OCA club president was quoted in a recent article published in the LA Times regarding the Mars close-approach and also the clubs involvement with a public viewing of Mars at UCI Observatory.
The features of Mars — its dark canyons, white southern polar cap and fierce dust storms — make it a favorite of many sky watchers, said Barbara Toy, club president of the Orange County Astronomers. Many of the group's 800 members plan to take advantage of the observatory's offer, she said. Others, however, plan to stay with favorite stargazing spots around Orange County.
"A lot of us only need a patch of clear sky," said Toy, of Laguna Beach.
To the naked eye, Mars will be the most brilliant body in the night sky, after the moon, for about a week before and after its close encounter with Earth, she said. Its reddish color will be easier to distinguish.
Toy is not surprised by all the excitement. "There's a lot of romance associated with Mars," she said.
A threat to the once-in-an-eon vista of the planet's surface, Toy said, is the possibility of Martian dust storms.
She has been tracking the approach and so far, so good.
"I have seen features in the eyepiece that I've never seen before, only in photographs," she said. For the best views, she suggests waiting until Mars climbs "pretty close to the central part of the sky."