Mars: Shining bright on its closest approach in years

Easy to see in the October night sky

Mars: Shining bright on its closest approach in years
Picture from Astronomer Ken Wilson, taken via Telescope in Hanover County on Oct. 6, 2020 (Source: Ken Wilson)

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Have you noticed how bright Mars has been lately?

Although you probably won’t notice a brightness difference between now and 2 years from now, it’s still worth making it a point to see the planet showing off sometimes this month.

Astronomer Ken Wilson explains:

“Earth is making its closest approach to Mars this month, as it does about every two years. This year’s a good one. Mars is brightest when exactly opposite from the Sun (opposition) in our sky. That occurs on October 13 this year (but it will be bright all month). At opposition Mars rises as the Sun sets and sets as the Sun rises. So Mars will be highest in the sky around Midnight when it will be almost overhead. It is brighter now than any star or planet (except Venus) so you can’t miss it if it’s clear and you go outside around midnight and look straight up.”

Picture from Astronomer Ken Wilson, taken via Telescope in Hanover County on Oct. 6, 2020
Picture from Astronomer Ken Wilson, taken via Telescope in Hanover County on Oct. 6, 2020 (Source: Ken Wilson)

Although this picture was taken with a telescope, you will be able to see Mars with the naked eye. It’s a reddish color and brighter than any star.

Mars should be visible through the end of the month. In fact, if you are out trick-or-treating (in some new way) on the 31st, you’ll see Mars and the moon close to each other in the eastern sky just after sunset. Halloween treat in the Eastern sky just after sunset.

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