NEWPORT BAY BY NIGHT: Nighttime family events don't come much niftier, or freer, for that matter. And let's add timelier to that list, too: We're talking about Mars and Stars, a happening offered by Orange County Parks. There are two Mars and Stars: Mars Science Laboratory Mission Series nights ahead, one in the Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve on Saturday, Sept. 22 and one in Irvine Regional Park on Saturday, Sept. 29, both are completely free to join, and here's the oh-so-topical twist: JPL smarties will be leading the events. The Newport Bay night has an engineering angle -- Ben Cichy, JPL's Lead Engineer, will stop by to talk all things Mars -- while the Irvine event welcomes Dr. Ashwin Vasavada, who will "deliver a special educational presentation and showcase." There will also be an animal talk, courtesy of the OC Zoo, which, of course, isn't Mars-related, given that there are no beasties on the Red Planet (or that Curiosity has found yet).
WE JEST: But we did want to discuss Curiosity, the rover that that world has been watching these past six weeks. It's one of the big stories of the year, but its terrestrial roots are right here in Southern California, meaning that any time we have a chance to chat up Jet Propulsion Laboratory professionals about what is happening on the planet next door, we should. And if it is a free, family event? So much the better. As mentioned, Mars and Stars happen over two Saturdays, but they'll be a bit different from each other. If you're a Curiosity fan, why not attend both?