Forget. October 2020 is all about the glory of Mars as the glittering red planet puts on a show in the night sky. We passed Mars approaching Earth on October 6 and are now pumped for October 1
Mars has a reputation for being the “red” planet, but its color in the night sky is a bit 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 oursif 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”.
Wells of Mars: Look into the abyss with these wild images from NASA
“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 alsowhen our lunar neighbor is full on October 31st. It is not disturbing; it’s delicious.
Back to the close approach of October 6th
Tuesday, October 6 marked the approach of Mars to Earth, but this entire month is still a good time to grab a telescope and take a little closer look. Say hello towhile 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.
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.