Mars, the fourth planet from the Sun, has awakened people’s imagination since Antiquity. The red color of this planet led to it being named after the god of war, but we now have a planet with a name that does not suit it.

Out of all the planets in the solar system, Mars is the only one we can possibly live on. The un-breathable air contains oxygen needed by the human body, and the temperatures do not fall below -50 degrees at the equator. In summer, when it is warmest, there are 20 degrees Celsius on Mars, as hot as any living room. At the poles of the planet we find ice, which is composed of carbon dioxide, but also water, located somewhere below the ground ice. Moreover, there are white traces of rivers and lakes, all dried up, but which in the past had water. When life on Earth began, the same thing happened on the fourth planet from the Sun. At least that’s what the geological history of the planet shows us. Polar caps, plains, mountain ranges and volcanoes can all be seen from Earth through the telescope.

The planet can be seen quite easily from Earth, being visible to the naked eye, but it does not appear the same every month or year. The easiest it can be seen is for several months when approaching Earth, a moment called “opposition”. In this time the planet has maximum brightness and can be seen through the telescope, constituting a visual feast for astronomy enthusiasts and the general public.

The next opposition occurs on October 13th, 2020, at 23 UT, when the planet will be on the opposite side of the Sun seen from Earth, at an elongation of 178 °. Mars will be in the constellation Pisces, at the declination of + 05 ° and at a distance of 62.8 million km from Earth. It will have a magnitude of -2.6 and an apparent diameter of 22.5 seconds of arc. These are the technical data. A translation of them sounds like this: “Mars will be very bright and closer to Earth than it will be in the next 13 years!”

On the occasion of the approach of the planet we will offer the public a temporary exhibition, which will contain images taken from the orbit of American, European and Indian space probes, but also from the ground. The exhibition panels will also contain the map of the planet made by space probes so that visitors can associate what they see through the telescope with the true geographic mapping. We will also offer a series of images obtained at the observatory from the 1950s to 2018, as well as drawings of amateur astronomers from previous competitions. After seeing the temporary exhibition and direct observation of the planet, the public will get a concrete picture of the planet Mars and the activities offered by the Astronomical Observatory.

Adrian Șonka – Museographer at the Vasile Urseanu Astronomical Observatory

Elisabeta Petrescu – Museographer  at the Vasile Urseanu Astronomical Observatory