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:
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 leaves retrograde motion as its 2020 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 Fairfield , it will be visible in the evening sky, becoming accessible around 16:54 (EDT), 21° above your eastern horizon, as dusk fades to darkness. It will then reach its highest point in the sky at 21:15, 53° above your southern horizon. It will continue to be observable until around 02:50, when it sinks below 8° above your 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:
|04 Sep 2020||19.5”||-1.9|
|18 Sep 2020||21.4”||-2.2|
|02 Oct 2020||22.5”||-2.5|
|16 Oct 2020||22.1”||-2.6|
|30 Oct 2020||20.2”||-2.2|
|13 Nov 2020||17.7”||-1.7|
|27 Nov 2020||15.1”||-1.2|
|11 Dec 2020||12.9”||-0.8|
|25 Dec 2020||11.1”||-0.4|
|08 Jan 2021||9.6”||-0.0|
|22 Jan 2021||8.5”||0.3|
|The sky on 13 November 2020|
28 days old
All times shown in EST.
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.
|13 Oct 2020||– Mars at opposition|
|30 Nov 2022||– Mars at perigee|
|08 Dec 2022||– Mars at opposition|
|12 Jan 2025||– Mars at perigee|
© NASA/Hubble Space Telescope