Mars is looking and behaving weird right now! It tunred blue overnight and is now converging towards Earth in a retrograde move…
Mars is supposed to be red. But when amateur astronomer Thomas Williamson looked on Oct. 26th, he saw a different color. The north pole was electric blue.
Williamson photographed the North Polar Hood, a giant cloud of water ice that forms over the Martian north pole during winter.
That’s the color of sunlight scattered from very tiny crystals of ice (smaller than the wavelength of light itself) floating in the cloud.
Well, I’m looking forward to the next few weeks as Mars increases in apparent size.
Indeed the view is about to improve as Earth and Mars converge for a close encounter on Dec. 1st. Between now and then, Mars will double in brightness to magnitude -1.9 (brighter than Sirius) and increase in size to 17.2 arcseconds. Look for the Red Planet and its blue hood rising in the east after sunset in the constellation Taurus as indicated in the map below.
Mars goes retrograde
For months, Mars has been creeping eastward among the stars of the constellation Taurus. Yesterday, Oct. 30th, it reversed course. Now the planet is moving westward. Astronomers call this “retrograde motion.”
It’s a sign that Earth and Mars are about to have a close encounter as shown in the movie below:
The onset of retrograde motion means that Earth and Mars are converging. At closest approach on Dec. 1st the two worlds will be just 0.545 AU apart, providing spectacular views through backyard telescopes.
Less than a week later on Dec. 7th the Moon will pass in front of Mars, creating a lunar occultation visible from parts of the Americas, Europe and Northern Africa.
Prepare now! Stock up on Iodine tablets for the next nuclear disaster…
Retrograde motion will continue through Jan 12, 2023. Enjoy the show! [SpaceWeather]