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May 16, 2016 - A Close Pass of the Red Planet

A Close Pass of the Red Planet  No, Mars will never appear as large as the full Moon in the sky—despite what some oft-recurring chain emails would have one believe—but Mars will be brighter and slightly larger on May 22-23 than at other times of the year as the Red Planet will be at opposition. Mars takes 687 Earth days to orbit the Sun, so about every 780 days Earth and Mars pass “close” to each other—anywhere from 56 to 100 million km (35 to 62 million mi) apart—with Mars on one side of Earth and the Sun on the other. At these times, Mars rises at sunset and is visible all night. During this opposition, Mars will be in Scorpius and will reach an apparent magnitude of -2.05, which is brighter than any of the stars visible in the night sky, but it will still appear as a point of light to the unaided eye.

Image credit: ESA / MPS for OSIRIS Team / MPS / UPD / LAM / IAA / RSSD / INTA / UPM / DASP / IDA

Weekly Calendar

May 16-22, 2016

Holidays - Sky Events - Space History


Monday 16

2011: STS-134 Endeavour launched

Tuesday 17

1836: Norman Lockyer born

Wednesday 18

Moon at apogee

1969: Apollo 10 launched
1984: Viking 1 lander given to National Air & Space Museum
1996: First test flight of DC-XA rocket
: 23rd and final spacewalk to service the Hubble Space Telescope

Thursday 19

1965: Apollo A-003 launched
1996: STS-77 Endeavour launched
2000: STS-101 Atlantis launched

Friday 20

1978: Pioneer-Venus 1 launched
1995: Spektr module launched to Mir space station

Saturday 21

Full Moon 5:15 PM ET
Mars 6° south of Moon

2010: IKAROS spacecraft launched; first successful solar-sail propulsion

Sunday 22

Trinity Sunday

Mars at opposition
Saturn 3° south of Moon

1969: Apollo 10 lunar module descends to within 50,000 feet of the lunar surface
2012: Dragon C2+ spacecraft launched, first commercial mission to dock with ISS

Suggestions for new history dates or better links? Corrections for errors on this page? Please e-mail me.