Mars opposition 2020: How to witness Red Planet at its biggest and brightest tomorrow
Mars will be easily visible from Earth as our homeworld will be passing directly between the Red Planet and the Sun. Mars opposition 2020 will mark the closest the major planet will come to Earth until 2036. According to Dr Elizabeth Pearson, the gloomy forecast for the rest of the week should cause no obstacle for stargazers planning an outing to bask in the sight of the Red Planet.
Speaking to BBC Today, Dr Pearson said: “That’s actually ok, the fact that the weather doesn’t look terribly great for today, tomorrow or even the rest of the week.
“Because Mars is going to be sticking around for a while, it’s still going to be relatively close, it’s still going to be relatively bright in the sky.
“Until mid-November, you should, as long as there is a clear night, you should get the chance to see it.”
She continued: “If you look towards the east, Mars rises in the early evening, around sunset.
“If you don’t have a clear view, you’re probably going to want to wait an hour or two for it to have actually risen up over the landscape a bit.
“And if you look towards the east in the early evening, what you should see is a bright point of light. You can usually tell that it’s Mars because it does actually have a rather red colour…that’s why we call it the Red Planet.”
Dr Pearson added: “Also, if you look around that area, if you do manage to pinpoint Mars, you may even manage to pinpoint one or two other bright spots that are brighter than the stars surrounding it and those are actually Jupiter and Saturn.
“So if you look to the east in the early evening, you should actually be able to see a bunch of planets.”
Explaining the concept of opposition, US space agency NASA said: “From our perspective on our spinning world, Mars rises in the east just as the Sun sets in the west.
“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.'”
They added: “When it happens while the Red Planet is closest to the Sun – called ‘perihelic opposition’ – Mars is particularly close to Earth.
“If Earth and Mars both had perfectly stable orbits, then each perihelic opposition would bring the two planets as close as they can be. That’s almost the way it is.”