The planet will be visible at night throughout October, rising to its highest level in the sky around midnight each evening. It will shine in the east every evening and in the west before dawn.
But Mars doesn’t always look like this. So why is Mars so bright?
The red planet is approaching Earth at 10:18 a.m. ET on October 6. Mars will be 38,586,816 miles from Earth – yes, that’s close to Mars – and it won’t be close again until 2035.Mars in 2003 took its closest approach to Earth in 60,000 years, approaching 34.65 million miles.
Next week, Earth will swing between Mars and the Sun.
Mars and Earth do not orbit the Sun in perfect circles or even on the same plane. Instead, the planets have elliptical orbits in the form of ellipses.
For example, while Earth takes only 365 days to complete an orbit around the Sun, Mars takes 687 days. When the Earth gets closer to the Sun, Mars moves away from it.
Currently, NASA’s Perseverance spacecraft is traveling through space on its way to land on Mars in February 2021. It is one of several missions en route to Mars, including the Emirati Hope probe and China’s Tianwen-1 probe.
Watch Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn
In addition to the beautifully shining planet Mars, look for other planets that illuminate the sky.
Venus, the third-brightest object in the night sky after the sun and moon, is still brighter than Mars – it only appears in the morning.
Mars beats Jupiter throughout October.
But once Mars fades from view, Jupiter will be one of the brightest objects in the evening sky, and Saturn will also be visible in the east of Jupiter.
The pairing officially occurs on December 21, 2020, but both planets are now visible in close proximity to each other and will be for the rest of the year in the night sky.
Jupiter eclipses the stars, while Saturn gives off a bright golden glow.
During the last major conjunction in 2000, the two giants were close to the Sun from our perspective on Earth, making them difficult to see.
The reason this conjunction is so rare is due to the orbits of these giant planets – it takes Jupiter 12 years on Earth to complete one orbit around the sun, and it takes Saturn 30 years.
And every 20 years, Jupiter joins Saturn from our perspective on Earth.
So take advantage of this rare opportunity to see both up close in the night sky.
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