The latest Mars opposition, when Mars is on the opposite side of the sun with the Earth in the middle, did not disappoint astronomy fans Tuesday. Mars was the brightest it has been in six years and was easily visible with the naked eye, giving backyard astronomers a closer look at the red planet.
Mars at opposition, taken with an 8-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain scope, RGB filters, 3x Barlow lens & DMK 21AU618.AS CCD: pic.twitter.com/D6pGqHrht3
— Will Gater (@willgater) April 9, 2014
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The opposition of Mars occurs about every two years, but 2014’s event was special for Mars' outstanding brightness, notes EarthSky. April’s first astronomy event had professional and amateur astronomers alike looking up to the sky on Tuesday. In the northern hemisphere, Mars could be seen rising from the east, reaching its highest point in the night sky just after midnight.
— Christian Fröschlin (@chrfrde) April 9, 2014
Slooh, an international group of astronomers and observatories, had a dedicated broadcast of the Mars opposition originating from the Canary Islands. Paul Cox, Slooh director, said in a statement, “The Red Planet has captured our imagination since we started gazing at it through telescopes. With the huge number of missions to Mars over the last few decades, it is now one of the most studied objects in the solar system.” The Slooh broadcast also includes a discussion on NASA's Curiosity rover and the search for life, and evidence of water, on Mars.
The Virtual Telescope Project also had a broadcast of the opposition. The images of the Mars opposition begin around the 1:20:20 mark in the video below.
The Mars opposition usually coincides with the planet's closest approach to Earth, but, due to the planet's irregular orbit, Mars will be closest to Earth next Monday. Mars' closest approach will occur around the same time as the next big stargazing event. The total lunar eclipse will begin in the early hours of April 15. The next Mars opposition will occur on May 22, 2016.