MARS IS NOW BRIGHTER THAN SIRIUS: Mars is approaching Earth for one of its best apparitions since 2003. Earlier this week, the Red Planet crossed an important threshold. It is now brighter than Sirius, the brightest star in the sky. Amateur astronomers are capturing amazing images of Mars using ordinary telescopes, and the best is yet to come.
APPROACHING MARS: By the time you finish reading this sentence, you'll be 40 km closer to Mars.
Earth and Mars are converging for a close encounter this Fall, one of the best since 2003, and their separation is rapidly shrinking--negative 8 km/s as of Aug. 21st. You are literally approaching the Red Planet. Just this week the brightness of Mars surpassed that of Sirius, the brightest star in the sky. Suddenly, Mars is almost bright enough to see in daylight and an easy target for backyard telescopes.
"Lots of features are visible," he says. "Note how the southern polar ice cap has contracted and broken--a result of it being late springtime on that side of Mars."
The best is yet to come. By the night of closest approach on Oct. 6th (0.4149 AU), Mars will more than double in brightness again, outshining everything in the night sky except Venus and the Moon. Throughout this apparition, the south pole will remain tilted toward Earth, giving observers a good view of the breakup of the ice cap as Martian spring turns into summer.
Can't wait? Right now, a good time to look is just before daybreak when Mars is high in the southern sky. Keep watching as twilight creeps up the sky. The planet's burnt orange hue looks beautiful when surrounded by the day's first hint of morning blue: sky map.
Congratulations, you're now almost 500 km closer to the planet Mars.
Realtime Mars Photo Gallery
Space Weather News for August 2020