Astronomy Picture of the Day
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October 31, 1995
A Halloween Invasion from Mars
HST, WFPC 2,
Philip James (Univ. of Toledo),
Steven Lee (Univ. of Colorado).
Orson Welles became an instant legend on Halloween in 1938 for his
radio dramatization of
H.G. Wells' "War of the Worlds".
Some listeners who did not realize it was a theatrical production
were driven to near panic by this fictional account of invaders
In the story, as in the
above Hubble Space Telescope image,
Mars was at "opposition", its point of
closest approach to the Earth, a distance of some 65 million miles.
For the Martians, it was imagined
that this was a good time to invade. For astronomers,
opposition is a good time to study the red planet
and this HST image,
represents the clearest view of
Mars ever for an Earth telescope.
The icy north polar cap is visible at
the top of the picture as well as a veil of white clouds along
the planet's left edge. The dark markings represent areas where
the reddish tinged dust characteristic of the
been blown away by the Martian winds.
Tomorrow's picture: M16: Dust and an Open Cluster
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