The Opposition of Mars - December 8th 2022
For astronomers who follow the planets, the moment of opposition is something that they get very excited about. But what is "opposition" which happens on the night of December 7th?
All of the planets in our Solar System orbit our closest star, the Sun. When the Earth finds itself directly between the Sun and another planet (which can only happen with the planets that are further away from the Sun as the Earth is, then that planet is said to be 'in opposition', and therefore are the closest that they can be, which makes them appear larger than they would otherwise.
If you keep track of the planets, you will find that some oppositions are "better" than others due to the fact that our orbits around the Sun are not perfectly circular and so the size of the planet will appear to change as you compare the distance of a current opposition to one in the past. Taking note of these changes will get you more intimate with the dance of the Solar System that we live in.
For planetary astronomers, opposition is the time when surface features are most easily detected, and for planetary astrophotographers, the image scale of the planet can increase dramatically producing for them their most impressive shots.
In the case of the Red Planet Mars, oppositions occur about every 26 months. So there is much anticipation for the next opposition for Mars, which will happen at 06:00 UTC on December 8, 2022, which in the Central US time zone happens at midnight on the night December 7th. Mars will be closest to Earth on December 1, 2022 (2 UTC), 2022's opposition won't be beaten until 27 June 2033.
To learn more about Mars with lots of expert tips on how to observe, follow this link to our Mars page written by Carlos Hernandez.
- Download a Free Albedo Map of Mars by Hernandez
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