18 December 2007

Look for Mars

This is the perfect time to watch Mars in the sky. Mars will come to its opposition on December 24th, 2007 in the constellation of Gemini. By opposition I mean that Sun, Earth and Mars will lie in a perfect straight line is such a way that Mars will be exactly opposite to the Sun from Earth. Mars will be seen over head at midnight on its opposition.

But six days earlier to it, that is today, December 18th, 2007, Mars will be at its closest to the Earth. Mars will be just 88.42 million km from Earth and from today for a week it will be the perfect time to look out for Mars in the sky. The magnitude of Mars will be -1.5. Magnitude is nothing but the brightness of an object in the sky. The object is brighter when it is negative. Sun, the brightest object in the sky is of magnitude -26.8. The brightest star, Sirius is of magnitude -1.46. So Mars will be bright enough to be noticed.

Look out at the east about an hour or two after sunset. If you don’t know which is east look at the direction opposite to the direction where the sun had set. Between North-East and East you should be able to see a bright star which is Mars. Be careful not to misjudge Sirius, the brightest star, with Mars as Sirius will also be present somewhere nearby. Mars will be a little reddish compared to Sirius.

Check out this site. It is a digital planetarium which shows the complete night sky. I’ll try to help you to find Mars using this.

www.neave.com/planetarium/

Set the date and the time on the top left corner of the page. Set the latitude and the longitude of the city you are living at present. For latitude the positive value is north and the negative is south. For longitude positive is east and negative is west.

For example set to latitude to 13 and longitude to 80 (For Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India) and set the time to 18:00:00 and the date to 18th December, 2007. Rotate the sky such that you face east. Near the horizon on the east you should be able to see a tiny red star, which labels as Betelgeuse in the constellation of Orion. Mars should be seen somewhere around the left of the star. But you cannot spot it in this website as it only shows the stars. Try to spot those stars you can spot Mars easily.


In this picture you can see the full moon. The white streak of light is the movement of the space station and a tiny dot below it is the Mars.

Hope you find Mars. You can go to a planetarium nearby to view Mars through the telescope. If you are lucky you may be able to see its two satellites – Phobos and Deimos.

8 comments:

Kavin said...

till now I didn't spot mars in that site... and neither have I spotted mars anytime in real life (unless someone like you points to Mars)... how could they name such a tremendous number of stars???

Inchara Prakash said...

very very sorry as I forgot to mention tat the websites shows only the stars. I meant that if u could spot those stars in the sky you cam spot Mars easily...

Kavin said...

oh cool... but it is not easy to spot even Sirius... :D

Inchara Prakash said...

not exactly... There are only two stars tat are very bright in the sky when u look as soon as its dark on the east. The one lower towards the horizon is Sirius and the one higher is Mars.. Seriously its not tat difficult..

Kavin said...

yes... I have noticed Sirius many times (even in my childhood when I didn't know it was Sirius)... it used to be and still is the brightest star... is Sirius still alive???

Mahesh said...

Mars can be view clearly i think every day , its really easy to find out the difference between a Star and a Plant.Stars Glitter while the light from the planets don't.

Inchara Prakash said...

not exactly... All stars and even planets glitter or twinkle... This effect is not caused by the stars but the Earth's atmosphere... When the light refracts each time it passes thro' each layer of the atmosphere which gives the effect of twinkling...

workhard said...

Whenever they say that one could see Mars, i always try to spot it but fail, or maybe im just too blind..

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