Thursday June 30th Mars ends its apparent westward motion (retrograde motion) relative to the stars in the background and resumes its eastward or direct motion. The location of mars for this particular retrograde has the ‘Red Planet’ near a reddish star with a name suggestive of how similar it appears to Mars. This is the star Antares, the heart of Scorpius the Scorpion.
Antares could be thought to literally translate to ‘anti-Ares’ suggesting that this reddish celestial object should not be confused with Ares, the Greek god of War. Many stars have several names originating several centuries ago and in different languages however many of the translations have Antares meaning ‘equal of Mars’.
Right now Mars is just past its greatest apparent magnitude, its brightest. This typically happens at around Mars opposition, but Mars is even brighter if its opposition is around the time of its perihelion and the time when Earth is at aphelion.
Mars is now again moving toward the east and it will gradually move closer to Antares coming within about 1o from Antares on August 24th. However the Earth is also revolving around the Sun so at the same time that Mars is closing in on Antares that part of the sky will be moving further west and setting earlier.
This year Mars and Antares will still be above the horizon during August and by then local time for sunset will also be earlier.