Utah Skies: Mars At Opposition

Oct 16, 2020

Credit Celestron Sky Portal App

On Oct. 6,  the planet Mars was nearer the Earth than at any time since July 2018. It will not be this close again for another 16 years. If you own a telescope this would be a good time to take a look. You may be able to observe some markings on its surface and an icecap on its pole.

To see Mars, look almost due east around 9:00 PM and you will see it rising over the mountains as the brightest object in the entire sky, even brighter than mighty Jupiter which can also be seen in the southwestern sky. Mars will appear as a brilliant reddish star while Jupiter’s color is closer to white.

This is a great time to see Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn in the sky all at the same time. Saturn is just east of Jupiter in the sky but is much dimmer and yellowish in appearance.

Three spacecraft were recently launched towards Mars. Hope Orbiter was first launched on July 19 by the United Arab Emirates. This will be their first Mars mission and it will place an orbiter around Mars to observe its weather.

The second craft launched by China is an orbiter, Lander, and rover called Tianwen-1 (pronounced Te-One-foe-ee).


Finally NASA launched a mission on July 30 that includes Perseverance a rover, and Ingenuity, an experimental helicopter. Ingenuity will be the first to attempt a fly over of the surface of another planet.


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