October is the best month for viewing the planet Mars until September of 2035.This is a true color image of Mars taken by the OSIRIS instrument on the ESA Rosetta spacecraft during its 2007 February 24 fly-by of the planet, from a distance of about 149,129.1 statute miles / 240 000 kilometers.
(Image Sources: European Space Agency, Wikipedia.org, By ESA & MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/RSSD/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA, CC BY-SA IGO 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0-igo, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=56489423)
By Glenn A. Walsh
Reporting for SpaceWatchtower
October is the best month to view the planet Mars, due to its closeness to Earth, until September of 2035.
Tuesday (October 13) at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Saving Time (EDT) / 23:00 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) will mark the closest Opposition of Mars, when Earth will lie directly between Mars and the Sun. At Opposition, Mars will rise in the eastern sky approximately at local sunset, stay in the sky all night long, and set in the west approximately at local sunrise.
Actually, Mars came the closest to Earth on October 6 at 10:18 a.m. EDT / 14:18 UTC, when the distance between Earth and Mars was about 38.57 million statute miles / 62.07 million kilometers.
Although Mars is not quite as close as
will be in 2035, or that it was in 2003 or 2018, it is still close
enough for a good show in the sky. This is a good time to take a look at Mars, whether with the naked-eyes (one-power), or observing more detail on the Martian surface with binoculars or a telescope.
So, starting Tuesday (October 13), people can view Mars just about any time once it gets dark, weather-permitting of course. The best time to look for Mars is low in the eastern sky shortly after sunset (as Mars begins to rise). Or, you can look low in the southern sky in the middle of the night (as Mars appears to travel from east to west in the night sky), or low in the western sky just before sunrise (as Mars begins set).
This month, Mars, with an apparent visual magnitude of -2.6, will be the brightest object in the night sky, other than the Moon and the planet Venus. It will even be a little brighter than the planet Jupiter (at about apparent visual magnitude of -2.3), for this month.
You may need a higher elevation, with few obstructions such as trees, buildings, and hills, to see Mars. For most of this month Mars will be approximately +5 degrees declination, north of the celestial equator. But, as mentioned, it will be one of the brightest objects in the night sky this month, glowing with a reddish-orange tint. So, when you do find it, you will, likely, be sure it is Mars.
Close approaches between Earth and Mars occur about every two years, due to the different orbits of the two planets around the Sun. While Earth takes 365.256 days to travel around the Sun, Mars takes 686.98 Earth days / 1.88 Earth years to complete one solar orbit.
Not every close approach of Mars is as
close as others. Mars' distance from the Sun varies quite a bit, depending on where Mars is located in its solar orbit. When Mars is closest to the Sun (as it is this month), and at the same time close to the Earth, these are the times when Mars is the closest in distance to the Earth.
Many people may remember the close approach in 2003, when Mars came closer to Earth than it had in 60,000 years. On 2003 August 27, Earth and Mars were only 34.65 million statute miles / 55.76 million kilometers apart.
Two years ago on 2018 July 31, Mars was almost as close as in 2003. At that time Mars came within 35.78 million statute miles / 57.59 kilometers of the Earth.
Set your calendars: Mars will not be closer than in 2003 until 2287 August 28, when it will approach Earth from a distance of 34.60 statute miles / 55.69 kilometers.
The end of this month will mark the 82nd anniversary of the famous radio broadcast, The War of the Worlds. It was on the evening of 1938 October 30, the day before the Cross-Quarter Day of Halloween, that the CBS radio's Mercury Theater on the Air, presented a radio adaptation of the famous H.G. Wells 1898 novel, The War of the Worlds.
Directed and narrated by actor and future filmmaker Orson Welles, the radio drama began as fictional news bulletins regarding the landing in central New Jersey of invaders from the planet Mars. Occurring one day before Halloween, and with war threatening in Europe (less than a year before the beginning of World War II), this radio broadcast caused a public panic as few people heard the disclaimer at the beginning of the program that this was a work of fiction.
Internet Links to Additional Information ---
Planet Mars: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars
NASA Missions to Mars: Link >>> https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/mars/main/index.html
More on 1938 Broadcast of The War of the Worlds:
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"For Students: Mars 2020 Name the Rover Essay Contest By Nov. 1."
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"Place Your Name on Mars 2020 Rover Microchip By This Monday, Sept. 30."
Thur., 2019 Sept. 26.
"Spring to Begin: Vernal Equinox on Earth Wednesday & on Mars Saturday!"
Wed., 2019 March 20.
"'War of the Worlds' Panic Broadcast: 75th Anniversary." Tue., 2013 Oct. 29.
Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower,
a project of Friends
of the Zeiss.
Monday, 2020 October 12.
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Formerly Astronomical Observatory Coordinator & Planetarium Lecturer, original Buhl Planetarium & Institute of Popular Science (a.k.a. Buhl Science Center), Pittsburgh's science & technology museum from 1939 to 1991.
Formerly Trustee, Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall, Pittsburgh suburb of Carnegie, Pennsylvania.
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
< http://www.planetarium.cc >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
< http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
< http://johnbrashear.tripod.com >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
< http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc >