Struggling Mars

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Struggling Mars
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Mars is working hard to climb into view in the dawn sky. But for much of the country, it’s not quite there yet. It’s low in the east-southeast as twilight brightens the sky. It looks like a moderately bright star. Mars is fairly easy to spot from the southern latitudes of the U.S., but harder to see as you go farther north. In fact, it’s almost impossible to see from places like Minneapolis or Seattle.

The planet is struggling because of the time of year. Mars passed behind the Sun in November, moving from the evening sky to the morning sky. Now, it’s more than 30 degrees away from the Sun — more than three times the width of your fist held at arm’s length.

At this time of year, though, Mars and the other planets in the early morning sky rise at a shallow angle. Instead of popping straight up, they move sideways along the horizon. So Mars is still quite low as the sky gets brighter. And while Mars rises a bit earlier each day, so does the Sun — it chases the planet into view.

But as the months roll by, the angle at which Mars rises will improve. And it will continue to creep farther from the Sun. So by late spring or early summer, the Red Planet will be easy to spot not only in the twilight, but well before. At the same time, it’ll shine a tad brighter than it does now — offering a beautiful view for early risers across the entire country.

We’ll talk about some Mars-like places here on Earth tomorrow.

Script by Damond Benningfield

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