Mars will burn bright in the sky tonight as it reaches opposition

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Ultra realisic 3d rendering of Mars and Milky way in the backround. Image uses large 46k textures for detailed appereance of the planet surface. Elements of this image furnished by NASA.
Mars will burn brightly in the sky as it reaches opposition (Getty/NASA)

Mars will shine in the sky on Tuesday night as the planet lines up with Earth, looking big and bright as it reaches “opposition”.

Every 26 months, the two planets move close together, until Earth lines up with Mars on the same side of the sun. 

Tuesday night sees the moment of opposition, with the planets lining up at just after 11pm. 

At that point, Mars should be visible to the south east from the UK, astrophotographer Damian Peach told the BBC. 

Peach said, “Even at nine or 10 o’clock in the evening, you’ll easily see it over in the southeast. You can’t miss it, it’s the brightest star-like object in that part of the sky.”

The Red Planet actually made its closest approach to our planet on 6 October, when it was 38,586,816 miles away from Earth (very close, for Mars).

Read more: Astronomers find better planets for life than Earth

But at opposition, it looks bigger and brighter, NASA explained.  

“During opposition, Mars and the sun are on directly opposite sides of Earth. From our perspective on our spinning world, Mars rises in the east just as the sun sets in the west,” NASA said.

“Then, after staying up in the sky the entire night, Mars sets in the west just as the sun rises in the east. Since Mars and the sun appear on opposite sides of the sky, we say that Mars is in ‘opposition’.”

NASA takes advantage of close approaches of Mars to launch new missions to the planet, with its new Perseverance rover launching this summer.

In 2003, Mars made its closest approach to Earth in 60,000 years, coming within 34.65 million miles of us.

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Katahdin Woods and Waters to celebrate dark sky designation in virtual event

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PATTEN, Maine — A new moon over Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument on Oct. 15 will allow the darkest skies in the Northeastern United States to be absent of moonlight, making thousands of stars and the Milky Way galaxy visible to the naked eye.

To mark the occurrence, the Friends of Katahdin Woods and Waters organization will hold its seventh annual Stars Over Katahdin event, along with a new organization, Dark Sky Maine. It won’t be held at the monument as in years past, but will be virtual, meeting the same fate of other events during the time of COVID-19.

While moving the stargazing to online is a setback for something usually held around campfires, outdoors and away from internet reception, the event is also highlighted this year by Katahdin Woods and Waters being designated as an International Dark Sky Sanctuary by the International Dark Sky Association, or IDA.

“We’re going to take the same campfire chats we had before, and we’ll bring them to people’s homes,” said Andrew Bossie, the executive director of Friends of Katahdin. “We’ll also give tips on how folks can interpret the night skies themselves.”

Founded in 1988, the IDA is a nonprofit organization that works on protecting areas with visible views of the night sky from light pollution, light from cities and other manmade structures that can obscure the brightness of stars.

Katahdin Woods and Waters’ designation marks the first such location along the East Coast of the United States.

“You have to submit a whole series of night sky readings showing how dark it is,” Tim Hudson, superintendent of the monument, said. “You have to be below certain numbers to be able to do this. So people have been taking readings out there over the years, and that’s how you build it

Mars At Its Brightest Since 2003 As Moon Visits Venus. What You Can See In The Night Sky This Week

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Each week I pick out the northern hemisphere’s celestial highlights (mid-northern latitudes) for the week ahead, but be sure to check my main feed for more in-depth articles on stargazing, astronomy and eclipses. 

What To Watch For In The Night Sky This Week: October 12-18, 2020

This week it’s all about Mars, which will look its biggest, brightest and best in post-sunset skies since 2018 and, technically speaking, since 2003.

However, it’s also a week where the Moon wanes towards its New phase, meaning dark skies at night, gorgeous crescents in the early pre-dawn mornings early in the week, and in early evenings from Sunday. 

MORE FROM FORBESWhat’s That Really Bright ‘Star’ In The Night Sky?

