The Red Planet made a rare appearance next to the Moon on the weekend, during a beautiful lunar occultation of Mars. Breathtaking images snapped on the night of September 5 to 6, show the Moon passing in front of the bright planet. And although the two bodies have gone their separate ways, Mars is very bright and red bright now.
Stargazers will also be glad to know Mars’ beautiful glow will not wane anytime soon and will even outshine Jupiter in October – an event that repeats every other year.
Astronomer Deborah Byrd of EarthSky.org said: “In the year 2018, Mars was brighter than all the stars.
“It was even brighter than the second-brightest planet, Jupiter.
“It was a blazing red dot of flame in our night sky for several months.”
How to see Mars at night?
The Red Planet goes through periods of intense brightness, followed by years when it is fairly dim.
After a spectacular 2018, Mars was mostly faint throughout 2019.
Now, the planet has returned in full force and will outshine Jupiter for about a month surrounding mid-October.
Ms Byrd said: “September 2020 is a wonderful time to start watching Mars.”
Now is the time to start watching Mars
Deborah Byrd, EarthSky.org
For viewers in the Northern Hemisphere, the Red Planet will rise over the eastern horizon after sunset.
In the UK for instance, look for Mars tonight (September 9) in the east after 9pm BST.
The planet will be very bright, and weather permitting, very red in colour.
According to Ms Byrd, “you can’t fail to recognise” the iconic planet.
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As the month progresses, the planet will begin to creep over the horizon at earlier hours.
By mid-October, it will rise in the east as the Sun sets in the west.
Ms Byrd said: “After that, for the remainder of this year, Mars will be in our sky at sunset, fading in brightness as the year draws to a close, but still … a sight to see.”
For example, on October 10, the planet will already sit above the eastern horizon by 6.40pm BST.
You can use an online tool like Stellarium to find out when and where the planet will be visible from your location.
Simply pick you home town and look up Mars in the search bar.
Stellarium will then show you a projection of the night sky and all the celestial bodies of interest you should be able to see.
Just keep in mind poor, cloudy weather and light pollution can hinder your efforts.
Ms Byrd said: “Now is the time to start watching Mars. When you spot it, keep your eye on its, and enjoy its brightness.”
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