After the October 2020 Mars opposition, Earth pulls away from Mars. The Red Planet appears to move farther eastward compared to the starry background, and dims as the distance to the planet grows.
Find the planet high in the southeastern sky after sunset. It is distinctly rusty in color and brighter than all the stars in its immediate surroundings.
During the month, Mars moves from the dim star field of Pisces into Aries.
It passes dim Uranus during January. A binocular is needed to see this planet’s brightness is near the limit of unaided human vision. It is a blue-green “star.” Some magnification with a telescope reveals the round, planet shape. This is referred to as seeing the “planet’s disk.”
Three brighter stars, Hamal, Beta Arietis (β Ari on the chart), and Gamma Arietis (γ Ari), are above the path of the planets. The planet’s movement is easily observed compared to those stars.
To follow Mars daily progress, use a binocular to track its spot in the sky compared to the distant stars.
Here are some events to track:
- January 1: In Pisces, it is 1.1° to the lower left of Pi Piscium (π Psc) and 2.5° above Omicron Piscium (ο Psc).
- January 5: Over 57° in altitude in the south-southeast, the planet is 7.3° to the lower right of Gamma Arietis (γ Ari). The Red Planet is 7.3° to the lower right of Uranus (m = 5.7).
- January 11: Mars is 5.0° to the upper right of dim Uranus. Use a binocular to see the planets.
- January 14: Mars passes 6.0° to the lower left of γ Ari. On this evening Mars is 3.7° to the upper right of Uranus.
- January 15: Mars passes 7.3° to the lower left of β Ari. The Mars – Uranus gap is 2.8°. Mars is to the upper right of the dimmer planet. Mars begins to approach 19 Arietis (19 Ari). The planet is 2.2° to the lower right of the star.
- January 20: With the moon 7.3° to the lower right, Mars passes 1.6° above Uranus.
- January 23: Mars passes 8.7° to the lower left of Hamal, the constellation’s bright star.
- January 25: Mars approaches Omicron Arietis (ο Ari), Sigma Arietis (σ Ari), and Pi Arietis (π Ari).
- January 31: The month ends with Mars in Aries, 2.1° to the upper right of ο Ari, 3.7° to the upper right of σ Ari, and 2.8° to the right of π Ari.
Here is the summary for Mars during 2021.
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.
January 19, 2021: Mercury is low in the west-southwest after sunset. The moon is approaching Mars before their grouping tomorrow evening. Mars nears the planet Uranus before tomorrow’s conjunction.
January 18, 2021: Without a bright morning planet, bright Arcturus and the constellation Bootes the Herdsman is high in the south. The crescent moon is in the early evening sky. Mars is near the planet Uranus. They are high in the south-southeast as night falls.