Tuesday, October 13, 2020: Mars at opposition

Tonight the red planet reaches opposition, a moment when the Earth is between it and the Sun. It’s therefore at its biggest and brightest. It’s also visible all night, rising at dusk in the easy and setting at dawn in the west.

The opposition of Mars happens roughly every two years, though technically speaking, Mars is tonight bigger and brighter than at any time since 2003. 

MORE FROM FORBESYour Stargazing Guide To Fall: One ‘Halloween Blue Moon,’ Two Eclipses And A Once-In-397 Years Sight

Wednesday, October 14, 2020: Crescent Moon and Venus

Look east about an hour before sunrise this morning and you’ll see the glorious sight of a very bright 76%-illuminated planet Venus shining 4.3° above a delicate 1% illuminated crescent Moon.

Such a Moon is often called “the New Moon in the Old Moon’s arms.” You may

Look up! That bright orange-y ‘star’ in the night sky is actually Mars

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Mars is putting on quite a show for skywatchers this month.

For most of October, Mars will be brighter in the night sky than anything else in its vicinity, offering people a clear view of the red planet. Mars is also days away from reaching “opposition,” a celestial alignment in which Earth, Mars and the sun form a straight line in space, with Earth in the middle.

Mars will be at opposition Oct. 13. On that day, Mars will rise as the sun sets, reach its peak in the night sky at midnight, and then set as the sun rises again. If it’s a clear night, skywatchers can expect the red planet to outshine anything else in its region of the sky.

Mars oppositions typically occur every 26 months. Since Earth is closer to the sun, it circles the star two times in roughly the time it takes Mars to complete one orbit. Oppositions can occur at any point in Mars’ orbit, according to NASA, but occasionally the alignments happen around the time when Mars is closest to the sun, as is the case this year.

Mars reached the point in its orbit when it was closest to the sun — an orbital event known as perihelion — on Aug. 3. When it aligns with the sun and Earth several weeks later, it’s known as “perihelic oppositions.” These events are considered rare because they only occur once every 15 or 17 years, according to NASA.

The best way to see Mars is to head outside in the early evening and gaze just above the horizon in the eastern sky. If conditions are clear, Mars will be the brightest object in that region of the sky, appearing as a distinct, reddish-orange “star.”

Mars will be visible to the naked eye for

Meteorite Lights up Sky Above Mexico As Hurricane Delta Hits and Earthquakes Strike Country

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A fireball was spotted in the night sky above north-eastern Mexico on Tuesday, as Hurricane Delta made landfall in the Yucatán Peninsula and several minor earthquakes struck the country.

The fireball was most visible above the states of Nuevo León, Coahuila and Tamaulipas, which border the U.S., around 10:14 p.m. local time, according to the Global Atmospheric Monitoring Agency—part of Mexico’s Institute of Geological and Atmospheric Research.

Some amazed eyewitnesses—as well as some security cameras, webcams and doorbell camss—managed to capture footage of the fireball as it blazed through the atmosphere.

Cameras in Monterrey—the state capital of Nuevo León—captured images of the fireball briefly illuminating the night sky above the city.

Fireballs are unusually bright meteors—the streaks of light that appear in the sky when small pieces of asteroids or comets enter the Earth’s atmosphere and burn up. If these objects avoid completely disintegrating and manage to reach the ground they are known as meteorites.

Local reports suggest that the meteorite fell near Ciudad Victoria, the capital of the state of Tamaulipas. Mexican news outlet Milenio reported that the meteorite set fire to bushes in the area where it fell, with local firefighter teams responding to the incident.

The fall of the meteorite came as Hurricane Delta made landfall in Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, bringing winds of around 110 miles per hour.

The Category 2 hurricane struck the coast in between the popular tourist resorts of Cancún and Playa del Carmen, accordion to the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC.)

The NHC has said that Delta will bring a “life-threatening storm surge” and “dangerous winds” to parts of the northern Yucatán into early Wednesday morning. This could lead to significant flash flooding that will affect the northern part of the peninsula through early Thursday.

fireball, meteorite
Stock image showing an artist’s illustration of a