Mars Near Earth Tonight

Here’s some exciting news for those who are interested in astronomy. According to this National Geographic news item I read today, we should be able to get a really good look at the planet Mars tonight! That’s because it will be closer to Earth than usual – only 61 million miles away. This is the closest it will be to Earth until 2014.

The cool thing is, we won’t need a huge telescope to get a good view. If you have a small telescope (6 inches), you should be able to see Mars’ polar ice caps and surface features. With a pair of binoculars, it should look like a disk, rather than appearing like a star. I have a small pair of binoculars, so I’m looking forward to having a look at it when I get home from work tonight.

Also, on January 29, Mars will be reach opposition. This means it will be on the opposite side of the Earth from the Sun. That night it will rise in the East while the Sun sets in the West resulting in Mars being visible all night.

If you go to The Orbit of Mars you can see an animation of Earth and Mars in their orbits around the Sun.

Let me know in the comments if you are able to see it, and your impressions.

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