Mars Draws Near, Shines Bright

Our next chance for this good a look at red planet won't come until 2016
By Zach Samalin,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 14, 2007 4:56 PM CST
An artist rendition released by the European Space Agency on Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2007 shows the main bodies of the solar system, the Sun, Mercury, Venus, the Earth, from left in foreground, Uranus, Neptune,...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – Astronomers of all abilities—and children scanning the night sky for Santa Claus—should be able to see a gleaming Mars as the red planet draws close enough, and into the right position, to outshine Sirius as the brightest evening star. Practically brushing shoulders with Earth—a mere 54,783,381 miles off—our neighbor won't be this close again until 2016, reports.

Christmas Eve will bring Mars (from our terrestrial vantage point) directly opposite to the sun, with Earth in between. It will be easiest to see after it crosses the southern meridian, around 12:30 a.m. The real show, however, will be Dec. 23, when most US stargazers can see Mars accompany a full moon across the sky much of the evening.