Science

See Mars at its best in the night sky Wednesday (November 30)

On Wednesday (November 30), Mars will make its closest approach to Earth, getting bigger and brighter in the sky than usual, and offering skywatchers the perfect opportunity to observe the Red Planet.

While Mars is making a close approach known as perigee, the planet will become accessible around 5:43 pm EST (2243 GMT) in New York when it reaches an altitude of 7 degrees above the horizon to the northeast. In the sky (will open in a new tab). (If you hold your fist at arm’s length, your fist is about ten degrees across the sky.)

The red planet will reach its highest point, 74 degrees above the southern horizon, at 00:29 EST (05:29 GMT) on December 1, and then disappear in the light of dawn at around 6:38 AM EST (11 :38 GMT). 14 degrees above the horizon to the west.

The Virtual Telescope Project will be livestreaming Mars at perigee on Wednesday (November 30) starting at 3:00 pm EST (20:00 GMT) on the YouTube channel of the website.

Read more: Night sky November 2022: what to see tonight [maps]

During perigee, Mars will be in the constellation of Taurus and the Bull and will have a magnitude of -1.8. (The minus prefix indicates a particularly bright object in the night sky.)

During this close approach, Mars will pass within 0.54 space units (AU) of our planet. One astronomical unit is equal to the average distance between the Earth and the Sun, about 93 million miles (about 150 million kilometers). Mars revolves around the Sun at an average distance of 1.5 AU, and at its apogee (the greatest distance from the Earth) reaches a distance of 2.6 AU. According to InTheSky, the difference between a planet’s perigee and apogee is the largest in the solar system. (will open in a new tab).

Illustration of the orbits of Mars and Earth. (Image credit: NASA)

Mars reaches perigee when its orbit passes Earth, forming a line with the Sun and our planet in the middle. This means that during perigee, Mars appears almost opposite the Sun in the sky above the Earth.

When Mars is exactly opposite the Sun, it is described as being in opposition, and this astronomical position and perigee usually occur within a few days. They are not simultaneous due to the fact that Mars has a flat or elliptical orbit.

While about 50 million miles (80 million kilometers) might not seem very close, Mars is one of Earth’s closest neighbors in the solar system, meaning that perigee is enough to have a noticeable impact on how the Red Planet is seen from our planet.

Even though Mars approaches Earth on Wednesday, this perigee will not be the closest to our planet that the Red Planet has ever been. The closest Mars can theoretically approach Earth is 33.9 million miles (54.6 million km).

This has not yet happened, at least in human history, and the closest the two planets have come to each other since records began is 34.8 million miles (56 million kilometers) in August 2003.

NASA says Mars and Earth won’t get as close together until they make another close approach in 2237 over the next 215 years.

Editor’s Note: If you are photographing Mars during its close approach and would like to share it with Space.com readers, please send your photos, comments, name and location to spacephotos@.

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