Go look at Mars

class=img_thumbleft>Let's forget everything for a minute and look at the night sky. Mars has been big and bright since June, and,

contrary to rumor

, it's getting bigger.

On October 30

, only 43 million miles will separate earth from Mars, compared to an average distance of about 140 million miles. If you're in the Minneapolis area, the U of M Astronomy Department schedules

public viewings

on its rooftop using a 10.5-inch telescope every Friday evening between 9:00 p.m. and 10:30 p.m., if the weather's okay (call 612.626.0034 about an hour before the session and listen to the recording to confirm). Anytime over the next few weeks would be good for


, but October 28 will be the Friday our planets are closest. This is the


Mars will be until 2018, and unlike in 2003, when the planets were closer, Mars is high along the horizon this time, giving us a clearer view. "Already backyard astronomers are seeing some extraordinary things--like the 'purple haze,'" reports NASA. Either that, or somebody's been smoking something in the

physics building

boys room.

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