Saturday, 31 October, 2020

Skygazers prepare to catch Mars at its biggest and brightest

Mars will not be as close to Earth as it is this week until 2035 Mars to Shine Brightest on October 13 | G Plus Guwahati News
Sandy Nunez | 15 October, 2020, 20:43

October 2020 is about the glory of Mars, as the shining red planet puts on a display in the night sky.

"If Earth and Mars followed perfectly circular orbits, opposition would be as close as the two planets could get". In 2018 it was also close (57.6 million kilometres).

"And it's now beginning to slip away from us again ever so slowly, but this week Mars will actually be at its brightest when it reaches what's known as opposition in the sky on Tuesday".

Sharing this information on its blog, NASA wrote, "When it comes to observing Mars around opposition, telescopes will show more of the planet's details, such as dark and light regions on Mars' surface, and the prominent south polar ice cap, which will be tilted towards the Earth".

When Mars is at opposition, the sun and Mars are on opposite sides of Earth's sky.

Common sense dictates that when we pass Mars in a ideal line with the sun, Mars should be at its closest point to Earth.

The nearly frontal illumination by sunlight will make its reddish colour much better seen from both hemispheres with or without the aid of a telescope. But if one were to look at Mars during this time using a telescope with intense magnification capabilities (around 80x should do the trick) Mars will appear as roughly the same size as the moon would look like to the eye without a telescope. For comparison, the distance between the two planets at opposition can be over 100 million km.

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When viewed from London, for example, the Sun will set at about 6.10pm BST (5.10pm GMT). But on 13th October, the Red Planet will be at its maximum apparent size and will be at its brightest this month.

But at opposition, it looks bigger and brighter, NASA explained.

As the night progresses, the Red Planet will trace a path across to the west. As the sun sets it rises in the east, moves across the sky and then sets in the west as the sun rises.

Mars will be visible from dusk until dawn in the southern sky.

Although this week offers the best viewing, the Red Planet will remain highly visible until the beginning of November.

However, Mr Kerss believes opposition presents a ideal opportunity to dust off your telescope if you have one.

"You can't miss it", said Mr Wesley, who has worked with NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Japanese Space Agency from his observatory in Rubyvale. For those in the United States, it provides a preview of what to look for after sunset.