People think that they can see in 3-D, but this isn’t true. Our retinas are fundamentally two-dimensional. We see light in different positions but not truly at different depths.
That is why the annular solar eclipse of last week works for us. We see the Sun and the Moon as if they were at the same distance. (By the way, you can check out the eclipse by clicking here thanks to a posting from the Slooh observatory. The Moon barely fails to cover the Sun.)
Thanks to our lack of true depth perception we can seemingly see the Hubble Space Telescope crash into Mars tonight.
Because of the true difference in distance between the Hubble Space Telescope and Mars, parallax will ruin the illusion if you are far enough away from the ground track of the “Mars shadow” of the Hubble as it passes through Brevard County. I’m not exactly sure where that is, but I know that the Eastern Florida State College observatory is very close to the ground track.
The expected path of the Hubble Space Telescope puts it right in front of Mars at 7:58:42 p.m. tonight. If you are looking through the observatory telescope, you may or may not see the Hubble Space Telescope zoom through the field of view. I cannot predict it with that much accuracy. A low power eyepiece will offer the best chance. But for anyone looking without optical aid, you should see the Hubble Space Telescope glide right over Mars. No explosions will ensue but perhaps a feeling that the red planet has just dodged a bullet.
The EFSC observatory is normally open to the public from 6:30 p.m. to about 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights. Come early to see Venus and Mars. You can catch Jupiter just before 10 p.m.
Mr. Badger is Project Coordinator at the Eastern Florida State College Planetarium in Cocoa. Send questions, suggestions, or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org