Mars and the Moon both experience "opposition" in early March, as they line up opposite the Sun in the night sky. Mars is at opposition on March 3, with the Moon at opposition, when it is full, on the night of March 7. An object is brightest at opposition, and it remains in view all night. This view is about 90 minutes after sunset.
Three of the grandest sights in the night sky are at their brassy best the next few nights: the Moon, the planet Mars, and the constellation Leo, the lion. They form a beautiful grouping that’s low in the east as the color of twilight fades from the evening sky, and marches high across the south later on.
Mars is at its best because it’s just past opposition -- the point opposite the Sun in our sky. It’s closest to Earth now, and it shines brightest. It looks like an orange star, and it outshines all but one of the true stars in the night sky. And it’s in view all night long.
The Moon will reach its opposition tomorrow night, so it’ll be full -- sunlight will illuminate the entire lunar hemisphere that faces our way. Tonight, only a bare sliver is in darkness, so moonlight will rain brightly upon the late-winter landscape.
With winter about gone, though, Leo is springing into great view in the night sky. The lion’s brightest star, Regulus, is a little to the left of the Moon this evening. His head and mane stretch to the upper left of Regulus, with his body to the lower left. The bright Moon will overpower the view of some of Leo’s fainter stars, but it’ll also help you locate the lion as he prepares to dominate the night sky of spring.
Again, look for this impressive array in the east during the evening, high in the south around midnight, and low in the west before dawn.
We’ll have more about Mars and the Moon tomorrow.
Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2012
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