The rise of the red planet

The rise of the red planet
MGN Online
Weather Talk

POSTED: Saturday, April 5, 2014 - 4:08pm

UPDATED: Saturday, April 5, 2014 - 9:45pm

This month is just full of amazing star gazing opportunities!

We are pretty much done with the first week of April and now we are heading toward the moments of staying up all night just gazing up at the sky.

April 12 is one of the big dates that should be marked on your calendar this month.

The Red Planet looks bigger and brighter this month than it has for the past six years!

Amazing isn't it!

You may have heard of the Great Mars Hoax.

The occasional (and incredibly false) claim that Mars will loom as big as the moon in the night sky.

But in this case, the claim is finally true.

This month, Mars will have its closest encounter with Earth since December 2007.

The reason has to do with the orbit.

As Earth and Mars trace their elliptical orbits around the sun, the distance between the two planets varies dramatically.

There are times when the separation amounts to almost 250 million miles!

That's pretty close considering how vast space is!

Mars will be easy to spot in the night sky.

For those living in mid-northern latitudes, it sparkles like a yellow-orange gem in the southeast just after dark.

For a real treat, gaze at Mars through a telescope.

Under optimal viewing conditions, even a 4-inch telescope can reveal light and dark regions on the planet's disk, and maybe even dust storms!!

But remember there is an even bigger event this month!!

The Red moon, or Pink moon or Blood moon, which ever name you prefer, will be the biggest sky highlight on April 15, when the first total lunar eclipse since 2011 takes place.

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