At the beginning of October, the observers from all over the world could witness the spectacular conjunction of bright red Mars and the brilliant Moon. And there is one more exciting surprise that this month is preparing for you — the stunning opposition of Mars that takes place on October 13. Read on to learn why this event is so special and how to observe it in the sky above you.
Mars Gets Close to The Earth
During the opposition of Mars, the Earth passes between the Red Planet and the Sun. It happens every 26 months, while the distance between the Earth and the planet varies from opposition to opposition because the orbit of Mars is significantly elliptical. At great oppositions, Mars lies at a distance of less than 60 million km from the Earth. Around such oppositions, Mars also reaches its closest point to the Earth, the perigee, and therefore appears at its brightest and largest.
The last great perihelic opposition of Mars took place in July 2018 and the next one will happen in September 2035. This year Mars just narrowly misses reaching great opposition, as it is about 62 million km from our planet. But still, it is very close! Moreover, the skywatchers from the Northern Hemisphere will get a better view of Mars during this year’s opposition as the planet is much higher in the sky now than it was in 2018. So seize the moment and enjoy the beauty of the Red Planet!
Mars at Opposition
Mars will reach opposition on October 13, 2020, at 7:18 p.m. EDT (23:18 GMT), shining brightly at a magnitude of -2.6 in the constellation Pisces. The Red Planet will reach the highest point in the sky around midnight local time, so the observers throughout the world will be able to enjoy it all night long. Even in the cities, Mars will stand out in the night sky. Observe fiery red Mars shining in the eastern part of the sky at sunset, at its highest at midnight and above the western horizon at sunrise.
These days Mars is the third brightest object of the night sky (after the Moon and Venus), outshining all the stars and even the kingly planet Jupiter. As we’ve already mentioned, in October 2020, Mars is closer to the Earth and brighter than at any time until the year 2035, which makes this month perfect for observing the planet with the naked eye or through a telescope. The latter will help you to spot the peculiarities of Mars’ surface as well as its bright southern polar cap.
Enjoy the opposition of Mars with the astronomical app Star Walk 2! The application will help you not to miss this spectacular event — just turn the notifications on. Use Star Walk 2 to locate Mars in the sky at any time and during the opposition, determine the best viewing time, and learn much more information about this amazing planet by tapping its name in the lower part of the screen.
We wish you clear skies and happy observations!
Info and photos from Viteo Technology