Busy Hong Kong people laid aside their worries about job and making money temporarily Wednesday night and went outdoor to enjoy the mysterious red planet, Mars, as it came to the closest point to Earth in 60,000 years.
However, the red star and its Hong Kong fans are still 55.76 million kilometers away from each other.
The weather in Hong Kong on Wednesday night was fine. Thousands of citizens, including kids and gray-headed, lined up a long queue in front of the Hong Kong Space Museum to wait to observe Mars through the telescopes there.
Four-year-old Hui Leung-sze, not tall enough to reach the telescope, asked her father to raise her up. When the little girl saw the red planet through the telescope, she laughed happily.
Sixty-seven-year-old Yung Tse-kuen, having waited for more than four hours to observe Mars, said, "I'll never miss the only chance in 60,000 years."
It is estimated that the observation activity attracted more than 4,000 Hong Kong citizens, much more than the Space Museum had expected, said Wong Yiu-wah, assistant curator of the museum.
More people gathered along the Victoria Harbor. Even the bright light of the Hong Kong Island could not cover up the brilliance of the Mars. Some amateur astronomers set up their self-made telescopes at the roadside to let the passersby to share the beauty of Mars.
Eric Ng, vice president of the Hong Kong Astronomical Society, said that since Mars appears on the southeast of the sky and Hong Kong is located at the low latitude of the north hemisphere, it is one of the best places in China to observe Mars.
In addition, Hong Kong is near the sea and there is no wide range temperature change, so the air current is steady. All these are good conditions to observe Mars, he said.
However, Hong Kong suffers from serious city light pollution. Fortunately, the Mars is so bright recently that the observation will not be affected seriously by the light pollution, said Ng.
Amateur astronomical clubs and societies in Hong Kong also organized observation activities. Under the leadership of the experts, citizens went to the suburbs to observe Mars and learn knowledge about the red planet.
"As a long-time amateur astronomer, I'm waiting anxiously for this encounter with Mars," said 50-year-old professor Yeung Chi-hung with the Hong Kong Polytechnic University.
Savio Gong from the Galaxy Scientific Group regarded Mars as an old friend of him. "It is a warm feeling when seeing this good friend come back. I have been observing Mars since I was a kid with my self-made spectacle-glass telescope. Every time when it comes back, I get better and better equipment."
"The red planet changes so much compared with all other planets, and that is the reason why I'm so fascinated by Mars," said Fong.
Fong has cooperated with the Hong Kong government to push forward a plan of astronomical education in primary schools. He hopes to cultivate interest in astronomy among the next generation of Hong Kong, "because astronomy is the most ancient and fundamental science in human history."
(Xinhua News Agency August 28, 2003)