#42: - The Waters of Mars - Travel to the Odessa Crater - & 3 More Stories
TGT 3/1/23: This Just In--Evidence for Martian Water; Astro Travel--The Odessa Crater; Sky Planning Calendar--Venus+Jupiter=Brilliant Double Star!, Mercury Meets Saturn in Dawn; AEL--Eat at Jupiter!!
Cover Photo - The Waters of Mars
In This Issue:
Cover Photo — The Waters of Mars
Welcome to Issue 42!
This Just In - The Waters of Mars (Cover Story)
Astronomy Travel - Odessa Meteor Crater
Sky Planning Calendar —
* Moon-Gazing - The Brightest Double “Star”
* Observing—Plan-et - Mercury Meets Lots of Worlds—Good Luck Trying to Watch That…; Saturn Creeps Into the Dawn
* Border Crossings
Astronomy in Everyday Life - Eating and Clubbing at the Planets #2
Welcome to The Galactic Times Newsletter-Inbox Magazine #42 !
In Issue 42 we voyage from small worlds to big. Starting close by we have a story on some rocks a few hundred feet, more or less, that hit Texas back when I was young (okay, not quite) and made some craters you can visit in Odessa. Would that these were the only craters in any place named Odessa…..
Heading outward into the dawn, we find Mercury on the way to a short sunny vacation but as it leaves us it passes by Saturn emerging from its time away from the firmament, and Neptune also heading out of sight.
On the opposite side of the Sun’s twilight zone, Venus starts off March making a brilliant double star with Jupiter, the giant world also making a hail-and-farewell dive from view.
Finally, Mars tasks you to make a decision—which is brighter, Mars, Aldebaran or Betelgeuse, or redder? And while you are musing on that, we inform you that apparently Mars really did have water once. Human curiosity, and Rover Curiosity, seem to have found some evidence for it.
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This Just In —
* The Waters of Mars
Ever since the 1800’s, when Earth observers not only spotted dark surface features on Mars changing tones in sync with the changing polar caps and assumed this meant there was flowing water and vegetation on the Red Planet, there has always been the hope that we’d find life and with life, liquid water. Over time and better observation, that hope vanished…except for the hope that maybe water was not in the present but had been, in the past. Though water ice does appear to exist in some part(s) of the polar ice cap(s), lakes and rivers today do not exist, yet there are clearly surface features that seem to be the ghosts of lakes and rivers past. Numerous surface landers and rovers had found nothing definitive re water. Until now.
A recently released Curiosity Rover photo (see our issue Cover Photo) shows ripples preserved in rocks in a layer lower down on the shoulders of Mount Sharp, which the Rover is attempted to snake its way up. The waves can also be seen in the rocks to the right of the Rover’s selfie below. Here the water marks are believed to be more the results of water at a lake bottom.
This layer, nicknamed the Marker Band, is now something all rovers on Mars will now be on the lookout for, to see if this is planet-wide. Hypotheses of early Martian environments have oceans covering Mars so why shouldn’t there be oceanic or drying-up lake ripples elsewhere?
Astronomy Travel: Odessa Crater
Supposedly one of the two most visit-able craters in the USA, some friends of mine who are spending their retirement pulling an RV trailer around the 48 continental states dropped by the Odessa Meteor Crater for me in Texas and took a few photos. The opinions are mine. - LK
The Odessa Meteor Crater Museum lies on the west side of the small city of Odessa, Texas, in the northwest side of the state, off I-20’s exit 108. It contains a building with exhibits on the crater site and loads of meteorites and related materials. There are also planetary globes but whether that is a model solar system is not clear. And then there is the crater field.
The Odessa Crater was created relatively recently, an estimated 62,000 years ago, but all that was visible in modern times was the remnant of the main crater. I say remnant because the original 500+-foot diameter, 100-foot deep crater had in time been all but erased by nature, filled in to within six feet of its rim, which is evidenced by a rock ejecta buildup.
Originally, the incoming rock broke up, making both a somewhat heart-shaped main crater and also at least four distinct secondary craters, but the latter were all buried by the Texas-wind-blown sands, to be discovered (and unnaturally uncovered and displayed) only about 80 years ago.
There are scars on the main and secondaries from trenches dug into them by early geologists and not well filled back in. Many of the meteor’s fragments remained on the surface for modern explorers to find, and sell.
According to the Museum’s website, the crater was first noticed in 1892, recognized as a possible meteor crater in the 1920’s, and first explored as such in the 1940’s. Though a landmark since the 1960’s, the Museum itself dates only to 2002. There are two websites for it, at http://www.odessameteorcrater.com , and a more extensive one at https://odessameteorcratermuseum.wordpress.com . There is no admission fee.
