Distant Mars is All Right

mars-ani   Today the outer terrestrial planet Mars reaches two points in its orbit around the Sun. Today Mars will be at aphelion, its greatest distance from the Sun this time around at 1.6661 AU (249,245,012 km – 154,873,670 miles). The orbit of Mars is more elliptical than the Earth’s nearly circular shaped orbit and so it has a much wider range of aphelion and perihelion distances. Mars has an orbital eccentricity of 0.0935 compared with Earth’s 0.0167, and the length of a year on Mars is equal to 687 Earth days (1.88 Earth years).

Click on graphic to see full size.

Click on graphic to see full size.

   Today Mars will also reach one of an outer planets four orbital positions based on its orbital position relative to the positions of the Earth and the Sun. This is sort of one of those side positions when Mars is 90o or at a right angle from the Earth and the Sun as the last few frames of the animated graphic show. Today Mars is at west quadrature which puts it in the morning sky rising before the Sun rises. In fact today the Mars, Earth, Sun orbital positions are the same as for our Moon at its 3rd quarter phase.

Take a brief fly-over of Mars. Music by Dark Matter.

    Caution: Objects viewed with an optical aid are further than they appear.    Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.

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