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How to see Mars glow during opposition on Tuesday night


Mars will be bright and beautiful in the October 2020 night sky.


Forget Halloween. October 2020 is all about the glory of Mars, as the glittering red planet puts on a show in the night sky. We passed the approach of Mars to Earth on 6 October and now we are looking forward to Tuesday 1

3 October when it will be in opposition.

Locate Mars

Mars has a reputation as a “red” planet, but its color in the night sky is a little more on the Halloween side of the spectrum. To the naked eye it appears as a bright red-orange spot, like a small patch of sparkling rust.

The distinctive color of Mars is a clue that you found it in the dark. Look at the eastern sky to see it rise at night. This is a great time to see the planet, partly because spotting it is so simple. It should be visible for most of the night. As NASA says, “Get out there and look up, and depending on local weather and lighting conditions, you should be able to see Mars.”

Check out ours list of apps for stargazing if you want extra help locating the planet.

Opposition: 13 October

When Mars and the sun align with the Earth in the middle, the red planet is said to be in opposition. This is the perfect time to follow the movement of Mars in the sky. It will rise in the east when the sun sets, move across the sky, and then set in the west when the sun rises.

NASA describes the opposition as “actually a full Mars.” Tuesday, October 13 is the time to enjoy the opposition. You will have to wait more than two years for it to happen again.

The Virtual Telescope Project, which provides us with live feeds of celestial events, will stream a view of the opposition of Mars starting at 1pm. PT. on October 13. It’s a perfect way to enjoy the action without any weather worries. For people in the US, it will give you a preview of what to look for after dark.

The project predicts that these will be “the best observation conditions since July 2018”.

“The track model of planetary orbits explains why. Earth and Mars are like runners on a track. Earth is inside, Mars is outside,” NASA said in its October What’s Up blog. “Every 26 months, the fast Earth reaches slower Mars and laps it. Opposition occurs just as Earth takes the lead.”

Mars isn’t the only show in the sky for October. You can also look forward to a rare blue Halloween moon when our lunar neighbor is full on October 31st. It is not disturbing; it’s delicious.

Back to the close approach of October 6th

Tuesday 6 October marked the approach of Mars to Earth, but this entire month is still a good time to grab a telescope and have a little better look. Say hello to NASA’s Perseverance rover while you’re there. The vehicle is on track to reach the planet in February 2021.

NASA shared an artist’s take on the close-up approach on Tuesday, October 6 from the last time it curled up in July 2018. The apparent dimensions look very similar. This year, Mars had a minimum distance of 38.6 million miles (62 million kilometers), which is about 3 million miles farther than in 2018.

This artist’s point of view shows the apparent size of Mars during close approaches in 2018 and 2020.


The close approach may be over, but the planet is still very bright at night, so get out there and check it out, or tune in to the Virtual Telescope Project’s live feed from the comfort of your computer.

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