Mars will reach the end of its retrograde motion, ending its westward movement through the constellations and returning to more usual eastward motion instead. This reversal of direction is a phenomenon that all the solar system's outer planets periodically undergo, a few months after they pass opposition.
The retrograde motion is caused by the Earth's own motion around the Sun. As the Earth circles the Sun, our perspective changes, and this causes the apparent positions of objects to move from side-to-side in the sky with a one-year period. This nodding motion is super-imposed on the planet's long-term eastward motion through the constellations.
The diagram below illustrates this. The grey dashed arrow shows the Earth's sight-line to the planet, and the diagram on the right shows the planet's apparently movement across the sky as seen from the Earth:
2016 apparition of Mars
|17 Apr 2016||–||Mars enters retrograde motion|
|22 May 2016||–||Mars at opposition|
|30 May 2016||–||Mars at perigee|
|29 Jun 2016||–||Mars ends retrograde motion|
Mars leaves retrograde motion as its 2016 apparition comes to an end, although it will remain visible for some weeks in the dusk sky.
Its celestial coordinates as it leaves retrograde motion will be:
|Object||Right Ascension||Declination||Constellation||Magnitude||Angular Size|
The coordinates above are given in J2000.0.
From Ashburn , it will be visible in the evening sky, becoming accessible around 20:59 (EST), 28° above your southern horizon, as dusk fades to darkness. It will then reach its highest point in the sky at 21:54, 29° above your southern horizon. It will continue to be observable until around 01:53, when it sinks below 7° above your south-western horizon.
Over the following weeks, Mars will reach its highest point in the sky four minutes earlier each night, gradually disappearing into evening twilight.
The panels below show the month-by-month change in Mars' apparent size in coming weeks, as it recedes from the Earth:
The table below lists Mars' angular size at brightness at two-week intervals throughout its apparition:
|20 Apr 2016||14.6”||-1.2|
|04 May 2016||16.7”||-1.6|
|18 May 2016||18.2”||-2.0|
|01 Jun 2016||18.6”||-2.0|
|15 Jun 2016||17.9”||-1.7|
|29 Jun 2016||16.5”||-1.4|
|13 Jul 2016||14.9”||-1.1|
|27 Jul 2016||13.4”||-0.9|
|10 Aug 2016||12.1”||-0.6|
|24 Aug 2016||11.0”||-0.4|
|07 Sep 2016||10.0”||-0.2|
|The sky on 29 June 2016|
24 days old
All times shown in EDT.
The circumstances of this event were computed using the DE430 planetary ephemeris published by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
This event was automatically generated by searching the ephemeris for planetary alignments which are of interest to amateur astronomers, and the text above was generated based on an estimate of your location.
|30 May 2016||– Mars at perigee|
|27 Jul 2018||– Mars at opposition|
|31 Jul 2018||– Mars at perigee|
|23 Aug 2020||– Mars 2020: a great chance to see the red planet|
© NASA/Hubble Space Telescope