Mars will enter retrograde motion, halting its usual eastward movement through the constellations, and turning to move westwards instead. This reversal of direction is a phenomenon that all the solar system's outer planets periodically undergo, a few months before they reach 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:
2020 apparition of Mars
|09 Sep 2020||–||Mars enters retrograde motion|
|06 Oct 2020||–||Mars at perigee|
|13 Oct 2020||–||Mars at opposition|
|13 Nov 2020||–||Mars ends retrograde motion|
Mars enters retrograde motion as its 2020 apparition gets underway, although it has already been visible for some weeks in the pre-dawn sky.
Its celestial coordinates as it enters retrograde motion will be:
|Object||Right Ascension||Declination||Constellation||Magnitude||Angular Size|
The coordinates above are given in J2000.0.
From Fairfield , it will be visible in the morning sky, becoming accessible around 21:48, when it reaches an altitude of 7° above your eastern horizon. It will then reach its highest point in the sky at 03:29, 55° above your southern horizon. It will be lost to dawn twilight around 06:09, 40° above your south-western horizon.
Over the following weeks, Mars will reach its highest point in the sky four minutes earlier each night, gradually becoming visible in the evening sky, as well as the pre-dawn sky, as it approaches opposition.
The panels below show the month-by-month change in Mars' apparent size in coming weeks:
The table below lists Mars' angular size at brightness at two-week intervals throughout its apparition:
|01 Jul 2020||11.5”||-0.5|
|15 Jul 2020||12.8”||-0.8|
|29 Jul 2020||14.3”||-1.0|
|12 Aug 2020||16.1”||-1.3|
|26 Aug 2020||18.1”||-1.7|
|09 Sep 2020||20.2”||-2.0|
|23 Sep 2020||22.0”||-2.3|
|07 Oct 2020||22.6”||-2.6|
|21 Oct 2020||21.6”||-2.4|
|04 Nov 2020||19.4”||-2.0|
|18 Nov 2020||16.7”||-1.5|
|The sky on 09 September 2020|
21 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.
|09 Sep 2020||– Mars enters retrograde motion|
|06 Oct 2020||– Mars at perigee|
|13 Oct 2020||– Mars at opposition|
|13 Nov 2020||– Mars ends retrograde motion|
© NASA/Hubble Space Telescope