Bright Mars makes its closest approach to Earth today. It appears as an overly bright star in the sky.
by Jeffrey L. Hunt
Mars makes its closest approach to Earth today until September 11, 2035.
About 2 hours after sunset find it low in the eastern sky. At this time Jupiter and Saturn are in the south. As Earth revolves, the planet appears to move westward. Around midnight it is in the south and in the western sky before sunrise.
Today the Red Planet is 38.6 million miles away. The planet appears as an overly bright star in the sky.
This morning Mars appeared in the western sky before sunrise. It shines from in front of the stars of Pisces.
As Mars revolves around the sun in an elliptical orbit, it is at varying distances as Earth passes by about every 26 months.
In a week, October 13, Mars is at opposition with the sun. They appear in opposite directions in the sky.
The planet is retrograding – moving westward compared to the stars – in Pisces, an illusion as our faster moving planet passes the outer planets.
In the photo above, Mars is 2.6° to the lower right of Nu Piscium (ν Psc on the photo) and 0.3° to the lower left of Mu Piscium (μ Psc).
Use a binocular to observe the planet’s motion compared to the starry background as it retrogrades for about another month.
Read more about the planets during October.
During the early evening hours of winter, the stars that shine from the southern sky are a sampler of the sky’s brightest stars.
January 21, 2021: Several bright stars are in the morning sky. This morning look for Antares in the east-southeast. Mercury – near its greatest elongation – is in the west-southwest after sunset. Mars and the moon are near each other. Planet Uranus is near Mars.
January 20, 2021: Mercury is low in the west-southwest after sunset. The bright moon is to the lower right of Mars, while the Red Planet passes planet Uranus.