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Mars at opposition 2020: See the Red Planet at its brightest over UK night skies

Wrap up warm and witness this natural phenomenon

Mars will reach opposition in Earth’s sky tonight, October 13, for the first time since July 2018.

In its smaller orbit around the sun, Earth will pass more or less between the sun and Mars at around 11pm.

Around the time of opposition, as Earth sweeps between Mars and the sun, Mars will shine at its brightest in Earth’s sky and this year’s opposition, in particular, promises to be a very good one. Mars will be a fiery red - it will not be this bright again until 2035.

When Mars is at opposition, the sun and Mars are on opposite sides of Earth’s sky. Mars rises in the east at sunset, is at its highest at midnight, and sets in the west at sunrise.

According to NASA: "From our perspective on our spinning world, Mars rises in the east just as the Sun sets in the west. Then, after staying up in the sky the entire night, Mars sets in the west just as the Sun rises in the east. Since Mars and the Sun appear on opposite sides of the sky, we say that Mars is in 'opposition'."

Oppositions of Mars happen about every 26 months because Earth takes a year to orbit the sun and Mars takes about two years. Every 26 months, we gain a lap on Mars, passing between it and the sun.

Mars has been highly visible throughout October 2020 - it was at its closest to Earth last week - so keep your eyes peeled for the bright red glow of Mars as it moves from east to west this evening, you will only need your eyes to see it.

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