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Mars at Opposition

7 Apr 2014, 07:01 UTC
Mars at Opposition
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

Date: April 8, 2014 Time: 8:00 pm (an hour after sunset is the time to start hunting) Place: the eastern sky
Mars, the Red Planet, will reach opposition on April 8th. That’s its closest approach to Earth in its orbit around the Sun, and your best chance for a good view through telescopes or binoculars. It won’t look that large in any common binoculars, but you’ll definitely see the bright “reddish” disc of the planet. And you don’t need to catch it exactly on April 8th, as the view will be excellent for most of April.
As the graphic shows, the orbit of Mars is distinctly elliptical compared to Earth’s orbit. That means some oppositions bring Mars closer to Earth than others. Earth’s orbit takes it around the Sun in 1 year, but Mars takes 1.88 years (that’s in “Earth years”). Since they both orbit the Sun in the same direction, Earth and Mars are like “runners” on a track, with the faster Earth “lapping” Mars once every 2.135 years. Their motions are not synchronized, so opposition can occur anywhere along the Mars orbit shown in the graphic.
Note: The Sun and planets are not drawn to the same scale ...

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