Mars Is At Its Closest Point To Earth Tonight, So It's Your Best Bet For Martian-Spotting

Say hi to our cold, dusty little friend in the sky!

Hey, you know Mars – the next-door planet, the one that possibly also has liquid water on it, the one from which the chances of anything coming are a million to one, he said? Well, it’s about to be closer than it’s been in a decade an a half, and hits its closest point tonight.

More specifically, it’ll be 0.385 astronomical units (57.6 million km) away from us, and won’t get that close again until 2035. So if you’ve been planning to yell something at Mars this is your best chance for almost two decades.

“Oi, show us ya biological precursors for life!”

And just in case there’s some weird apocalyptic prediction attached to this that we’ve missed, it’s going to be fine. It’s not that amazing a thing – a few weeks ago the Earth was at its closest point to Pluto, between the Sun and it, and did you notice anything? No, you did not.

Mars has had some wild weather lately which has had some big effects back on Earth. While the Curiosity rover has a nuclear generator which allowed it to power through the planet-wide dust storm unscathed, the same could not be said of its solar-powered big sister Opportunity, which has been in hibernation for over a month.

There’s a question mark over whether it will ever be able to recharge its batteries before freezing to robot-death (which happened to its twin Spirit in 2010), since it’ll take a while for the skies to clear enough for the sun to hit the surface. Also, it’s assuming that Opportunity’s not totally buried in dust.


It’s been a pretty amazing month for looking at the night sky. We had the Blood Moon with the lunar eclipse last week, and we’ve had the unusual situation of having all five of the visible planets – Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn – in the night sky, which is rare given that they all have their own orbits to be getting on with.

Also, the Southern Delta Aquariid meteor shower has been a-showering, although that’s easier to see the more toward the equator you are, and also has come at the same time as a very bright full moon which sort of overpowers a lot of it. Still, it’s nice to know that we’re moving through a weird little dusty patch on our orbit, right?

Actual footage.

And it’s always worth remembering that you, fellow Australians, get some of the best views of the Milky Way spanning the sky of anyone on the planet – at least, we and everyone else at our latitude. High five, Argentina, southern Africa and most of South East Asia!

In any case, friends, get out and have a look at our skies. They’re never not spectacular.

Scotland Is Getting A Spaceport And We Assume Space Braveheart Is Just Around The Corner

How come we don't get to have cool rocket launches when the Scots are going to?

Scotland are set to have their own spaceport in the early 2020s with the announcement that the A’Mhoine peninsula on the north of the country will be set up for vertical rocket launches.

Let’s just say that again: Scotland – SCOTLAND – are building a goddamn launch facility in order to take advantage of the possibilities opening up in the burgeoning space industry. And we are not.


It’s the first site to get funding as a launch facility, with several other “horizontal” launch sites currently under consideration elsewhere in the UK.

And sure, part of the reason we’re not is that the National Space Agency is currently funded for $50 million, which is not exactly enough to build a launch facility.

By governmental departmental standards, that’ll get them a logo, some stationery and salaries for two full-time jobs as long as the cafe they’re working from doesn’t mind them using the Wi-fi.

“Great, now all our satellites are going to fall out of the sky. Thanks, Steve.”

As you’re likely aware Scotland just barely voted not to have a referendum on their independence from the United Kingdom back in 2014, and public sentiment seems to have grown in favour of cutting ties in the wake of the Brexit vote (in which Scotland voted strongly to remain in the EU).

So maybe this is part of their plan: get to space, then claim freedom. SPACE freedom!

Maybe… um, maybe get a better person next time?

Incidentally, if you want your space exploration-lovin’ heart to hurt just a little bit more, the launch towers at Cape Canaveral were exploded off the face of the Earth.

The site hasn’t been used as a launch site for seven years, admittedly, but even so: that’s the place from which the Mercury, Gemini and freakin’ Apollo missions were sent into the space. How does it not have Taj Mahal-level protection as a cultural site?

Anyway, watch ’em tumble. And listen to people whoop with joy for some goddamn reason.

UFO Sightings Have Dropped And No-One's Entirely Sure Why, But We Have A Pretty Good Theory

Clue: it's not because they're using futuristic cloaking tech.

There was a time – oh, it was a more innocent age! – where conspiracy theorists would flood the internet and clog the governmental phonelines with reports of mysterious lights in the sky which were obviously spaceships from other planets rather than, say, literally any alternative that’s known to exist.

And you’d think that by now, with everyone carrying a multimedia studio in their pocket, there would be more reports than ever, including photos and video of these craft and their sinister occupants.

And yet reports have dwindled in the last six years. Why is that?

Tech site Gizmodo reached out to the folks at the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON), which acts as something of an online clearinghouse of UFO reports. They confirmed that numbers have been on the decline since 2012, which echoes the findings of UFO researcher Cheryl Costa.

So the question is: why?

There are some good theories about on why this might be the case, including from that weird things seen briefly in the sky make for poor YouTube clicks – which is where today’s internet-savvy conspiracy theorists do their most lucrative work.


But here’s our guess: the nature of conspiratorial thought has changed in recent times and the sorts of people that were previously convinced that the government were in league with the space-people are now certain that the New World Order is trying to control the world with vaccines and feminism, somehow, for some reason.

In other words, the goofy beliefs of the past have been replaced by people shrieking that school shootings are “crisis actors” and that water fluoridation is about mind control to hand power over to… um, people already in power? That seems weird.

Man, how much nicer was it when peculiar people just believed in aliens rather than that they should desecrate memorials to murdered women? I suspect we’ll be looking back on those days with more and more affection in the coming years…

“What the hell is this bell-end posting? Something about… not all men? What a balloon.”

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