Solar Soirée

Earth will find herself between the Sun and Mars this coming Tuesday, April 8th. A few days later, Earth will be closer to Mars than she's been in over six years, resulting in some extraordinary views of Mars (a.k.a. the Red Planet). Don't miss out!

mars red planet
Photo via MSN News

Explanation Please!
Earth and Mars circle the Sun along different orbits. Earth takes 365 days to complete its orbit around the Sun and Mars takes 687. This means the planets spend most of their time in different positions relative to the Sun at varying distances from one another. However, about every two years their positions align, which brings Earth and Mars into relatively close proximity. This is when the planets are on their closest approach and we Earthlings get the best possible views of the Red Planet.

What, When, Where?
April is the best time to look for Mars anyways, but the two dates you want to pay extra attention to this year are Tuesday, April 8th and Monday, April 14th. This Tuesday is when Earth will be passing between Mars and the Sun. Next Monday will be the time when Earth and Mars are closest to one another. That night is the one you especially don't want to miss out on because Mars will be at its biggest in over six years and it will coincide with a total lunar eclipse. Not only that, but the Moon and Mars will actually appear beside each other and blazing red in the night sky. This will be the first total lunar eclipse visible from North America since December 2011!

You will be able to spot Mars coming up over the Eastern horizon around sunset for most of April. Mars should be easy to spot throughout the whole night. Make sure to look for the orange-red spot shining bright. NASA has also stated that during the middle of the month, "the full moon will be gliding by the Red Planet in the constellation Virgo" throughout the night, "providing a can't-miss landmark in the midnight sky." Read on >