Fri., Dec. 25 7:06 4:16
Sat., Dec. 26 7:07 4:17
Sun., Dec. 27 7:07 4:17
Mon., Dec. 28 7:07 4:18
Tues., Dec. 29 7:08 4:19
Wed., Dec. 30 7:08 4:19
Thurs., Dec. 31 7:08 4:20
Fri., Jan. 1 7:08 4:21
For those willing to brave the cold night, there is a ruby red planet rising in the east after 10 p.m. Mars is a perfect example of how a planet gets significantly brighter when it is closer.
From season to season the other visible planets, such as Jupiter and Saturn, pretty much stay the same brightness. Astronomers can tell the difference in brightness, plus or minus a couple million miles from the Earth. Most observers can’t.
Mars is different. Mars is smaller than the Earth but bigger than our moon. When it is 100 million miles away it is fainter than when it is 70 million miles away, as it is this week.
Mars will get even closer; by the end of January, Mars will be 61 million miles away. Enjoy the show. Mars is the fourth closest planet to the sun. The Earth is number three. Once every two years Mars and Earth get close together, and now is the time.
This opposition is not a record maker. Mars was closer to the Earth two years ago and even closer four years ago. The best show, when Mars is really close, will be in 2018.
We’ll have a Blue Moon to mark the end of the year on the evening of Dec. 31. Blue Moon is a term used to describe two full moons in the short span of one month. It doesn’t happen often. Happy New Year and Happy Blue Moon.