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2020, October 6: Mars Closest

Astronomy

This self-portrait of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows the vehicle on Vera Rubin Ridge, which it's been investigating for the past several months. Poking up just behind Curiosity's mast is Mount Sharp, photobombing the robot's selfie. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

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2020, October 6: Mars is closest to Earth today. The 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).

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.

2021, December 30:  Sirius at Midnight

December 30, 2021:  As the year ends and the new one opens, the night sky’s brightest star – Sirius – is in the southern sky at the midnight hour.

2021, December 29: Moon Nears Scorpion, Venus Departs

December 29, 2021: The morning crescent moon approaches Scorpius and Mars.  In the evening sky, four evening planets – Venus, Mercury, Saturn, and Jupiter – are lined up in the southwest.  Venus is rapidly leaving the evening sky.

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