Blue moon, red Mars on spectacular display this week

A full blue moon and Mars will marry in darkness Saturday as the red planet ripens to its closest approach to Earth in more than a decade.

Mars is at opposition Saturday, meaning it and the sun will perfectly sandwich Earth in a line. But it is more colorful and appears bigger because it is cozying up to Earth for its big debut on May 30 when it will be just 47.2 million miles away.

That’s the closest Mars has been to Earth since November 2005.

Capture

See when the worm, wolf and beaver moon rise. 

“Just look southeast after the end of twilight, and you can’t miss it,” said Alan MacRobert, a senior editor at Sky & Telescope magazine. “Mars looks almost scary now, compared to how it normally looks in the sky.”

 

Saturday also offers the third full moon in a season that has four full moons. That makes it a blue moon in an early definition of the term, which has since more commonly become known as the second full moon in a month.

Either way, the moon will not actually appear blue, but Mars, which will shine next to it, is expected to be extra rosy.

MacRobert said amateur astronomers have been eager for Mars to make this close of an approach, although it is not the nearest the planet has been to Earth. In August 2003, the centers of Earth and Mars were 34.6 miles away.

While bright, Mars will not equal Jupiter’s brilliance, which is the shiniest light in the night skies because Venus is behind the sun, according to EarthSky.org. Next year at this time, Mars will be 30 times fainter than it is now.

“In the year 2017, Mars will fade into a faint ember of its once-fiery self at opposition,” EarthSky notes.

The only concern is whether South Florida’s recently cantankerous skies will abide.

Forecasts are calling for a 30 percent chance of rain in Palm Beach County after 8 p.m. and 60 percent sky cover. AccuWeather is giving South Florida a “fair” chance of seeing the full moon and Mars tonight.

If tonight proves ruinous for stargazing, at least Mars will be bright through June 12.

Download the Palm Beach Post WeatherPlus app here. 

If you haven’t yet, join Kim on Instagram and Twitter.

A super moon rises over the Boynton Beach Inlet in Boynton Beach, Florida on September 8, 2014. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

A super moon rises over the Boynton Beach Inlet in Boynton Beach, Florida on September 8, 2014. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Reader Comments 0

0 comments