NASA announced that the planet Mars, will visible in the night sky tonight, and any time during the month of April on a clear night. This will be the first time in six and a half years that the planet will shine bright enough in the sky to view. As the sun sets in the west, Mars will rise in the eastern sky at the same time. The red planet will be directly positioned opposite to the sun in our night sky.
The visibility of the red planet in our night sky is also due to the fact that Mars will be orbiting closer to Earth than it normally does. Mars has not been this close to us since December of 2007. Mars will be only 92 million kilometers away from the Earth. To out this into context, the Sun and the Earth are 150 million kilometers away from each other. The red planet will actually be the closest to Earth on April 14, however, it will appear the same the rest of the month.
Not just tonight, but anytime during the month of April, NASA confirms that Mars will look bigger and brighter in the night sky. The planet will appear a bright yellow-orange color. It is also reported that the northern polar cap of Mars is made up of water and ice, and this will make part of the planet appear white. If the night is free of clouds, it should be fairly easy to locate. The planet will be the brightest body in the eastern sky. An easy way to find the planet is to locate the big dipper, then follow the arc in the handle, which points to Mars, which is just below it.
Many people are excited about The Blood Moon, which will appear in the night sky on April 14 and 15. However, Mars will be visible before and after the Blood Moon is able to view. Tonight’s view, April 11, is called opposition and it only happens once every 26 months. Opposition is when the sun and Mars are sitting opposite of each other in our night sky. The next opposition will not happen until May 22, 2016. This time, however, Mars will be brighter than it has been in seven years.
To see Mars anytime during the month of April, NASA recommends just going out on a clear night and looking upward. The red planet will be visible after sunset, but it reaches its highest point in the sky at one in the morning. There are also many websites, which will feature Mars through telescopes and make it easier to see. The astronomy website Slooh will also be featuring a live view of the planet via a telescope in the Canary Islands, to give people a better view. NASA confirms that April will be an exciting month for night sky gazers, as not only the Blood Moon will be visible for a few days, but also the red planet Mars will be visible for the entire month.
Opinion By Sara Petersen