Mars, Other ‘Naked Eye’ Planets Making Close Approach To Earth

KCBS_740 SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) — When the sun goes down Sunday night, the Red Planet rises, and it hasn’t been this close nor shone so brightly for the past decade.

Even the Hubble Space Telescope will train its optics on Mars, taking advantage of an opportunity that won’t swing around again for another two years: the chance to snap pictures at Mars’ closest approach for 2016.

But, there is much more for skywatchers.

“Mars is getting close to what’s called ‘opposition,’ when it rises at the sunset, but Jupiter is a very visible object right now,” Bing Quock with the Morrison Planetarium told KCBS.

“If you pay attention to where Mars is, Saturn’s not too far from that part of the sky either,” Quock said.

Your best view will depend on your local sky conditions:  you’ll at least need Mars to break out of the clouds from time to time to be able to catch a glimpse.  And if not Sunday night, then, sometime in the next two weeks.

“We’ve got three of the most interesting planets visible in the early evening sky right now,” Quock said.

As for the other two “naked eye” planets, Mercury and Venus, Quock said they are closer to the sun, getting washed out by the glare.

Quock said Mars will be in opposition around the 21st, and 22nd of May. It will be at its biggest and brightest through telescopes during that period, Quock said.

Serious stargazers will need to get away from city lights for the best views, but the planets will likely be bright enough to be seen easily.

More from Jeff Bell
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