Get rare close-up look at 'the red planet' Friday during special Star Party at MTSU

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MTSU's Department of Physics and Astronomy will be giving the public a chance to get a closer look at Mars and other planets during "opposition" on Friday, July 27, for this month's Star Party event.

From 8 to 11 p.m. Friday, the public can view Mars, Saturn, Jupiter and the moon at the MTSU Observatory to witness the start of Mars' closest approach to Earth since 2003, organizers said.

The event will be overseen by the associate professor Chuck Higgins, with other astronomers and students on hand to answer questions and guide the viewing.

"Mars and Earth come into alignment about every two years when they are both on the same side of the sun, which causes Earth and Mars to be closer to each other," said Higgins. "The astronomical term for this is called opposition, and this is the best time to see Mars in a telescope."

Viewing the planets will require no protection, and are easily seen in a telescope, binoculars or with the unaided eye, Higgins added.

The purpose of MTSU's Friday Star Parties has been to engage the campus and surrounding community in activities related to the department, specifically topics dealing with astronomy, since 1999. These activities may include guest speakers followed by telescope viewing outside as permitted by weather conditions.

The events are free and open to the public. To find free parking after 6 p.m. around the MTSU observatory, visit http://tinyurl.com/MTSUParkingMap.

While the forecast looks good, the rain date is Saturday, July 28, at the same time.

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