26,000 km from
the planet's center (about 7 Mars radii from the surface) at around
12:00 UTC (4:00 am PST) on Jan. 30th. With 99.7% confidence, the pass
should be no closer than 4000 km from the surface." (there's way more
info on the link)
In case you want to view Mars and the moon again from the old town
sidewalks, our next observing dates are Friday January 18th in
Pasadena 7-9 p.m. and Saturday January 19th 6:30 - 9 p.m. in
Monrovia. If we alter these start times, they'll be posted on the Old
Town Sidewalk Astronomy website http://www.otastro.org/ on the top
right of the page. If the weather is iffy, check the website for a
If it's clear tonight, why don't you step out and say hello to Mars,
knowing that it won't be getting whacked by a 160 foot diameter
asteroid named 2007 WD5 at the end of the month. :-)
Jane Houston Jones
Senior Outreach Specialist, Cassini Program
JPL - 4800 Oak Grove Drive, MS 230-205
Pasadena, CA 91109 818-393-6435
Cassini SOC http://soc.jpl.nasa.gov/index.cfm
What's Up? http://education.jpl.nasa.gov/amateurastronomy/index.html