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Current Affairs

Mars in opposition

Date: 15 October 2020 Tags: Space

Issue

Due to an event referred to as “opposition”, which takes place every two years and two months, Mars will outshine Jupiter, becoming the third brightest object in the night sky during the month of October.

 

Background

This year, while Mars’ closest approach to Earth was on October 6, the opposition will happen on October 13, which will give the planet its “biggest, apparent size of the 2020s.

 

Details

  • Mars’s next close approach will happen on December 8, 2022, when the planet will be 62.07 km away from the Earth.

  • Even so, the closest approach does not mean that Mars will appear to be the same size as that of the moon.

  • Opposition is the event when the sun, Earth, and an outer planet (Mars in this case) are lined up, with the Earth in the middle.

  • The time of opposition is the point when the outer planet is typically also at its closest distance to the Earth for a given year, and because it is close, the planet appears brighter in the sky.

  • An opposition can occur anywhere along Mars’ orbit, but when it happens when the planet is also closest to the sun, it is also particularly close to the Earth.

  • Opposition can happen only for planets that are farther away from the sun than the Earth. In case of Mars, roughly every two years, the Earth passes between sun and Mars, this is when the three are arranged in a straight line.

  • Further, as the Earth and Mars orbit the sun, there comes a point when they are on the opposite sides of it, and hence very far apart. At its farthest, Mars is about 400 million km from the Earth.

  • In case of opposition, Mars and sun are on directly opposite sides of the Earth. In other words, the Earth, sun, and Mars all lie in a straight line, with the Earth in the middle.

  • Opposition is the best time to view Mars. During this time, Mars will appear as a bright star to the unaided eye and when viewed from a telescope.