Here is your 2020 Mars observation guide for Arizona

Sep 9, 2020, 2:00 PM
A composite photo was created from over 100 images of Mars taken by Viking Orbiters in the 1970s. (...
A composite photo was created from over 100 images of Mars taken by Viking Orbiters in the 1970s. (NASA via AP, File)
(NASA via AP, File)

The red god of war, Mars, will be closing in on the Earth in the next few weeks.

Mars is the fourth planet from the sun and one which goes around the sun in a period of 687 Earth days.

The second smallest of the major planets, Mars has a diameter of 4,220 miles along with seasons like that of Earth.

Those seasons on Mars are brutal, with temperatures which go down to minus 220 degrees and can rise to nearly 60 degrees in the short “heat” of summer.

The average temperature on Mars is minus 81 degrees, as opposed to the average temperature on Earth, a cool 57 degrees.

Mars has always been a planet which has stirred the imagination with thoughts of possible life or intelligent beings on the surface.

These ideas came about from observers with large telescopes, as they observed polar ice caps, large land masses and a possible network of canals.

Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli observed Mars in 1877 and thought that he noticed some type of lines or “canali” crossing the surface.

That was followed by Percival Lowell, who founded the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff.

Lowell observed Mars in the first part of the 20th century and claimed to have observed the same thing, adding fuel to the fire of possible intelligent life on Mars.

We now know that Mars is a barren desert with an atmosphere made mostly of carbon dioxide.

The poles of Mars are made up of water ice and frozen carbon dioxide and change with the seasons.

We here in Arizona have an amazing opportunity to view Mars as it is now getting closer and closer to us in September and October.

Here is your guide to observing the planet and enjoying this rare event.

Mars will be closing in on Earth and be at its best, opposition as we call it, Oct. 13. At that time, Mars will be within 38 million miles of Earth and in our Arizona skies all night.

Here is a compilation of the entire 2020 Mars event.

Here is the path that Mars will take in our Arizona skies:

From the chart above, Mars will perform an amazing maneuver beginning Sept. 9 and last until nearly mid-November.

Mars will begin a retrograde motion against the fixed stars.

Retrograde motion is when a planet moves to the west against the background stars, as opposed to the normal eastward motion against the stars.

This happens as the Earth, in a closer obit than Mars, overtakes Mars in its journey around the sun.

The illusion is that Mars appears to track in the opposite direction in the sky.

Opposition of Mars takes place in the middle of the retrograde path, that being the night of Oct. 13.

Right now, Mars rises in the east around 9 p.m. Arizona local time.

Mars is brighter than any of the fixed stars in the sky and will get brighter over the next few weeks.

Right now, the visual magnitude of Mars is -2.0, which is very bright to the naked eye.

Mars is now some 43 million miles from us in Arizona and just a short 3 minute and 54 second trip at light speed!

As mentioned above, Arizona has a rich history in the observation of Mars and Mars research. This is a great time to help educate the public on this most amazing story.

More details on the Mars 2020 opposition can be found here.

To help you keep up with what other observers are seeing when it comes to Mars, here is one of the best sites with actual images sent in by observers.

Here is the classic site for those that are regular observers of the planets.

The last part of the story of Mars 2020 is the fact that Mars has some of the most powerful dust storms of any planet.

These dust storms may become “global” in intensity and can obscure the entire planet when close to Earth.

Mars was nearest to the sun Aug. 3 and only time will tell what may happen here!

To understand the nature of Martian dust storms, we offer up this.

Finally, here is the telescopic view of Mars from Earth, during the 2020 apparition.

To print your own monthly star chart, click here.

To view satellites/dates/times of passage, click here.

Listen to the Dr. Sky Show on KTAR News 92.3 FM on Saturdays at 3 a.m.

Dr. Sky Blog

This illustration made available by Johns Hopkins APL and NASA depicts NASA's DART probe, foregroun...
Steve Kates

DART asteroid deflection mission had all eyes on planetary defense

All eyes were on the skies Monday as a tiny spacecraft launched from earth last November attempted to deflect an asteroid.
7 days ago
(Unsplash Photo)...
Steve Kates

Mark your stargazing calendar for these upcoming October treats

As the year moves on, the skies of October will be some of the best that Arizona can offer!
14 days ago
The Strawberry Supermoon sets in front of the NASA Artemis rocket with the Orion spacecraft aboard ...
Steve Kates

‘Cancer moonshot’ brings back memories of JFK space-race speech 60 years ago this week

President John F. Kennedy gave a speech 60 years ago to set a goal of sending men to the moon. Now, NASA is returning to the moon.
21 days ago
(Public Domain Pictures Photo)...
Steve Kates

Here’s how you can get a great view of the harvest moon Sept. 9

One of the most memorable of the full moons of 2022 is the upcoming harvest moon! Look for the rising harvest moon on the evening of Sept. 9.
28 days ago
(Pexels Photo)...
Steve Kates

September skies feature harvest moon, 4 of the planets for viewing

With fall just around the corner and the traditional end of the summer monsoon season, we will soon return to those great Arizona skies.
1 month ago
Liftoff of NASA's Space Launch System rocket and integrated Orion spacecraft is targeted for 8:33 a...
Steve Kates

Upcoming launch of Artemis I moon rocket kicks off another moon quest

The next great leap to space will occur soon with the launch of the Artemis I moon rocket.
1 month ago

Sponsored Articles

...
SCHWARTZ LASER EYE CENTER

Key dates for Arizona sports fans to look forward to this fall

Fall brings new beginnings in different ways for Arizona’s professional sports teams like the Cardinals and Coyotes.
(Courtesy Condor)...
Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines shows passion for destinations from Sky Harbor with new-look aircraft

Condor Airlines brings passion to each flight and connects people to their dream destinations throughout the world.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Most plumbing problems can be fixed with regular maintenance

Instead of waiting for a problem to happen, experts suggest getting a head start on your plumbing maintenance.
Here is your 2020 Mars observation guide for Arizona