Get your binoculars and telescopes ready! On August 27, 2003, Mars will be the closest it has been to Earth in thousands of years.

It's not like Mars will suddenly teleport into that position, either. For several months ahead of an after that date, Mars will still be extremely close and make for great viewing possibilities.

Mars, the Red Planet, was named after the Roman god of war. It has fascinated sky-watchers for thousands of years, and many stories have been written about man setting up bases on Mars or having Martians visit us on Earth. With the discovery of ice frozen beneath the Martian surface, many believe that life one existed on this dusty planet. Mars has two moons - Phobos and Deimos. Those were the names of the horses that the Greek god Ares used.

There are polar ice caps that are visible from telescopes, and the Martian atmosphere in general should be relatively clear, giving you a great view of the landscapes of the planet.

To find Mars in the sky, look southeast just below the constellation of Aquarius. It will not be high off the horizon. It'll be about the same size as the Eratosthenes crater on the Moon is, so use that to judge how well your telescope will show the details. You might want to swing by a local science museum to see it through a big telescope!

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