Big Full Moon and Mars Put on a Show Friday Night

by Nancy Atkinson on January 28, 2010

Want to stay on top of all the space news? Follow @universetoday on Twitter

An almost full Moon on Jan. 27, 2010. Credit and copyright: Alan Walters

If your skies are clear on Friday night, January 29, 2010, take advantage of one of the skywatching highlights of the year. A full Moon and Mars will be putting on a show, and the pair will be prominently close to each other in the sky. Plus, this Friday night’s full Moon is the biggest and brightest full Moon of the year. It’s a “perigee Moon,” as much as 14% wider and 30% brighter than other full Moons you’ll see later in 2010, according to Spaceweather.com. And, even though you’ve likely not gotten an email from an excited acquaintance relaying that Mars is really close to the Earth now — that is the case. Mars is at opposition on the 29th, which means it lines up opposite the Sun and is now the closest to Earth their orbits, and so will shine brighter.

The image above of the not-quite-full Moon from January 27, 2010 is shared by Universe Today reader Alan Walters, from Florida. You can see more of his wonderful photography of the night sky, launches and shuttle landings, Florida wildlife and more at Alan Walters Photography.

Positions of the Moon and Mars. Credit: McDonald Observatory

This image, courtesy of Stardate Online and the McDonald Observatory, shows the positions of the Moon and Mars in the night sky the next few evenings.

This is not a great opposition for Mars because it occurs around the time that Earth is closest to the Sun and Mars is farthest. The gap between the two planets will be a hefty 62 million miles (99 million km). The smallest possible distance at opposition is about 35 million miles (56 million km), which happened a back in August of 2003, and prompted the infamous emails that now surface every August, that Mars would be as big the full Moon, which of course, is not — and was not — true. Mars appeared more than twice as bright then as it will this year, but was still a star-like dot in the sky.

JPL is sponsoring a Facebook Event, Friday Night With the Moon and Mars, to heighten awareness of what a great sight it will be; plus its a great way to share in the experience with others online.

And for more information, see this Science@NASA article about the close encounter.

Sources: Stardate, Spaceweather.com

About 

Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also works with Astronomy Cast, and is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

Hon. Salacious B. Crumb January 28, 2010 at 4:28 PM

Just the wanton programmed dreams of Americans…

When NASA budget cuts loom as a possibility, againout come “advertising” for long-term goals and dreams of American

Pity both the Moon and Mars now looks even further away!

Such deliberate propaganda to again wave the patriotic flag. Gotta love it!

Timber January 28, 2010 at 7:13 PM

Hi Sal,

We are concerned for you, you really do have to manage your meds schedule better, you seem to get these hallucinations.

How your anti-Americanism could possibly conjure up a connection with Nancy’s benign story of Mars is extreme.

Best wishes, we hope you feel better soon

clament January 28, 2010 at 7:37 PM

well, i will give a try to observe the Mars tonight =)

star-grazer west coast January 28, 2010 at 9:06 PM

Crumb, I realize the US has an incredible deficit built up since the end of WW2, however, this thread concerns the visual observations of Mars and the Moon close together in the night sky in 24hours PST.
Perhaps you and the 2 homeboys, Anaconda and Olis should have a few beers together in an English pub.

Hon. Salacious B. Crumb January 28, 2010 at 9:36 PM

Eh? the story is lined to a NASA website!

Also why is that with comments… If an American says it is “freedom of speech”, if you are a non-American then it is deemed “anti-Americiansm”?

Double standards… you bet!. Pathetic.

(Sadly I’m not British (Why do Americans always make that often wrong assumption? Especially when the British are actually for more daft!)

Tammy Plotner January 29, 2010 at 12:56 AM

we all know you’re an aussie. our UK friends have far better manners and i’ve found out from my many aussie friends that those like mr. crumb here are also rather rare and not generally tolerated by their mates – often banished from forums for always being disagreeable.

just out of curiosity, do you get paid by someone to be unkind to the folks in here, or do you just do it as a hobby?

DrFlimmer January 29, 2010 at 3:14 AM

Take a look out the window: Rain fall, mixed with snow… about 2°C… big, fat cloud cover. A few hours to go until nightfall, but my hopes are fading that the skies will clear up…

Aodhhan January 29, 2010 at 4:35 AM

Sally pup,

I suppose Americans are a bit daft, perhaps UK even more daft. Yet, on anyone’s daft scale… you’ve set a new limit for it. You even make a twat look good. They’ve gotta love it.

hale-bopp January 29, 2010 at 10:16 AM

Just a quick clarification to your story…the opposition of Mars does occur today, but the closest approach actually occurred on January 27th. Due to both planets having elliptical orbits, the closest approach and opposition do not always occur on the same day (I made this mistake in the first draft of my blog entry on this but I went the other way mistakenly stating opposition occurred on January 27th!)

Tricky things, those orbits!

Mr.Astronomy January 29, 2010 at 2:35 PM

It was a nice clear night in the UK, got a quick pic of the moon with my phone.

http://xs.to/image-1087_4B6361F6.jpg

Hon. Salacious B. Crumb January 29, 2010 at 4:13 PM

Boy some people here are sensitive to open comments.

Clearly when you want to drum up support for the way the US Government spends its budget (from the taxes it collects) – each agency quickly gets on the bandwagon to drum up its own support. Yes, even NASA does it. Hence, propaganda -”biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view ” (propaganda does not have to be negative, by the way)

So when someone at UT then presents a whole lot of stories in a row regarding the NASA Budget then one linking NASA on the Moon and Mars you might have to question why..

As all good Americans know, your President is supposed to, by law “The Budget and Accounting Act of 1921“, to submit to Congress his own recommended budget and how that money is allocated. Congress can agree or just reject it.

If NASA wants to keep all it programs and not be subjected to cuts it must yearly promote itself to both the President and back it up with any support from the people. NASA always raises its profile at this time of year because of it.

…but according most of you guys here, this logic is daft?

Hon. Salacious B. Crumb January 29, 2010 at 4:25 PM

…I forgot to mention.

Read the very bottom of the linked NASA article on this page. This is “USA.gov” and what does it talk about….

Well such things (among others) such as; “Budgets, Strategic Plans and Accountability”, “The President’s Management Account”, “Inspector General’s Hotline”…

I think what I say here MIGHT BE close to the truth!

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: