We mentioned it in our article on the time needed to reach Mars. The distance between the Earth and Mars varies regularly. When the latter is closer to the sun than the earth, it is said to be at “perihelion” and the distance between the two planets can go down to 54 million kilometers, a stride 🙂 This moment is the perfect time to observe our red planet in the sky. And yes, you have understood well, it is possible to see Mars in the sky…even with the naked eye. Be careful, not as well as the image at the head of the article can let us pretend but we can, all the same, give ourselves the right to dream :).
Mars, a unique planet in our solar system
Mars is a planet that occupies a unique position in our solar system. It is the only planet that has two moons, and it is also the only planet that has a thin atmosphere. Mars is also remarkable for its red color, which is due to the high iron content of its soil and has the largest volcano in our solar system, Mount Olympus. This giant volcano is almost three times the size of Mount Everest! As Neil Armstrong said so well, the next great leap for mankind will be to go to mars. But before touching the Martian ground, we can observe it from the ground, it is free and within the reach of all !
At what time of the year can we observe it with the naked eye ?
Yes, you read it right, it is possible to observe Mars… with the naked eye. Summer is the time of the year when we can see Mars in the sky. This is particularly true when Mars is in opposition to the Sun in the sky, that is when the earth is located between the sun and mars. The opposition occurs every 26 months, and this is when the planet Mars is closest to the earth, its disk appearing larger to our eyes. If you’re really lucky, you might even see one of its red dust storms, who knows (but for that, you’ll need a telescope)!
How to spot Mars in the sky ?
Looking for Mars in the sky can be tricky, but there are a few indications that can help you spot the red planet. As we said before, focus on observing at night or in the early morning hours, during the summer months. Mars is usually visible at this time of year, and should appear as a bright red dot. Another way to locate Mars is to look for the constellation Scorpio. Mars would, indeed, be located near the bright star Antares, which marks the heart of Scorpio.
What instrument do we need to observe Mars?
Deciding which instrument to use to observe Mars is a tricky business. There are so many factors to consider, from the size and shape of the telescope to the type of camera that will be used, not to mention the question of which wavelengths of light to focus on. In the end, it all comes down to one simple question: what do you want to see? If you’re looking for evidence of life on Mars, you’ll need a camera capable of detecting traces of organic molecules, something that is somewhat difficult to observe! If you are interested in the geology of the planet, you will need an infrared telescope to see through the dusty atmosphere. And if you just want to get some good shots of the Red Planet, any telescope will do, like this Emarth* telescope that’s perfect for kids and beginners. Whatever your science goals, there’s an instrument that will help you achieve them.
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