© NASA/Hubble Space Telescope

Mars at perihelion

Dominic Ford, Editor
From the Outer Planets feed

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Mars's 687-day orbit around the Sun will carry it to its closest point to the Sun – its perihelion – at a distance of 1.38 AU.

Unlike most of the planets, which follow almost exactly circular orbits around the Sun which only vary in their distance from the Sun by a few percent, Mars has a significantly elliptical orbit. Its distance from the Sun varies between 1.38 AU and 1.67 AU – a variation of over 20% – meaning that it receives 31% less heat and light from the Sun at aphelion as compared to perihelion.

Finding Mars

Mars's distance from the Sun doesn't affect its appearance. From Ashburn, at the moment of perihelion it will be difficult to observe as it will appear no higher than 19° above the horizon. It will become visible around 17:35 (EDT) as the dusk sky fades, 19° above your south-western horizon. It will then sink towards the horizon, setting 2 hours and 46 minutes after the Sun at 19:37.

Begin typing the name of a town near to you, and then select the town from the list of options which appear below.

A chart of the path of Mars across the sky in 2029 can be found here, and a chart of its rising and setting times here.

The exact position of Mars at the moment it passes perihelion will be:

Object Right Ascension Declination Constellation Magnitude Angular Size
Mars 21h00m40s -18°13' Capricornus 1.1 4.5"

The coordinates above are given in J2000.0.

The sky on 21 August 2019
Twilight ends
Twilight begins

20-day old moon
Waning Gibbous


20 days old

Rise Culm. Set
Mercury 05:19 12:21 19:24
Venus 06:36 13:21 20:07
Moon 23:20 05:18 11:45
Mars 06:46 13:28 20:10
Jupiter 15:16 20:02 00:52
Saturn 17:26 22:11 03:00
All times shown in EDT.


The circumstances of this event were computed using the DE405 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.

Related news

25 Mar 2029  –  Mars at opposition
04 May 2031  –  Mars at opposition
27 Jun 2033  –  Mars at opposition
15 Sep 2035  –  Mars at opposition

Image credit

© NASA/Hubble Space Telescope




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