How to spot Mars at its brightest in the sky this weekend

Adam Westlake - May 21, 2016, 10:00 am CDT
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How to spot Mars at its brightest in the sky this weekend

The planet Mars is about to be the closest it’s been to the Earth in over a decade this weekend, and you’ll be able to step outside and spot our red neighbor with the naked eye. Sunday, specifically, marks the “Mars opposition,” which is when the sun and Mars are on the opposite sides of Earth, but you can peer into the sky just after sunset on both Saturday and Sunday and find what looks like a bright red star.

All you need to do is head outside after the twilight hours, look towards the southeastern sky and find the moon, and then look up and a little to the right. Assuming the skies are clear, that bright red spot you see is the planet Mars.

Scientists say that the Mars opposition takes place once every two years, but 2016’s sees the planet getting as close to Earth as it’s been since November 2005. A week from now, on May 30th, will be the “Mars close approach,” which is the exact day when the distance between the planets is the shortest. That day will see Mars get within 47 million miles of us.

It was this shorter distance that prompted the Hubble Space Telescope to capture some new images of the red planet in its glory earlier this week. NASA hopes to continue taking pics over the next week, but the high-resolution photo they just released reveals new details on Mars’ surface that measure as small as 20 to 30 miles across.

SOURCE: NASA, EarthSky


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