Thursday, October 29, 2020
Oct. 29, 2020

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Mars is close, bright and visible to the naked eye


EUGENE, Ore. — With night skies expected to be clear for the next few day, Mars’ bright red luminance, visible to the naked eye, may lure Oregonians out of their house to see how it outshines nearby Jupiter.

The red planet is in a peak position of celestial brilliance now as Mars is in opposition with Earth. It’s a view of Mars that won’t be seen again until September 2035.

Planetary opposition is the point in which a planet is 180 degrees from the sun with Earth in between — the planet is opposite of the sun in our sky.

“Mars oppositions occur approximately every 25.5 months. Because of the two planets’ elliptical orbits, even at each opposition the distance between Earth and Mars can vary by almost 31 million miles,” said Jim Todd, Oregon Museum of Science and Industry director of Space Science Education.

To see the Martian planet most prominently in the night sky, it would be advantageous to seek sooner rather than later, even though it will be visible for the rest of 2020. Mars was closest to Earth on Oct. 6 at only 38.5 million miles away. In just a short time, the planet has moved .07 million miles and grows dimmer as it leaves opposition, Todd explained.

You don’t need a spacecraft to see Mars! You can’t miss it in the eastern sky just after sunset or toward the south by midnight local time. Today Mars is at opposition, meaning it’s positioned directly opposite the Sun, which makes it especially bright.

Lane County is forecasted to have a low pressure storm move in on Tuesday night, causing low visibility over much of the valley, however conditions will improve.