December 20, 2007
Mars Glows, No Need for Rudolph’s Nose
WASHINGTON -- Mars will be unusually bright this Christmas Eve and the moon will be shining full - a development that might make Santa Claus rethink his need for Rudolph's red nose.
That idea, from Miami Space Transit Planetarium director Jack Horkheimer, made us wonder if retooling a certain reindeer song is the best way to explain it to the kids:Mars is a red-tinged planet
With a very shiny glow
And if you look to see it
You will find the moon in tow.
The red planet will shine brighter because it will be directly opposite the sun, reflecting the most light, and fairly close to Earth, only 55.5 million miles away. The full moon will appear nearby, rising about an hour later, said Horkheimer, host of the public television show "Star Gazer."
All of the other Yuletides
Santa would have at his side
The shiny nose of Rudolph
Acting as his big sleigh's guide
Mars will outshine the brightest star and won't be as noticeable in the sky for nine more years, Horkheimer said. The Hubble Space Telescope took a picture of Mars, which came closest to Earth on Dec. 18, but it will be brighter on Christmas Eve because of its position opposite the sun.
But this very Christmas Eve
Santa came to say:
"Rudolph, now with Mars so bright,
You can stay at home tonight."
"It will be a brilliant red light," Horkheimer said. "It is so bright it knocks your socks off." He added that this would allow Santa to give Rudolph a pink slip, albeit a temporary one.
Then all the reindeer teased him.
And they shouted out with glee:
"Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer
Outsourced to astronomy."
AP Science Writer Malcolm Ritter in New York contributed to this report.
On the Net:
Hubble Space Telescope's image of Mars 55 million miles away: