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Science Building rooftop observation nights for public to be held July 21, 27 & 30 and Aug. 4: WCSU to offer special telescope viewings of Mars at close approach

image of Mars
Mars (photo credit: NASA)

DANBURY, CONN. — Western Connecticut State University will host special telescope viewings of Mars as the planet reaches its closest approach to the Earth during 2018 in four public observation nights to be held in late July and early August 2018 on the rooftop of the Science Building on the university’s Midtown campus, 181 White St. in Danbury.

Telescope viewing of Mars will be offered from 10 p.m. to midnight on Saturday, July 21; Friday, July 27; Monday, July 30; and Saturday, Aug. 4, 2018. Admission will be free and the public is invited. Access will be available at the Science Building main entrance; guests should proceed from the Science Building Atrium by elevator or stairs opposite the entrance to the third floor, and there should proceed through the exit to the rooftop where observations will take place.

WCSU Professor of Astronomy Dr. Dennis Dawson observed that Mars will reach opposition — the point where Earth passes directly between Mars and the sun — on July 27, and will reach its closest approach to Earth this year at a distance of 35.8 million miles around 4 a.m. on July 31. This year’s opposition will bring Mars’ closest encounter with Earth since 2003, and its relative nearness to Earth has increased its magnitude in the night sky to a level of brightness exceeded only by the moon and Venus.

Dawson noted that the Science Building rooftop observation deck has been selected to permit unobstructed telescope viewing of Mars, which will be at a relatively low position in the southern sky at an elevation of no more than 22 degrees. Observations also are expected to feature Saturn and Jupiter, as well as a full moon on July 27. Viewing will not be offered when significant cloud cover prevents sky observations; guests are advised to check local weather conditions before their planned visit.


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