Volume 16, Issue 22 - May 29-June 4, 2008

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Sky Watch by J. Alex Knoll

Phoenix Rising

Our newest visitor to Mars lands at the planet’s north pole

The waning crescent moon rises well after midnight at week’s end and disappears amid the glare of the sun by Tuesday.

Dark skies reveal Mars high in the east, around 8:25pm this week. Looking like little more than an orange smudge, our neighboring planet is pulling far from us in its orbit. We can nonetheless see it in startling clarity after last weekend’s successful landing of the Phonenix explorer and pictures taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter 200 miles overhead.

After nine and a half months traveling 422 million miles, Phoenix touched down near Mars’s north pole. Originally one of two polar landers destined for Mars, this craft was deep-sixed after the 1999 disappearance of the Mars Polar Lander during its descent to the south pole. Finally, the north-pole mission was revived, and the craft was renamed after the bird of myth reborn from its own ashes.

With a robotic arm, Phoenix will dig into the frozen crust to “study the history of water and habitability potential in the Martian arctic’s ice-rich soil,” its mission states. To see more, log onto the website of the University of Arizona, Tuscon, which manages the mission with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory at Caltech: http://phoenix.lpl.arizona.edu/mission.php.


Illustration: © Copyright 1925 M.C. Escher/Cordon Art-Baarn-Holland; Graphics: © Copyright 2007 Pacific Publishers. Reprinted by permission from the Tidelog graphic almanac. Bound copies of the annual Tidelog for Chesapeake Bay are $14.95 ppd. from Pacific Publishers, Box 480, Bolinas, CA 94924. Phone 415-868-2909. Weather affects tides. This information is believed to be reliable but no guarantee of accuracy is made by Bay Weekly or Pacific Publishers. The actual layout of Tidelog differs from that used in Bay Weekly. Tidelog graphics are repositioned to reflect Bay Weekly’s distribution cycle.Tides are based on National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and are positioned to coincide with high and low tides of Tidelog.

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