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STARGAZERS TO GET LAST LOOK AT MARS CLOSE ENCOUNTER

Buffalo-area astronomers will help the general public bid a fond farewell to Mars next month, training telescopes on the Red Planet for the last time during its current "close approach" to Earth.

Weather permitting, Buffalo Astronomical Association members will share the view with visitors during two public nights April 1 and 15 in Beaver Meadow Nature Center, North Java, in the first open evenings of this year's stargazing season.

The orbits of Earth and Mars brought them closer together than usual in early February, and the next close approach will be in 1997.

The association's observatory is open from dusk to 10 p.m. on the first and third Saturdays of each month from April through October, rain or shine.

The group uses 12-inch and 20-inch telescopes for the public nights and also presents slide shows, computer program demonstrations and talks by local astronomers.

On April 1, participants also will see a thin setting crescent moon before the telescopes turn to bright star clusters and gaseous nebulae among the departing winter stars, and distant galaxies in the late-evening spring constellations. April 15 programming will focus on the full moon.

Astronomy Day celebrations are scheduled for May 6. The July 15 public night will be part of the center's weekend-long nature festival, and one of the October observing nights may be shifted to the Buffalo area.

The observatory is at 1610 Welch Road, North Java, adjacent to Beaver Meadow Nature Center. The association accepts donations.

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