During the next week or so, step outside one cold, clear evening, say, around 9pm. Look to the east. The bright, orangish "star" you see is Mars. Mars is the next planet out from the sun, and it’s part of the current "What’s Up?" post from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

It’ll probably be the brightest thing (other than the moon, if it’s up) in the sky at the time, and that’s because it’s relatively close. Just about every 2 1/2 years, the earth passes between Mars and the sun. That’s when we have a close approach (astronomically-speaking). This time around, we’ll get within about 60 million miles. By contrast, we were about 15 million miles closer back in August 2003 (two close-approaches ago).

Each day during the next few months, Mars will rise a little bit earlier.  By the end of the month, it'll be visible for easy viewing by around 7pm.

There are a couple of nice star formation to look at to either side of Mars, and I’ll post about them later, when I have more time. I may also post more about Mars later.

Also, there’s a fair chance I’ll bring a telescope to our holiday meeting, to share views of "The Red Planet."  That's just another reason to come on down to the reunion on Friday. :D

Sidewalk Astronomy

Weather-pemitting, Old Town Astronomers will be setting up both Saturday, December 15th, and next Saturday, December 22nd, from around 6pm - 9pm or so, in Old Town Monrovia (on the corner of Myrtle and Lime).  Moon and Mars viewing.  No charge, of course.