Sunrise Sunset

Fri., March 2 6:15 5:32

Sat., March 3 6:13 5:34

Sun., March 4 6:12 5:35

Mon., March 5 6:10 5:36

Tues., March 6 6:09 5:37

Wed., March 7 6:07 5:38

Thurs., March 8 6:05 5:39

Fri., March 9 6:04 5:41

Astronomers are focusing much attention on the red planet Mars these days. Tomorrow Mars is in opposition or at its closest approach to the earth in two years. The planet is 62.6 million miles away.

Mars can be seen rising in the eastern sky soon after sunset. It is in the zodiacal constellation Leo and is that brilliant “star” rising in the east. By 10 p.m., the planet is a good deal higher, its reddish color more distinct. Compare the color of Mars with that of the other stars in the sky. Jupiter, which is setting in the west, is distinctly white, almost blueish white.

Two years ago, in January, Mars was 61.7 million miles away. In August 2003, the planet was considerably closer, just 34.6 million miles away and in perihelion. This year’s opposition coincides with Mars being at aphelion, or when it is farthest from the sun.

Whenever Mars is near, curious astronomers like to seize the moment and point their telescopes at this intriguing planet. Mars is considerably smaller than our earth, but much bigger than our moon.

The diameter of the earth is 7,926 miles.