Moon, Mars, and Gemini
The Moon, Mars, and the twins of Gemini form a bright arc in the western sky tonight. They're quite high in the sky at nightfall, and set in the wee hours of the morning. A famous star cluster joins the mix, too.
Mars is the subject of intense study these days as scientists try to determine if anything lives on the planet today, or did in the past. But even if no lifeforms have ever walked or crawled across Mars, there's a good chance they soon will. Humans may venture to Mars in the next few decades, and eventually build colonies.
Colonists may melt the polar ice caps, which would thicken the Martian atmosphere and make it warmer. They could then introduce microbes or plants specifically designed for the planet. And in the far distant future, genetic engineers might even produce animals that would thrive there, too.
The engineers must account for the planet's dry, thin, carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere, low surface gravity, and high radiation levels from the Sun. It would be a tough job, but colonists likely would have centuries to transform the planet into a second home for humanity.
Look for Mars to the lower right of the Moon at nightfall. It looks like a fairly bright orange star. The twins of Gemini, Pollux and Castor, are to the lower right of Mars. And the Beehive star cluster is just to the right of the Moon, although you need binoculars to see it. The whole lineup drops from sight by 2 or 3 in the morning.
Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2008
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