Mars will appear bigger, redder, and brighter tonight before dimming for another 25 years

Mars will appear brightest over Earth's skies on October 13NASA/Mars Pathfinder
  • The Red Planet was closest to the Earth on October 6 but will appear the brightest tonight, on October 13.
  • Mars will be at opposition — directly opposite the Sun — making it shine along Earth’s horizon in the Northern Hemisphere.
  • Mars’ opposition year is notable because the planet will also be at its perihelion — the closet point to the Sun in its orbit around the fiery star.
Mars will be at its brightest tonight, on October 13. And the Red Planet will not appear this bright again for another 25 years, until 2035.

It is because Mars will be at opposition, according to Sky and Telescope. What this essentially means is, the planet is directly opposite the Sun in the sky. And, Earth is bang in the middle between the two.

Diagram of Mars at opposition. The Red Planet is exactly opposite to the Sun with the Eath in between.NASA

On the day, Mars will also be at its maximum apparent size when viewed through telescopes. This is despite the fact that Mars and Earth were actually at their closest — merely 62 million kilometers apart — two days ago, on October 6.

This year’s opposition is incredibly unique because the Red Planet will also be at the point in its orbit closest to the Sun called the perihelion. Mars reached this point of its non-round orbit on August 3 and has slowly been moving away since.

How to see Mars when it’s at its brightest
Two years ago, Mars was somewhat closer to Earth than this year — around 58 million kilometers versus the current 62 million kilometers.

Nonetheless, sky gazers in the Northern Hemisphere will be in a better position to catch a glimpse. The Red Planet will be farther north and higher in the sky this year.

You can catch the planet streak across Earth’s skies without necessarily needing a telescope. Just step outside during the evening and look east. Mars will be easy to spot as the brightest object in that part of the horizon appearing as a campfire-orange ‘star’.

Mars will appear as the brightest red star along the horizon on October 13NASA

At around midnight, it will rise high towards the south. With a telescope, astronomers will be able to peer close enough to study the planet’s surface features.

After October 13, Mars will rise earlier and earlier in the evening before gradually beginning to fade. By the end of November, Mars will be only a quarter as bright.

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