Like millions of people I've downloaded an app to my phone that allows you to identify stars and planets. I soon deleted it though as everything’s too away. If the naked eye could easily see the majestic rings of Saturn or the hot hell of Venus then it'd be more interesting. The thought that we can see something tens of millions of miles away is more inspiring than the dot itself.
I keep reading about Mars and the Dutch hope get onto astronauts on it in 2025. For millions of years our ancestors must have looked at this scorched-looking planet and wondered what it was. It was first properly identified (through a telescope) in 1610 by Galileo Galilei. Its invitingly warm colours are due to the iron-heavy soil but it's really blooming freezing (about -62C.) It looks parched like a desert but the atmosphere is thick with vapours. You’d have a long wait for your birthday or Christmas day if you lived there as a year lasts for 687 days. The sunsets are blue. The atmosphere is hostile to us human beings and an unprotected astronaut stepping onto it would die quickly.
Two moons are in constant dizzy orbit - Phobos and Deimos. Phobos is potato-shaped, orbits Mars ever 7.5 hours, is 14 miles across and in 30 million years will crumble and turn into a ring. Deimos is only 8 miles long. I thought all moons were roundish but these two aren't and I had to investigate: the gravity around Mars is weak and it can't overcome the rock stresses on the moons. Sometimes I think about these two moons when I look at two pebbles that have been on my desk for years (brought home for their ability to hold pens.)
One night I thought I'd try to paint Mars. I used a knife to layer on the dark "outer space" and then added cake sprinkles for a star-spangled effect. I took off my fez, drew a circle around it to create Mars and then painted in some scorched red shades. Being a simple painting it was soon finished. The next day I added some more layers to Mars and the canvas is now heavier.
While painting this I watched a programme about David Bowie and his cool guitarist Mick Ronson appeared on the screen. To see his grave please scroll down to the foot of this page and click on the link.
This painting can be yours for £6,824 though I'd swap it for a lifetime's supply of pills that mean you need no sleep (what a waste of life - and the closest you'll come to death while being healthy.)