Rare Astronomical Sighting in August 2018

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The Red Planet in our Solar System is at its closest to our Blue Marble during this period. This means it can be seen as brighter than some stars.

If you want the best timing for observing another planet, you’ll have to wait for it to be collinear to Earth and away from the Sun, which is just the case with Mars now.

Even better is when the two astronomical rocks are relatively close to each other.

Once every 15 years, our orbit comes close to the one of Mars, because our planet is at its farthest distance from the sun and Mars’s is at its closest. This means the planet will appear as a very shiny, large object rising from the East.

How come the Red Planet will be seen so close to our horizon?

This is a result of the fact that planets showing up during the summer nights over the Northern hemisphere have to b opposite the Sun. Despite that, the best conditions for observing another planet would be ensured by that planet being above our heads, instead of being looked at through hundreds of miles of air.

The last time this phenomena happened

In 2003, the last time when this phenomenon happened before 2018, people rumored that Mars would be seen as big as the Moon. This is due to the fact that a magazine wrote such a title, with the added “through the telescope”. When retelling the news, people just left that last part out.

Viewing a “full Mars”

Looking up at the sky through a telescope, the Red Planet will cover as much of the sky as the Moon does with the naked eye, which is about 24.4 seconds.

How to measure angles in the night sky

You can use your little finger at arm’s length to cover the shape of the Moon. That means, because the Moon’s diameter is around 30 arc-seconds, that your finger’s width covers just about as much.

Looking at the phenomena using an optical enhancer

Because the planet is much smaller than its relatives (take Saturn for instance), the naked eye will have a hard time observing the details on the planet. Even though a 100x telescope, seeing detail is an issue. Because of this, it would be best to catch a glimpse of “full Mars”, before the end of October, when the phenomena ends.

But anyhow, if you know where to look, Mars is quite a sight every night, moving to the East, unlike Saturn and Jupiter, which move to the West every night.

As our second lead editor, Anna C. Mackinno provides guidance on the stories Great Lakes Ledger reporters cover. She has been instrumental in making sure the content on the site is clear and accurate for our readers. If you see a particularly clever title, you can likely thank Anna. Anna received a BA and and MA from Fordham University.