On 5th March, 2012 at 10.30p.m IST Planet Mars will be at 0.6737 AU = 100.78 million Km. The Minimum Distance of Mars to Earth is 55.7 Million km whereas Max. Distance is 401.3 Million Km. This close encounter is a consequence of the orbits of Mars-Earth occurred on 3rd March 2012.
Why Mars is Closest to Earth Now? What happened on 3rd/4th March?
On 3rd March 2012 at 20.10 UTC (4th March 1.40 a.m. as per IST) Planet Mars was at Opposition to Sun due to which it was directly opposite the Sun from our viewpoint on Earth. In other words during course its journey around Sun Planet Earth had a Faceoff with Planet Mars and it left its neighbor behind in the celestial race. Due to opposition Mars will be closest, biggest & brightest it can get for next two years. Mars oppositions happen about every 26 months
Further due to opposition Mars can be seen all through night. If one can see he/she would notice as Sun Sets in the West Mars will rise in the East. As Sunrises in the East Mars Sets in West.
Mars oppositions happen about every 26 months.
The Next “Opposition of Mars” will occur on 8 April, 2014 whereas next closest approach is on 14 April, 2014 whereas the last time it was Opposition was on 30th January, 2010.
What exactly is a phenomenon of Opposition means? What exactly will happened?
A planet is at opposition when it is directly opposite the Sun from our viewpoint on Earth. So on 4thMarch, 2012 Sun-Earth- Mars would be in opposite to each other from our perspective.
The result is that the object in question will be fully illuminated by the sun and appears disk-like. Importantly during opposition the planet in question would be at its closest approach and thus would appear more big and brighter than usual it can get in its orbit.
Can you give example of Opposition with other celestial bodies?
We see a great example of an opposition every month. Whenever there is a full moon, the moon is on one side of Earth and the sun is on the opposite side.
How Often does the event of Mars opposition occur?
Mars oppositions happen about every 26 months.
Why does Mars Opposition happen only once in 26 Months? Why do they really appear in opposition?
Like all the planets in our solar system, Earth and Mars orbit the sun. However Earth being closer to the sun, races along its orbit more quickly than Mars, Jupiter etc.... Earth makes two trips around the sun in about the same amount of time that Mars takes to make one trip. So sometimes the two planets are on opposite sides of the sun, very far apart, and other times, so Earth eventually catches and overtake Mars. During opposition, Mars and the sun are on directly opposite sides of Earth because of which Planet mars will be visible all through the night.
How can one spot Planet Mars in the sky ?
How to Spot with Naked Eye: General Public can spot the Mars with naked eye after sunset. One hour after Sun set looking towards the sky opposite direction to sunset, in the evening one can spot Planet mars between East and North East direction.
Whereas at midnight one can see it above his head while in the morning it can be spotted in West and North West Direction.
Will it appear big? How will it appear to naked eye ? What is the difference in Brightness compared to last Feb 2011?
Importantly it would appear biggest it can get if seen from a telescope in year 2012/2013. It will appear like reddish non-twinkling object in the sky when seen with un-aided eye.
Shining at -1.23 Magnitude. Last year (Feb 2011) at same time it was at 1 Mag. In astronomy more the Negative value of Magnitude more bright the object is said to be. Healthy Human eye can see upto 6 Magnitude in clear dark skies.
Why do you think present brightness of Planet Mars is its best? Will the growing distance between earth-mars effect visibility?
Best in brightness till April End : Till end of April 2012 Mars will maintain its bright Negative values in terms of magnitude as on 1st May it will become fainter reaching 0 Magnitude, then 0.3 (on 16 May), 0.5 (28 May) finally it by 19 August it will reach 1.2 Magnitude quite opposite of brightness what it is on 3rd/5th March.
Hence as days pass distance between Earth & Mars will decrease effecting visibility of Mars which finally gets away from our view in 2013 Feb. i.e. till Feb 2013 Mars can be spotted in the sky as it becomes fainter & fainter as days passby.
How better do you think is brightness of Mars compared with other stars/planets in the sky these days?
Brightness Competition of Celestial bodies – as seen from Earth: Planet Mars from 3rd March to 30 March would be brighter than every star in the sky except the brightest star Sirius (-1.4). Whereas Jupiter (-2.1 Mag) &Venus (-3.1 Mag) appearing in West Direction till 9pm & 10 pm. respectively are the more bright competitors. Even Saturn rising around 9pm will shy in brightness (0.9 Mag).
In simple words Mars is brightest outshines every star/planet after 10 pm till End of month except Sirius Star.
When is next Opposition/Closest Approach of Mars?
Next Opposition – Closest approach – 2014: The Next “Opposition of Mars” will occur on 8 April, 2014 whereas next closest approach is on 14 April, 2014 whereas the last time it was Opposition was on 30th January, 2010.
How significant do you think is this Celestial Phenomenon for Scientific Research?
Scientific Missions of Space Exploration – past & Present: taking advantage of the closest approach NASA on November 26, 2011 launched a Mission called “Mars Science Laboratory” (MSL) to land and operate a rover named Curiosity , which is scheduled to land on Mars August 6, 2012.
In the past NASA year 2003 (when Mars was closest it can get in 60,000 years) launched Spirit & Opportunity Rover to land on Mars. Hence Launch opportunities occur when the distance that the spacecraft must travel between planets is small.
Astrologically speaking Mars is considered to be responsible for Accidents on earth? Also Men/Women effected by it are not eligible for marriage till effects are corrected? In recent day there have been spate of accidents in the State & Nation? Will this Apparition of Mars affect the recent elections results?
* All such interpretations of celestial events are astrological which are based on beliefs of people and are not backed by Test of Scientific Method which makes it scientific.
* Planets are least interested in anyone’s life
* Accidents are caused by Human errors, negligence on part of govt for not taking preventive measures.
* Apparition of Mars is natural phenomena. Results of elections are influenced by Good/Bad Work done by respective representatives of people.