Mars tonight: Where is Mars in the sky tonight? How to see Mars opposition

3 min


Every 26 months or so, Mars, Earth and the Sun form a straight line in the heavens. In astronomical terms, this alignment is known as an opposition. And although opposition can happen at any point in Mars’s orbit, this year’s event comes just six days after the planet’s closest approach to Earth.

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This means the planet is still exceptionally big and bright at night and will remain so until November.

Astronomer Tom Kerss said on his weekly podcast Star Signs: Go Stargazing: “Last week we talked about Mars reaching its closest approach to the Earth for some time to come – about 15 years.

“It was around 62 million km away from us at its closest point, which sounds like a lot but it’s just a stone’s throw in interplanetary terms.

“And it’s now beginning to slip away from us again ever so slowly, but this week Mars will actually be at its brightest when it reaches what’s known as opposition in the sky on Tuesday.”

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Mars tonight: Where is Mars in the sky tonight? How to see Mars opposition

Mars tonight: Find out when and where to look for the Red Planet at night (Image: STAELLARIUM/GETTY)

Mars tonight: Where is Mars in the sky tonight? How to see Mars opposition

Mars tonight: Mars at opposition is very bright when seen from Earth (Image: NASA)

What is Mars opposition?

During opposition, the Red Planet will appear directly across from the Sun with our planet in the dead centre.

When a similar alignment happens with Mars on the other side of the Sun, we call this event conjunction.

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Mr Kerss said: “On Tuesday, the Earth comes directly between Mars and the Sun.

“The difference in the apparent size of Mars from last week to this week is absolutely tiny – just a fraction of an arc second, which itself is a tiny fraction of a degree.

“So by seeing the full face of Mars at opposition we will see it at its very brightest”.

Now then is the time if you have a telescope to point it at Mars

Tom Kerss, Astronomer

Where is Mars in the sky tonight?

The Red Planet will rise in the east, heading towards opposition before midnight.

Keep your eyes peeled on the eastern horizon after sunset, which depending on your location will happen at a different time.

When viewed from London, for example, the Sun will set at about 6.10pm BST (5.10pm GMT).

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When you spot the Red Planet, you might at first think you are looking at a very bright star.

But Mars will have an unmistakable pink-orangey hue to it, and it will be the third brightest object in our skies after the Moon and Venus.

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Mars tonight: Where is Mars in the sky tonight? How to see Mars opposition

Mars fact sheet: Incredible facts and figures about the Red Planet (Image: EXPRESS)

Mars tonight: Where is Mars in the sky tonight? How to see Mars opposition

Mars tonight: The Red Planet will be visible in the constellation Pisces (Image: STELLARIUM)

As the night progresses, the Red Planet will trace a path across to the west.

Mars will then dip just below the horizon after 7am BST (6am BST), as the Sun rises in the east.

And opposition itself will happen at about 12.20am BST (11.20pm GMT).

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By that point, Mars will feature high up in the southern sky.

More advanced stargazers will recognise Mars in the constellation Pisces.

How to see Mars at opposition tonight:

Weather permitting, the Red Planet will be visible to the naked eye.

However, Mr Kerss believes opposition presents a perfect opportunity to dust off your telescope if you have one.

He said: “Now then is the time if you have a telescope to point it at Mars.

“I’ve been looking myself here in London and the view is really impressive.

“I can identify large features across its surface quite easily, even with just a small telescope.”


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