"Mars at Opposition this Week!  Closest and Brightest since 1990!"

Scheduled air date: 1999 Apr 19-25

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Click on the above image to see an animated QuickTime® presentation! (372 KB)
On April 24th, Mars will reach its best opposition—a point in its orbit opposite the Sun, as seen from Earth—of the decade.  At this time, Mars presents a fully-illuminated face (like a Full Moon), and is also at about its closest approach to Earth.  For these reasons, Mars appears brighter to us now than at any other point in its orbit.

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You can find Mars by looking East-Southeast about an hour after Sunset.  It will be the bright reddish-orange "star," which forms the lower left corner of a triangle with two bright stars, blue-white Spica and orange Arcturus.
(Shown for mid-Northern latitudes.  Mars' position is correct for April 24th, but will only change slightly several days before and after this date.))

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Click on the above image to see an animated QuickTime® presentation! (1004 KB)
Mars is presently in retrograde—or backward—motion relative to the stars.  It will appear to move closer to Spica until the first week of June, and then will return to its normal direction of movement and begin moving more quickly (as seen from Earth) toward a September 17th rendezvous with the reddish-orange star Antares.
(The gray regions in the lower left corner of this view are part of the Milky Way.)

If you wish to view illustrations for other episodes, please see our Star Gazer Illustrated directory.

Illustrations on this page were created using TheSky Astronomy Software, an advanced desktop planetarium program designed for Windows.

Copyright © 1999-2006 by Software Bisque, Inc.