The moon and Mars
It's never been easier to spot the red planet
On Thursday this week, 18 February, NASA is attempting to land a new rover on the surface of Mars. The last time this was done successfully was in 2012 with Curiosity. In 2016, ESA attempted to land a lander, but failed. I’m extremely excited to see Perseverance (hopefully) land safely on Thursday. It’s going to bring so much cool science.
Also this week, on the same day the rover is due to land on Mars, the red planet and the moon will have a close approach, which means they’re going to appear next to each other in the night sky. This means it will never be easier to find the planet, so you have no excuses! Unless it’s cloudy…
Wherever you live in the world, looking south just after sunset on Thursday 18 February you’ll see Mars and the moon close together in the sky. The moon will be a faint sliver. Mars is the bright, red-looking point of light. You don’t need a telescope or binoculars, but if you do have a pair of binoculars handy, why not get them out and see how they both look!
If you miss it on Thursday, or it’s too cloudy for you to see, they’ll still be very close on Friday. In the weekend and into next week, they will get further and further away, as the moon gets more and more full.
Please let me know if you do see the two together on Thursday and share any photos you take. For more information about the NASA rover landing, including how to watch it live, click here.
If you’re new to this newsletter, welcome! I’m Abby. I’m a science journalist, stargazing columnist and author of The Art of Urban Astronomy. I live in England, where we entered a THIRD lockdown at the start of the year. I started this newsletter to help people through the dark nights, with ideas of what to look for in the skies each week. If you live in the southern hemisphere don’t worry, I always try to make sure it applies to stargazers around the world.
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