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Mars at opposition (when)?

Started by bill webster, 11/12/2002 08:29AM
Posted 11/12/2002 08:29AM Opening Post
When will mars be at oposition and what will it's closest distance from the earth be?
Bill W.
Posted 11/12/2002 11:17AM #1
The upcoming opposition of Mars will be the best one for the red planet in nearly 58,000 years as derived by astronomer Jeffrey D. Beish (A.L.P.O. Mars Section). The 2003 opposition (the apparent diameter being 25.11 seconds of arc at maximum) is the first closest approach ever since the beginning of the AD (as proved by J MEEUS), but also that the preceding similar closest apparition occurred in the year -57,537 ! (with an apparent diameter 25.14 seconds of arc). Mr. Beish's analysis also revealed that in the year -79,241 the apparent diameter of the planet was 26.16 seconds of arc!, and in the future we will have another occasion in the year 25,695 where the apparent diameter grows up to 26.04 seconds of arc! Mars reaches opposition (Sun-Earth-Mars) on August 28, 2003 at 22:38 U.T. at a distance of approximately 34.6 million miles (55.7 million km). Closest approach occurs the day before (August 27 at 10:00 U.T.) due to the eccentricity of the orbit of Mars which incidentally allowed the German astronomer Kepler to derive his infamous three Laws of Planetary Motion. The red planet will be located in the constellation of Aquarius (a disadvantage for observers living to the north).

An excellent guide for the upcoming opposition is located at the Arkansas Sky Observatory web site ( under the Guides menu. The article is titled "MARS 2003 The return of a lifetime..... Your ASO Guide to Observing the Red Planet by P. Clay Sherrod." This article provides all the vital information on the apparition (the period between successive conjunctions (solar) during which the planet is visible) and what instrumentation and accesories (e.g. filters) to use. The Online Tools menu also features a central meridian (CM) calculator for the observer. This web site is an excellent reference for the planetary observer at all times.

I hope that the information above proves useful to you all.