Mars will on Friday appear at its brightest since 2003 as it moves the closest it has been to Earth in years, the Taipei Astronomical Museum said yesterday.
The exact time of the celestial event will be at 1:13pm, but conditions for observing the Red Planet will be better a few days before or after the event, the museum said.
Mars will ascend at about 7:30pm every night and can be easily identified with the naked eye by looking up at the eastern sky, the museum said.
The planet’s apparent magnitude could reach -2.9, compared with -2.5 for a new moon, it said.
Apparent magnitude measures the brightness of a celestial body as seen by an observer on Earth and is lower the brighter an object becomes.
A Mars opposition occurs when Earth passes between the sun and Mars and all three are arranged in an almost straight line.
The episode this week is unique because it will be the most significant opposition of the past 15 years, the museum said.
An opposition with Mars takes place approximately every two years, but due to the elliptic orbit of Mars, the distance between Earth and Mars varies greatly between each encounter, it said.
The difference between the farthest opposition and the closest opposition could be 43.2km and Mars will on Friday be closer than it has been in years, the museum said, which means that the planet will also be much brighter than usual.
The next time such a significant opposition will take place will be in 2035, it added.
The museum is to hold a series of events to teach the public about the phenomenon.
Between 7pm and 9pm on Friday, the museum is to set up a high-power telescope in the plaza next to the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall in Taipei, and the public is invited to observe Mars for free.
The telescope is to also be open to the public from 7pm to 9pm on Tuesday next week at the museum.
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