Brainy Quote of the Day

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Opposition of Mars...

There are two dates of special significance:

April 8th (TODAY) is the date of opposition, when Mars, Earth, and the sun are arranged in a nearly-straight line.

If the orbits of Mars and Earth were perfectly circular, April 8th would also be the date of closest approach. However, planetary orbits are elliptical--that is, slightly egg-shaped--so the actual date of closest approach doesn't come until almost a week later.

On April 14th, Earth and Mars are at their minimum distance: 92 million km, a 6+ month flight for NASA's speediest rockets. You won't have any trouble finding Mars on this night. The full Moon will be gliding by the Red Planet in the constellation Virgo, providing a can't-miss "landmark" in the midnight sky.

Remarkably, on the same night that Mars is closest to Earth, there will be a total lunar eclipse. The full Moon of April 14-15 will turn as red as the Red Planet itself.

Try to get your taxes done, so you can enjoy the show. Working on write-offs (to join you)...

NASA: The Opposition of Mars

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