Science

Watch Mars Opposition Join the Full Moon in the Sky Tonight (December 7th)

On Wednesday evening (December 7) and early Thursday morning (December 8), Mars will be directly opposite the Sun in the sky at an astronomical position called opposition. Mars will be in the constellation of Taurus, at opposition, and will be visible most of the night, culminating around midnight local time around the world.

Skywatchers in New York City will see this arrangement around 4:55 pm EST on December 7 (21:35 GMT), when it rises 7 degrees above the horizon to the northeast, according to In the Sky. (will open in a new tab). The red planet will reach its highest point in the sky at an altitude of 74 degrees above the southern horizon around 23:41 EST (0441 GMT). After that, Mars at Opposition will disappear from view on Thursday morning (December 8) when it drops below 7 degrees above the NW horizon and disappears from view at approximately 6:27 AM EST (1127 GMT) . (The width of your fist at arm’s length is about 10 degrees across the sky.)

Today’s opposition of the Red Planet also coincides with the rising of the full Cold Moon, the last full moon of 2022, as well as the eclipse of Mars by the Moon, which is visible from many parts of the globe. Check out our guide to viewing times and locations to see if you can witness an eclipse where you happen to be. If you can’t see the event in person, you can still watch the lunar eclipse of Mars online for free thanks to several webcasts from observatories around the world.

Related: What time will the full moon eclipse Mars on December 7th?

Mars is in opposition due to how the solar system will be set up tonight. Mars, Earth and the Sun will be in a straight line with our planet and the Red Planet on the same side of our star. Earth will be in the middle of Mars and the Sun, allowing the planet to appear illuminated by the sun from our point of view.

During opposition, Mars will also make its closest approach to Earth, known as its perigee. This means that it will appear brighter and larger than usual in the night sky.

An illustration of the December 7 night sky showing a full Cold Moon approaching Mars. (Image credit: Sky Safari Astronomy)

While many planets in the solar system become somewhat brighter and larger as they approach our planet, for Mars this effect is most extreme. The red planet exhibits the largest changes in its apparent size and brightness during perigee, with its angular size increasing by a factor of seven.

This large change in the appearance of Mars is due to the fact that the distance between Mars and Earth has a much greater range, from about 250 million miles (401 million kilometers) at the farthest place to about 33.5 million miles (54 million km) at the closest. . The average distance between Earth, the third planet in the solar system, and Mars, the fourth planet from the Sun, is about 140 million miles (225 million kilometers).

Since Mars spends most of its time away from us, the time when its orbit brings it closer to our planet and is opposite the Sun in the sky gives skywatchers the perfect opportunity to observe the Red Planet.

According to NASA (will open in a new tab), Mars oppositions occur about every 26 months when the Red Planet rises in the east and the sun sets in the west; after opposition, Mars sets in the west on the morning of December 8, when the sun rises in the east. Mars will appear large and bright for only a few weeks around today’s astronomical event. Mars will next be in opposition in January 2025.

Although Mars at opposition will be visible to the naked eye, skywatchers will need the help of a telescope to see the Red Planet as more than a speck of light. If you need a telescope, or even binoculars, be sure to read our guides to the best binoculars and the best telescopes for viewing Mars at opposition and other celestial spectacles. For the best pictures of Mars, don’t miss our recommendations for the best cameras for astrophotography and the best lenses for astrophotography.

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

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