Behold: Mars. Right there – wandering along through the constellation Taurus, close (in the sky) to the Seven Sisters or Pleiades star cluster. To wit:
In fact, this deep, widefield view of the region captures Mars near its closest conjunction to the Pleiades on March 3. Below centre, Mars is the bright yellowish celestial beacon only about 3 degrees from the pretty blue star cluster. Competing with Mars in colour and brightness, Aldebaran is the alpha star of Taurus. The red giant star is toward the lower left edge of the frame, a foreground star along the line-of-sight to the more distant Hyades star cluster. Otherwise too faint for your eye to see, the dark, dusty nebulae lie along the edge of the massive Perseus molecular cloud, with the striking reddish glow of NGC 1499, the California Nebula, at the upper right.
One shot containing three very famous, very different celestial objects captured last month over Turkey. To wit:
On the upper left is the bright blue Pleiades, perhaps the most famous cluster of stars on the night sky. The Pleiades (M45) is about 450 light years away and easily found a few degrees from Orion. On the upper right is the expansive Andromeda Galaxy, perhaps the most famous galaxy — external to our own — on the night sky. Andromeda (M31) is one of few objects visible to the unaided eye where you can see light that is millions of years old. In the middle is bright red Mars, perhaps the most famous planet on the night sky. [On Tuesday] Mars [was] at opposition, meaning that [was] is opposite the Sun, with the result that it [was] visible all night long. In the foreground is an ancient tomb in the Phygrian Valley in Turkey. The tomb, featuring two stone lions, is an impressive remnant of a powerful civilization that lived thousands of years ago. Mars, currently [just past] its brightest, can be easily found toward the east just after sunset.
(Image: Cem Özkeser)
If you were looking up at the sky last evening, you’ll have seen the Red Planet as bright and close as it’s been to the Earth for two years. To wit:
In a week, Mars will be almost as bright — but at opposition, meaning that it will be directly opposite the Sun. Due to the slightly oval shape of the orbits of Mars and Earth, closest approach and opposition occur on slightly different days. The featured image sequence shows how the angular size of Mars has grown during its approach over the past few months. Noticeably orange, Mars is now visible nearly all night long, reflecting more sunlight toward Earth than either Saturn or Jupiter. Even at its closest and largest, though, Mars will still appear about 100 times smaller, in diameter, than a full moon.
(Image: Jonathan T. Grayson)
Mars reappears from behind the Moon last Sunday. To wit:
Of course to reappear it had to disappear in the first place. It did that over an hour earlier when the sunlit southern edge of the waning gibbous Moon passed in front of the Red Planet as seen from Maceio, Brazil. The lunar occultation came as the Moon was near apogee, about 400,000 kilometers away. Mars was almost 180 times more distant. It was the fourth lunar occultation of Mars visible from planet Earth in 2020. Visible from some southern latitudes, the fifth lunar occultation of Mars in 2020 will take place on October 3 when the Moon and Mars are both nearly opposite the Sun in planet Earth’s sky.
Remember last month when Saturn did this?
(Image: David Duarte and Romualdo Caldas)
Ah, there you are. To wit:
…the Moon occasionally moves in front of all of the Solar System‘s planets. Just this past Sunday, as visible from some locations in South America, a waning gibbous Moon eclipsed Mars. The featured image from Córdoba, Argentina captured this occultation well, showing a familiar cratered Moon in the foreground with the bright planet Mars unusually adjacent. Within a few seconds, Mars then disappeared behind the Moon, only to reappear a few minutes later across the Moon. Today the Moon moves close to, but not in front of, Venus. Because alignments will not have changed by much, the next two times the Moon passes through this part of the sky – in early September and early October – it will also occult Mars, as seen from parts of South America.
(Image: Sergio Scauso)
Sunset: as seen from Earth and from Mars. To wit:
For comparison, two images of our common star were taken at sunset, one from Earth and one from Mars. These images were scaled to have same angular width and featured here side-by-side. A quick inspection will reveal that the Sun appears slightly smaller from Mars than from Earth. This makes sense since Mars is 50% further from the Sun than Earth. More striking, perhaps, is that the Martian sunset is noticeably bluer near the Sun than the typically orange colours near the setting Sun from Earth. The reason for the blue hues from Mars is not fully understood, but thought to be related to forward scattering properties of Martian dust. The terrestrial sunset was taken in 2012 March from Marseille, France, while the Martian sunset was captured in 2015 by NASA‘s robotic Curiosity rover from Gale crater on Mars. Last week a new rover and a helicopter — onboard Mars 2020 — launched for Mars.
A rocket trail (captured from a small plane) against the morning sky above Florida’s ‘Space Coast’ yesterday. To wit:
It was July’s third launch of a mission from planet Earth bound for Mars. The Atlas V rocket left Cape Canaveral Air Force Station from Space Launch Complex 41 at 7:50am EDT carrying NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover. The car-sized Perseverance is headed for a landing at Jezero Crater on the Red Planet in February 2021. On board the sophisticated rover is the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter.
(Image: John Kraus)