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Viewing Mars in 2006

Mars was at opposition November 7, 2005 and is next at opposition on December 24 2007. October through December 2005 were the best months to view Mars. But January still offers good views even though the planet is farther away from Earth and smaller in apparent diameter. Mars is high in the sky 60 degrees above the horizon at the end of evening twilight and it sets at 2:30 a.m. in the west-northwest. Look for Mars near the first quarter moon on January 8. Spring begins in the Martian northern hemisphere on January 21.

Mars is still 60 degrees above the horizon at dusk and sets near 1:30 a.m. Look for Mars near the first quarter moon on February 5. On February 16, look for Mars near M45, the Pleiades star cluster.

Mars is 50 degrees high in the west-southwest at the end of evening twilight and sets near 1:00 a.m. in the northwest. Look for Mars near the first quarter moon on March 6. Mars continues to shrink in size and grow dimmer in magnitude as it falls farther behind Earth in their orbit around the sun.

Mars is only 40 degrees above the western horizon at sunset, and sets at midnight. For those with telescopes, look for Mars near the open star cluster M35 in Gemini, April 17. Mars is a tiny featureless disk in most telescopes by mid-month.

Mars is 20 degrees above the western horizon at sunset and sets near 11:30 p.m. Look for Mars near the new moon on May 2 and again on May 31. Take care to avoid looking at the Sun as both the Moon and Mars are low on the horizon after sunset. On May 30, Mars is at the left end of a long celestial line consisting of Mars, Moon, Pollux, and Castor, the two brightest stars in the constellation Gemini.

Mars is very low in the west-northwest at sunset, and sets just a few hours afterward. On June 13, both Mars and Saturn straddle M44, the Beehive cluster of stars. On June 15, Mars passes in front of the more distant star cluster, and appears centered in binocular views of the star cluster. From mid-month to the end of the month, the gap between the two planets closes as Mars gains ground on Saturn in their slow, eastward motion relative to the stars in the constellation of Cancer. On June 17, Mars is in conjunction with Saturn. By month's end, Mars can be found to the upper left of Saturn.

Mars is too close to the sun for safe viewing by amateur astronomers this month. Mars is visible with difficulty after sunset for the first two weeks of the month before becoming lost in the glare of the sun by month's end. Mars cannot be viewed by northern hemisphere observers until December. It will emerge slowly in the east-southeast morning twilight in the second half of December.

Last Updated: 20 January 2011

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Last Updated: 20 Jan 2011