If there is a “Maverick” among the planets visible to the naked eye, then this title will definitely belong to Mars.
Just nine months ago, Mars was 62.43 million kilometers from Earth, the closest we have been since August 2003, and it won’t come close again until September 2035. Mars appears three times brighter than Earth, Sirius is the brightest star in our sky and its brightness is even comparable to that of Jupiter. In fact, Mars is the third largest nocturnal body after the moon and Venus.
But that was then, this is now.
Related: The brightest planets in the night sky in July: how (and when) to see them
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Venus is pointing its direction
Now, Mars is here One side of the brightness spectrum on the other side. About 45 minutes after sunset on Sunday night (July 11), it looked low in the west-northwest sky.
You will be able to use a very eye-catching reference point to make a positive recognition, because the first object that caught your attention is undoubtedly the dazzling Venus. After finding it, look to the left about 1 degree, and you will see that Mars looks like an orange-yellow star, but it is by no means very bright.
About 45 minutes after sunset, the new moon near Venus and Mars was captured over the western horizon.
About 45 minutes after sunset, the new moon near Venus and Mars was captured over the western horizon. (Image Source: NASA / JPLCaltech)
Don’t expect the amazing objects that will decorate our sky in early fall 2020. On the contrary, Mars is now farther away from us at a distance of 231 million miles (371 million kilometres). Therefore, the brightness of Mars will be only 1.7% from nine months ago, while the brightness of Venus will be only 0.5%. .
In fact, Mars has fallen out of the second-class celestial body with its current light of +1.8; to ensure that you see the front view, I strongly recommend that you use binoculars.
The moon floats nearby
In the fading twilight, another object that will appear near the two planets is the moon. Two days after the new phase, it will appear a small arc of light with only 4% illuminance, which will be about six degrees to the right of the two planets. If your clenched fist is about 10 degrees in arm length, the moon and the two planets will be about half a fist apart. On Monday
(July 12), the first quarter moon will pass about 3 degrees north of Venus, about a finger width. On Monday
(July 12), the first quarter moon will pass approximately 3 degrees (about the width of a finger) north of Venus. (Image source: NASA / JPLCaltech)
After sunset, the three celestial bodies will remain in the west-northwest sky for about 90 minutes. In fact, Mars is nestled between two other notable celestial objects. 45 minutes after sunset, the sky may still be too bright to see the moon and Mars easily with the naked eye, so it has been observed that you may need binoculars. But after another 15 minutes, the sky will be dark enough that you can easily recognize them with the naked eye, even though they are all lower in the sky.
The next night, the scene will change significantly.
July 12 and beyond
On Monday, July 12, the moon will be illuminated at 9% and will move to the upper left corner of the two planets by almost 7 degrees. But the position of the planet has also changed. Since Venus is now about half a degree to the right of Mars, the distance between them will be cut in half.
Venus will remain more prominent in the western night sky for the remainder of 2021, albeit at a fairly slow rate.
As for Mars, it will continue to appear as an evening celestial body in the coming weeks, alongside July 29, the first-class bright blue star Xuanyuan Fourteen. But when we enter August, it will disappear in the bright glow of sunset, and then there will be various interruptions as it transitions to the morning sky, and finally it will reappear in the early morning sky around Thanksgiving, gradually returning. to lay the foundations to be. prominent in 2022.