Whatever you do, please don't run out and buy a telescope just to see Mars. Even at it's best, Mars always looks tiny in a small family telescope, about half the diameter of Jupiter. Mars would typically look like a little orange ball. If you have a fancy scope and a pristine sky, you might see the white polar cap on Mars, and maybe some of the dark green surface markings. But you can expect these features to be indistinct at best.

Your best bet is to visit a planetarium or astronomy club in your area. Since Mars is being hyped in the media this month, the planetariums are all doing special shows about Mars. Also, most communities have a local amateur astronomy club, many of which work with a planetarium. The amateur clubs always host public telescope nights, and this would be a great time to see Mars through a club member's telescope. The folks at the clubs and the planetariums are always trying to drum up attendance for their events, and would be glad to see your family or homeschool group. Check out the resources page at http://skyandtelescope.com for a list of clubs, planetariums and observatories in your area.

'Til next time, God bless and clear skies!

Be sure to visit The SkyWise Archive, a collection of educational astronomy cartoons to help your family learn about the sky. Check it out at http://www.mangobay.cc/users/moonfinder. Jay Ryan is the creator of "The Classical Astronomy Update," a free e-mail newsletter for helping Christian homeschool families learn more about what's up in the starry sky. If you would like to receive the Update, please drop Jay an e-mail at moonfinder@mangobay.com.