mars at opposition

I should’ve blogged about this a bit earlier, but what can I say? I blame a combination of general slackness, and being totally addicted to Mass Effect 2. Anyway, on with the show!

Last Friday night, an event occurred that I’ve been looking forward to ever since the day I bought my telescope — Mars came in to opposition. In simple terms, that’s the point at which Mars and Earth come closest to each other in their respective orbits, which means that Mars is far bigger and brighter to look at than at other times. Oppositions with Mars happen only every 26 months or so, but it was definitely worth waiting for!

Even though this was a fairly bad opposition (some oppositions bring Mars and Earth closer together than others), I got a far better view of Mars than I’ve ever had before. Usually it’s just a very small, fuzzy, red disc — clearly not a pin-point star, but too small to see any detail on. On Friday, though, I could clearly see one of the polar ice-caps, a small bit of dark red banding below the cap, and larger areas of dark banding across the rest of the otherwise bright red surface.

The next opposition, in 2012, won’t bring Mars any closer than this one did, but a few after that, in 2018, Mars will be almost twice as close as it was this time. I’ll have to make sure I’m ready for it!

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