Wednesday, February 8, 2012

For a less challenging target than Uranus, check out Mars.

Mars is back!

About every 2 years, the Earth passes Mars on the inside track around the Solar System, and we arrive at our closest approach to Mars, when it appears at its brightest in the sky. Although this opposition won't be until the beginning of March, Mars is already bright and high by about 9pm local time. Given our recent cold and cloudy weather, I have not had a chance to see it yet this year. However, over the next few nights, the Moon will help us find Mars as it passes near, and Mars will be by far the brightest 'star' in the neighborhood, as shown in this chart from  S&T

Watch the Moon advance eastward past Regulus and Mars. (This scene is drawn for the middle of North America. European observers: move each Moon symbol a quarter of the way toward the one for the previous date. The blue 10° scale is about the size of your fist held at arm's length. For clarity, the Moon is shown three times actual size.)

As described in the caption, here in Israel, like Europe, we adjust the position of the Moon. Thus on Friday the 10th the Moon will be just below the position shown for the 9th and still be a good signpost.

Hopefully, I'll post more on Mars in the coming weeks.


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