Space for everyone by Jozef Kozár, PhD

Mars at opposition 2018

In positional astronomy, two astronomical objects are said to be in opposition when they are on opposite sides of the celestial sphere, as observed from the Earth. A planet is said to be “in opposition” when it is in opposition to the Sun.

This year, the opposition of Mars occurs on July 27. Planet Mars will reach its closest approach to Earth at 07:50 GMT on July 31. Mars will be at its brightest since 2003, when Mars made its closest approach to Earth in almost 60,000 years. The Red planet will appear brightest between July 21 and August 3, 2018.

The observer on Earth will be able to see the increased apparent “size” on the night sky:

Very interesting fact is, that Mars will come to its opposition on the same day as the full Moon in July. This means that there will be a very good chance to see also the total lunar eclipse at the same time. The total lunar eclipse will be visible from Europe.

How to see Mars during the opposition in July 2018

There are more options how to observe Mars during the opposition in July 2018. When you look at the night sky with just a naked eye, you will be able to recognize Mars, because it will be the fourth brightest object with a very nice red colour. You cannot miss it, or get confused with other objects. In the early evening (calculated for Europe) you just need to take a look at the south-eastern night sky.

Right after the sunset you can see it like this (calculated for July 31, 2018):

The late evening situation will be a little bit better, because there will not be so much light from the Sunset:

There will be the light from the full Moon, but the view will be very suitable for photographers.

For observing the Mars without any disturbing light, I really recommend you the days in the early half of July 2018. For example the situation for July 12, 2018 looks like the simulation below:

This situation will be very similar for other coming days, from 13 July to 23 July 2018 (calculated for midnight CEST). After the July 23, the Moon will be more and more visible on the night sky.

You can see the planet Mars with just the naked eye, but if you have a small telescope (even binoculars), then do not hesitate to use it. With a small astronomical telescope is Mars really amazing. These days there is a huge dust storm on Mars, so also this makes the observation interesting. You will maybe not be able to see too many details with a small telescope, but there will not be any other better chance to see Mars such bright as this year.

Take a photo of Mars with your mobile phone

Yes, it is possible. You can just find some place without any disturbing street lights and try it. You can try without zoom, try to catch also some dark house or trees in the near ground – the photo will be more interesting. If you want to try something more, then you can try to install some special photo-application into your smartphone. But this is not necessary. The important is the feeling you have when you take your first photos of Mars with your mobile phone. If you want to share it with other, you can send the photos to me and I can publish it here under this article together with your name. I am loooking forward to see your photos! I will try also and I will attach to this post some photos of Mars taken with my mobile phone camera very soon.

One important thing!

Do not trust to any hoax news or information on various social media, that Mars will be as big as the Moon on the night sky. This is not true. Simply imagine the physics, what would happen when there will be such a strong gravitational pull caused by Mars, Moon and Earth? Planet Mars and planet Earth have their own orbits so it can never happen that Mars will be as big on the night sky as the Moon.

So I wish you have a nice weather and clear skies!

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Sources: Wikipedia, my own resources and images, NASA, and some information from Space.com

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