Over the last several weeks you may have noticed some stars that appear to be shining extra brightly over West Michigan skies. Those aren't in fact stars-- they're actually planets!
Although both Saturn and Jupiter are standouts in the night sky, you'll especially want to keep an eye out for an extra special celestial event that will offer West Michigan the best view of Mars until 2031.
Save the Date
During the evening hours of Wednesday, December 7 make sure to look east to catch Mars rising a few hours after sunset. During this time the full moon will appear to hang directly over Mars--making it can't miss!
The following day Mars will reach opposition which according to experts, "marks the middle of the best time to see an outer planet."
Though Mars reaches opposition every 26 months between now and December 10 the red planet's apparent size will appear larger now more than ever-- an event that will not repeat itself until 2031.
Why Is It Called 'Opposition'?
During Mars' opposition the Earth will fly between Mars and the Sun, meaning from our vantage point Mars will be opposite the Sun. According to Earth Sky, Mars will rise in the east, reach its highest point in the night sky around midnight, and set around sunrise.
What Can We See?
If you have a telescope at home this is certainly the time to bust it out! With a telescope, you'll be able to see Mars' red surface coloration, caused by oxidized iron, in addition to the whites of the polar ice caps.
To the naked eye, Mars will appear to grow bigger and brighter throughout the next several weeks. At its closest, Mars will only be 4.5 light minutes from Earth!
Again, make sure to take in this unique celestial event as we in West Michigan won't see Mars like this until 2031. Let's hope WMMT's Keith Thompson calls for clear skies that night!