Stargazers Get Special Treat with Mars
The clear skies of West Texas will provide star gazers a unique opportunity this evening (April 8), when Mars, Earth and the sun will be arranged in a nearly-straight line.
NASA astronomers report that every two years, Mars reaches a point in its orbit called "opposition," when the "Red" planet lies directly opposite the sun in Earth's sky.
Mars rises near sunset and remains visible all night long as it moves nearly overhead across the night sky. It will be a bright burnt orange color almost 10 times brighter than the brightest stars in the sky.
Mars rises in the east just as the sun sets in the west - and towards dawn, Mars sets in the west just as the sun rises in the east.
At their closest point next week, Mars and Earth will be about 57 million miles apart. . Any future "manned" Mars mission would be launched ahead of these "close" orbits between the planets to shorten the astronaut's travel distance. Another unique view will be on April 14, when the full moon also will appear near Mars
Mars won't appear this big and bright again until 2016.