Friday December 12th the planet Mars reached a point in its annual orbit around the Sun when it is the closest to the Sun. This is known as perihelion and for Mars it will be 1.3812 AU (206,624,579 km; 128,390,561 miles) from the Sun. An ‘AU’ is an Astronomical Unit, or the average Earth to Sun distance of 93,000,000 miles.
Mars is tilted on its axis of rotation by about the same as the Earth so it too has a cycle of seasons. And coincidentally like the Earth, Mars is also closest to the Sun during its northern hemisphere winter. The Mars winter solstice is January 11th 2015.
Take a brief tour of Mars and its two moons in a short video clip from a longer solar system tour video I made as part of a live musical performance at the Gottlieb Planetarium in Kansas City a few years ago.
Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for more observing information for this month.