Mars Opposition – Part 3 – When to Look

Although Opposition does not occur until July 26, we can enjoy good observations right now. Today, Mars has attained 89% of its maximum apparent size.  If you live in a cloudy region, as I do, taking an early look can prevent anxiety later on.

Speaking of weather, Mars is in a planet-wide dust storm.  Unlike dust storms on Earth, Martian dust storms cover vast areas, and can last a long time.  So, with a telescope, very few ground features are visible.  It is possible that the storm will still be in progress when this year’s observation period ends.

Rather than wish things were different, let’s consider this a unique opportunity to observe the progress of the storm!  Observations of the dusty Mars can be compared to past or future observations of the clear Mars.

Here are links to some articles on the dust storm:

The best time to observe Mars is when it is well above the horizon, so that disturbances in our atmosphere are lessened.  For this time of the year, the tilt of our planet gives the best views of Mars to residents of the Southern Hemisphere.  To use Buenos Aires as an example, on July 26, Mars will be well positioned at 9 PM.  It will continue to climb until it is overhead around 1 AM.  So, good views can be had for almost the entire night.

For northerners, Mars doesn’t climb very high, and the best viewing occurs during a brief time slot.  For New York on July 26, the best viewing time is from approximately 11 PM to 3 AM.  Mars reaches its highest position at 1:09 AM.  It will then be 24 degrees above the horizon (roughly ¼ of the way to directly overhead).  At this elevation, observations can be good, although not the best.

Finding Mars in the sky, is quite easy.  Except for the Sun, the Moon, and Venus, it will be the brightest object in the sky!

Here is a link to an online planetarium app, which will help you in your planning:

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