Mars: Still a Sight to Behold in the Sky

Several people have read or heard the news that Mars was closest
to the Earth on Oct. 29, and that would have been the best day to
observe it.
Several people have read or heard the news that Mars was closest to the Earth on Oct. 29, and that would have been the best day to observe it.

And several people have said they’re sad that they missed the day and therefore missed everything.

Well, not to despair: Maybe Mars was a little closer to Earth at the end of October, but Mars will be its brightest on Nov. 7. That’s because Mars’ orbit is elliptical, and the planet is now moving away from the Sun.

You will be able to find our red neighbor climbing in the east as darkness falls every night in November. This is the same location where the Moon and Sun rise.

Mars is some 9 million miles farther from the Earth than it was two years ago. Even so, the views you may get from our location this time around could be even better, because Mars also is 30 degrees higher in the sky than before.

The best time to view Mars will be around midnight when it’s straight up in the sky, where there is less of Earth’s atmosphere to look through. This will be the best Mars will get until 2018.

People often ask what the best telescope is for viewing the planets. Well, I guess the best answer would be, “the biggest.”

I’m sure Mars would look much better through a large telescope than it would through a small scope. But sometimes it’s not the size of the scope that you look through that’s most important for the best view.

The best view of Mars will come when the quality of your sky is at its best. If you have the biggest telescope in the world, your view won’t be worth a thing if the skies are poor for viewing.

This month, if you look to the opposite side of the sky where the Sun sets, you will see an even brighter and whiter-looking star.

But this is not a star at all; it is our other close neighbor and sister planet Venus.

Venus is about as high in the sky as it’s going to get this year, so the view you get won’t be as great as in other years past. But you can still see the Moon-like phases it goes through.

Right now, Venus appears like a half-Moon and is 50 percent lit. Later on, it will show more of a crescent phase. This is something you can see even with some of the smaller scopes.

Watch on Nov. 5 when our slender crescent Moon slides just below Venus. And also try to see if you can catch a glimpse of Mercury this month about 30 minutes after sunset. Use your binoculars; you will see Mercury about four fields of view to the right of Venus.

This might be a great year for the Taurid meteor shower. With the event occurring in late October and early November, and with the new Moon on Nov. 2, we just might have a good show in the first week of November.

The mighty Leonids showers of past years may not be as prominent this year, mainly because of the full Moon in the middle of the month. But you may still see as many as five to 15 per hour.

So, as I always say, get into your closets or garages, find those neglected telescopes and dust them off. I don’t want to hear you say in December, “I’m so sad that I missed the best viewing of Mars for 13 years.” Or if you don’t have a telescope, give me a call. I will be more than happy to let you see Mars through my scope. Clear skies.

David Baumgartner is in local real estate and is an avid amateur astronomer. His Sky Watch column appears monthly.

November sky watch

Nov. 1 New Moon

Nov. 1 Moon passes 2.6 degrees south of Jupiter

Nov. 3 Moon passes 1.3 degrees south of Mercury

Nov. 4 Moon passes 0.2 degrees north of Antares

Nov. 5 Moon passes 1.4 degrees south of Venus

Nov. 8 Moon passes 5 degrees south of Neptune

Nov. 8 First-quarter Moon

Nov. 9 Mercury passes 1.9 degrees north of Antares

Nov. 9 Moon is closest to Earth (perigee-229,914 miles)

Nov. 10 Moon passes 3 degrees south of Uranus

Nov. 15 Moon passes 3 degrees north of Mars

Nov. 15 Full Moon

Nov. 17 Leonid meteor shower peaks

Nov. 18 Mercury passes 3 degrees north of Antares

Nov. 21 Moon passes 4 degrees north of Saturn

Nov. 23 Moon is farthest from Earth(apogee-251,264 miles)

Nov. 23 Last-quarter Moon

Nov. 29 Moon passes 3 degrees south of Jupiter

Leave your comments