Friday, January 29, 2010

Ian's birthday, a huge full moon, and Mars Opposition!

Lots going on today, as it is Ian's 11th birthday, the full moon, and Mars is at oppostion.  If there is any symbolism in it all, when Ian was very young he would tell Beth that he came to us from the moon.  My wish is that in his lifetime, he will have an opportunity to go back for a visit!  Interestingly, this full moon is the closest full moon we will have all year (see below).  While 11 years ago today my life changed dramatically, it was nothing compared to the change Ian was experiencing...leaving the comfort of the womb where he had sole authority...headed for a childhood ruled by the Queen and King of the Universe, Beth and me. I can't fathom how 11 years have gone by, but looking at him now I understand how fathers speak of a love for their son's that only another father would understand.

In just 11 years, Ian has experienced so much, traveling throughout Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington (including the San Juan Islands), New Mexico, the Navajo Nation, Colorado, North Carolina, New York and Rocky Point, Mexico to name a few places. His life has had its hard lessons as well, from having to wear an eye patch and use eyedrops for 2 years to correct his vision, to the untimely loss of his beloved aunt Laura.  Through all the experiences, he has emerged with strength and wisdom beyond his few years.  I certainly had an exciting and rewarding life prior to Ian, however, every day is increasingly rich as we share experiences together.  Some of my greatest memories are of the father son trips that we have taken, and I am already beginning to get excited thinking about what our summer 2010 adventure will look like.  To the right we are atop Mt. Democrat in Colorado, over 14,100 feet!

This is an astronomy blog after all, so lets take a look at some of the interesting facts about this full moon and the Mars oppostion. Here is part of what Universe Today (click the link for the full story) has to offer on this event:  
A full Moon and Mars will be putting on a show, and the pair will be prominently close to each other in the sky. Plus, this Friday night's full Moon is the biggest and brightest full Moon of the year. It's a 'perigee Moon,' as much as 14% wider and 30% brighter than other full Moons you'll see later in 2010, according to And, even though you've likely not gotten an email from an excited acquaintance relaying that Mars is really close to the Earth now — that is the case. Mars is at opposition on the 29th, which means it lines up opposite the Sun and is now the closest to Earth their orbits, and so will shine brighter.

This is not a great opposition for Mars because it occurs around the time that Earth is closest to the Sun and Mars is farthest. The gap between the two planets will be a hefty 62 million miles (99 million km). The smallest possible distance at opposition is about 35 million miles (56 million km), which happened a back in August of 2003, and prompted the infamous emails that now surface every August, that Mars would be as big the full Moon, which of course, is not — and was not — true. Mars appeared more than twice as bright then as it will this year, but was still a star-like dot in the sky.

This Nasa article provides more information on the Mars oppostion and has sky maps.  The bottom line is that no telescope is neccesary, just head outside and look up!


  1. Happy Birthday, Ian!! What a fine young man you are -- you make your parents proud :)