WRAL WeatherCenter Blog

'Opposition' will make Mars big and bright Tuesday night

Posted April 8, 2014

Every two years, Mars reaches a point on its orbit called opposition – when the planet lies directly opposite the sun and Earth.

With skies clearing late Tuesday, Triangle stargazers should be able to see Mars in most areas without a telescope.

Mars will rise Tuesday evening just a few minutes before sunset (7:43 p.m.), remain visible all night and set just a few minutes after sunrise (Wednesday, 6:50 a.m.).

Mars will appear bigger during the next opposition in May 2016 and even bigger on July 27, 2018. The brightness varies because the orbits vary and are not perfect circles.

Despite its visibility, Mars still remains 0.62 AU (57.74 million miles) from Earth, so stargazers won't be able to make out features of the red planet.

Tony Rice, a volunteer in the NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador program and software engineer at Cisco Systems, contributed to this blogpost. You can follow him on Twitter @rtphokie.


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  • brandondaniel08 Apr 15, 2014


  • Christopher Byrne Apr 15, 2014
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    "Unless they can guarantee that we will see werewolves, or zombies out wandering around, I couldn't care less." - NCPRR1

    How sad not to appreciate such an awesome natural phenomenon. Too bad it was cloudy.

  • stymieindurham Apr 8, 2014

    (Blood Moons) Of course it has nothing to do with the various gods and spirits man has created.

    Man's continued fool hearted attempt at explaining God's universe. Sad . . . . .

  • Obamacare returns again Apr 8, 2014

    View quoted thread

    The zombie apocalypse is near. Save yourselves now while you still can folks!!

  • Nope Apr 8, 2014

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    Yeah I have the star walk on my iphone and iPad. It is a neat app.

  • Kenny Dunn Apr 8, 2014
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    You certain about that? Many on these forums don't trust science.

  • rduwxboy Apr 8, 2014

    There is a full lunar eclipse next Monday night too!

  • tsquaring Apr 8, 2014


  • Lightfoot3 Apr 8, 2014

    "I'm more interested in the blood red moons" - tsquaring

    Funny stuff! The color of the moon depends on the particulates in the atmosphere a the time. Big volcanic eruptions for example, tend to give us redder or darker lunar eclipses. Of course it has nothing to do with the various gods and spirits man has created. Eclipses are a matter of physics and science, not religion or prophesy. They were occurring long before the first god was invented.

    But I will admit, an eclipse can be more exciting than a planetary opposition. :)

  • Lightfoot3 Apr 8, 2014

    Look toward the east after sunset. Mars will be "big" and bright, and hard to miss. But don't confuse it with the orange colored star Arcturus, in the east northeast. As the article said, this isn't one of the better oppositions, but it's still better than the last six or so years.

    However, the article is wrong in saying you can't make out any features. The northern polar cap and albedo features are visible, in even small telescopes. And you don't just have to observe on the opposition date. Mars will be about the same apparent size all month long.