Mars watch – Kaua‘i style

KAUMAKANI — Over 50 people turned out to try to get a glimpse of Mars as the Kaua‘i Education Association for Science and Astronomy (KEASA) members set up several types of telescopes on the outfield of the Kaumakani softball field so people could get a closer look at the Red Planet.

“It’s really bright,” one parent noted. “We walk every night, and you can’t miss it. It’s the brightest thing in the sky.”

Parents accompanied their school-aged children who came to the event as part of extra-credit projects for their science classes. They watched the pre-watch video with interest, and even posed some thought-provoking questions to the Rev. Jim Merritt of KEASA following the short video that provided the audience with an orientation into the realm of astronomy.

One of the questions was, “What kind of effects would be felt here on Earth with the close passage of the planet?”

Merritt said “there are minor (planetary) disturbances being created by this closeness (of Mars).” He used the recent incidents of earthquake occurrences as a more tangible example of the disturbances.

“But, it won’t destroy the world,” he said.

Other audience members wanted to know about the existence of water on the planet, others about the temperatures one could expect if they were to visit the planet.

Merritt is a “part-time astronomer,” and said he was happy with the turnout, noting that this is the closest Mars has come to Earth since the Ice Age.

There is a lot of interest in this passage, Merritt said. “Telescopes are a hot item right now. You can’t find one anywhere (in stores).”

Kupuna followed the group into the Kaumakani pavilion, too, one saying that he had to see this because it is a once-in-a-lifetime event.

As KEASA members worked to beat the setting sun in trying to set up the telescopes in the outfield, they kept looking skyward as if to keep the clouds from obliterating any view of Mars. The Westside site was selected because of its lack of clouds during the night.

Visitors from the Mainland also joined the group, having heard about the event through public service announcements made on local radio. A couple from Santa Monica, Calif. took advantage of the event to enjoy dinner on the Westside before joining the group for viewing, noting audibly that there are no clouds in Santa Monica, but the “light pollution” prevents star gazing.

Another viewing is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 30 starting with the video presentation at 6:30 p.m.

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