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  • Writer's picturesatyavrat singh

Watch the Moon visit the fiery-colored Mars on Friday evening (Oct 14)

Many people will undoubtedly wonder what the fiery-colored object that is burning below the moon is given its proximity to the moon.

Those who are outside on Friday, October 14 in the late evening hours will undoubtedly see a waning gibbous moon that is 74 percent lighted and only 2.5 days away from reaching its half or last quarter phase.

But there will also be another object, which will appear to hover to the lower right of the moon and light in the night sky like an orange luminary. That object is actually one of our planetary neighbors, Mars, rather than a star. Many people will undoubtedly wonder what the fiery-colored object that is burning below the moon is given its proximity to the moon.

In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if a few people dial their local police stations to report a UFO.

Mars will be in the sky all night during its upcoming opposition to the sun, which will take place in a little under eight weeks. Mars will rise at sunset, reach its maximum point in the south in the middle of the night, and set at sunrise. However, as of right now, Mars won't rise until shortly after 9 p.m. local daylight time, and it won't reach its peak until 5 a.m.

Mars comes into opposition on average every 2.2 years. However, not every Martian opponent is the same. In fact, watchers of Mars will find the oppositions later in this decade to be favorable. As the Earth-Mars orbital geometry becomes less favorable in the years to come, those who watched its breathtaking approach to within 35.78 million miles (57.58 million kilometers) of Earth in July 2018 will have to make do with steadily worse views of the red planet.

Mars will not approach Earth any closer than 59.7 million miles (96.1 million km) in 2025, 63 million miles (101.4 million km) in 2027, or 60.2 million miles (96.8 million km) in 2029, in striking contrast to 2018.

However, we still have one more "good" Mars before this period of weak years starts. Mars will make its closest approach to Earth until May 11, 2031 later this fall, on Nov. 30 at 9:17 p.m. EDT (0117 GMT on Dec. 1), coming to within 50.61 million miles (81.43 million km).

The moon will be closest to Mars on Friday, October 14 at 9:45 p.m. EDT (0145 GMT on October 15). It will be 2.9 degrees away. The moon and Mars will gradually become more farther away as the night goes on. Mars and the moon are currently more than 4 degrees apart, but by 5 a.m. they will actually be soaring high in the southern sky. (To measure the number of degrees in the sky, extend your arm and make a fist; the width of your fist is approximately equivalent to 10 degrees.

With the exception of Sirius, the Dog Star, Mars is currently the brightest star in the sky, shining at magnitude -0.9. (An item looks brighter to the eye when its magnitude is lower.) However, Mars will get noticeably brighter as it gets closer to Earth — by around 316,000 miles (509,000 km) per day. By Nov. 10, it will be more brilliant than Sirius, and by the night of Dec. 7, when it will be in opposition, it will have a peak magnitude of -1.9.

Edited by: Satyavrat Singh


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