Sky Planning Calendar
Moon passages by a star, planet or deep sky object are a good way to find a planet or other object if you’ve never located it before.
March 1-2 Venus passes Jupiter by a mere Full Moon’s diameter — a half degree, calibrate your fingers’ width held at arms length with this! — during the invisible time between these evenings. It is about a half-degree the night of the 1st but ~1-degree on the 2nd in the USA. Also on the 2nd, said Moon is passing by Pollux in Gemini, by just under TWO degrees. And if that is not enough for measurement practice….
March 3 …the Moon is at Apogee, its farthest point in its orbit, so it is actually less than a half-degree, about 28 minutes of arc (a half-degree is 30’).
March 5 The Moon cuts across, your choice, the neck of Leo the Lion OR where the handle and the curved knife of the Sickle meet.
March 7 Full Moon.
March 10 The Moon slightly north of Spica, the bright blue-white star in Virgo which is close to the Ecliptic, the Sun’s path, a.k.a. the reflection in the sky of the Earth’s orbital plane. Tomorrow…..
March 11 …the Moon is at its descending node, i.e. crossing and ON the Ecliptic, going below that invisible line. Just so you can connect the Moon to Spica and say you can ‘see’ the Ecliptic.
March 13 See the red giant star Antares about a degree and a half from the Moon…if you are in Asia. Otherwise Antares is to the Moon’s far left if you are in the USA tonight….and far right of it tomorrow night.
March 14 Last Quarter Moon.
Mercury is on the way out of the morning sky but if your sky is clear down to the horizon, you still can have a couple of last-chance challenges. Around the 3rd, Mercury rises as Saturn does, about 0.9-degrees apart. Mercury will be the brighter one and it rises in the early, not yet overwhelming, twilight, and is actually quite bright and gaining brightness as it gets more of a telescopic full phase. The innermost planet, though, is falling Sunward rapidly. It rises less than 40 minutes before the Sun does after March 8th making it hard to find after that, and is in solar conjunction by the time this issue’s end-date comes about. Incidentally, just a day or so before end-date, telescopic observers **could** in theory see Mercury pass ever so close to Neptune just minutes before Sunrise…..nahhh, never mind, too bright and dangerous.
Venus, on the other hand, is having a glorious time in the evening sky, remaining up a bit past twilight’s ‘bedtime’.” It has that nice conjunction with the second brightest planet Jupiter on March 1-2 then it is uncontested by month’s end. Or thinks it is. It IS, in brightness, but its brother Mars hangs out in the sky, Venus never quite getting close enough for a hug before having to dive in towards the Sun this summer, Mars hanging around a couple of months longer—ha ha, sis.
Earth is approaching the March equinox, but before it does SOME places adjust their clocks an hour forward — starting Daylight Saving Time — on the morning of March the 12th.
Mars is just an evening star, setting before midnight…..until Daylight Savings Time resets it to after midnight again, for a few days. Talk about confusing your body clock….
Jupiter is having its finale, meeting up March 1-2 with brighter Venus, making an eye-catching double star in the evening twilight, at eye level. Cue all the UFO watchers. (UFO—-an Undeniably Fooled Observer). The planet stops setting in darkness on the 5th when it sets as evening twilight ends.
Saturn returns to dark skies but barely, rising at the start of morning twilight on the 9th. It has a conjunction with Mercury six days earlier and then soon has the dawn all alone to itself, until the Moon comes by later in March.
And Further Afield….
This is a good time of year— but getting near the end of the good times — to watch the eclipses of Algol, the Demon Star, high in the sky in Perseus, during evening hours. Its eclipses cycle through the hours of the day and night. Most of the time is moderately bright, magnitude 2.1, but every 2 days 20 hours and some change, it dims to 3.3. The entire eclipse takes about 10 hours from start to finish. For the winter and early spring, we’ll list the evening eclipse apparition dates for easier scheduling. The thing to do is, of course, to compare the brightness of Algol to stars of known brightness on a periodic basis and make a graph of progress of the dimming and the light recovery and, in this case, try to find the time of max eclipse!
March 4 (near 11:30 PM Central Time)
March 8 (near 8:20 PM Central Time)
Ooooh, almost got it…..The Sun is in Aquarius March 1 through 11, after which it enters Pisces. Traditional astrology has it in Pisces already, through the 20th. But after THAT, things get dicey…..
Astronomy in Everyday Life
Last issue we highlighted two planetary-named eateries/clubs, named after two giant worlds, Saturn and Uranus. Lo and behold, another one came up right after the issue was published! The New York Times had a restaurant review for an eatery named…..
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