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Mars Observational Data, Oct 2013 to Oct 2014

Mars Conjunctions with other Planets, 2013-2015

Moon near Mars Dates, Jul 2013 to Apr 2015

Finding Mars from The Big Dipper, Oct 2013 to Aug 2014

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Paths of Mars and Saturn from October 2013 to October 2014 (Copyright Martin J Powell 2013)

 

The path of Mars against the background stars of Leo, Virgo, Libra, Northern Scorpius and Southern Ophiuchus from October 2013 to October 2014, shown at 10-day intervals. During this apparition Mars described a 'hybrid' formation (part loop, part zig-zag) against the background stars, unlike the more conventional loop that it described during the planet's previous apparition in 2011-13. The path of Saturn in Libra is marked at the beginning of each month; the two planets passed each other in the evening sky in late August 2014 (for more details see the planetary conjunctions section below). The star map applies to observers in the Northern hemisphere (i.e. North is up); for the Southern hemisphere view, click here. The faintest stars shown on the map have an apparent magnitude of about +4.8. Printer-friendly versions of this chart are available for Northern and Southern hemisphere views. Astronomical co-ordinates of Right Ascension (longitude, measured Eastwards in hrs:mins) and Declination (latitude, measured in degrees North or South of the celestial equator) are marked around the border of the chart. Night sky photographs of the region can be seen below; descriptions of the deep-sky objects (double stars, globular clusters and galaxies) shown in the Western half of the chart can be found here.

The Mars Apparition of 2013-2015 by Martin J Powell

At superior conjunction on April 18th 2013 (when it passed directly behind the Sun in the constellation of Pisces), the planet Mars was positioned 2.4321 Astronomical Units (AU) from Earth (363.8 million kms or 226 million miles). Had it been visible from Earth at this time, it would have had an apparent magnitude of +1.2 and an apparent size of only 3".8 (i.e. 3.8 arcseconds, where 1" = 1/60th of an arcminute or 1/3600 of a degree). Mars entered Aries, the Ram, on April 18th and Taurus, the Bull, about a month later, on May 22nd. Mars was moving steadily Eastward against the background stars at a rate of about 0.7 per day, fading slightly as its distance from Earth increased still further (a process that continued over the next couple of months). On June 5th the Red Planet reached its most distant point from the Earth for this apparition (sometimes referred to as the apogee), a distance of 2.4665 AU (368.9 million kms or 229.2 million miles), shining at an apparent magnitude of +1.4 and having an apparent diameter of 3".8.

2 0 1 3

 

By June 20th Mars had reached a solar elongation of 15 West and its 2013-15 apparition truly began as it emerged into view from the bright dawn twilight, pulling away from the Sun at a rate of just 0.26 per day. The planet's first appearance (rising in the Eastern sky at dawn) took place from around mid-June 2013, when it was seen from Equatorial and Southern hemisphere latitudes. By late June the planet had faded slightly to the upper threshold of second magnitude (+1.5).

From mid-Northern latitudes Mars began to appear in the dawn sky around early July, when it was positioned some 5 South of the star Al Nath (Greek lower-case letter 'beta' Tau or Beta Tauri, mag. +1.6) which marks the tip of the Bull's Northern horn. On July 6th, it passed 2.7 North of the star Zeta Tauri (Greek lower-case letter 'zeta' Tau, mag. +2.9v), which marks the tip of the Bull's Southern horn.

The planet Mars in Leo in March 2012. Click for a full-size photo (Copyright Martin J Powell, 2012)

Mars in Leo, 2012  The Red Planet previously reached opposition in Leo in early March 2012; this photograph was taken about a week after that date, when it shone at magnitude -1.2 (Move your cursor over the image - or click here - to identify the stars, and click on thumbnail for a full-size picture).

At this early stage in the apparition, Mars appeared as a feeble, pale-orange star, shining about as bright as the star Al Nath. It barely gained any significant altitude (angle above the horizon) before disappearing into the brightening twilight. Telescopically the planet was a disappointing sight, its low altitude and tiny apparent size frustrating most attempts to obtain a steady and clear view of the planet's surface.

The planet entered Gemini, the Twins, on July 14th, where it soon attained its most Northerly declination (angle North of the celestial equator, symbol Greek lower-case letter 'delta') for this apparition, at +23 58' 2" (+23.96 in decimal format). The planet was now rising and setting at its most Northerly position on the local horizon. At latitude 40 North, Mars rose in the North-east about 1 hours before sunrise and at the Equator it rose in the ENE around 1 hours before sunrise. At latitude 35 South - where the planet's visibility was very limited at this stage - Mars rose in the ENE just 1 hours before the Sun.

Mars (now mag. +1.6) was slowly approaching the much brighter planet Jupiter (mag. -1.8) in Western Gemini, gaining on the giant planet by about 0.5 per day. Jupiter was now emerging into the dawn sky at the commencement of its 2013-14 apparition. The two planets met in a planetary conjunction on July 22nd, the Red Planet passing 0.8 North of Jupiter, some 24 West of the Sun. The planet Mercury was located to the South-east of the pair. This was the first of six planetary conjunctions involving Mars and the other Solar System planets which took place during the 2013-15 apparition (for more details, refer to the planetary conjunctions section below).

Mars passed 7.4 North of the star Alhena (Greek lower-case letter 'gamma' Gem or Gamma Geminorum, mag. +2.0), at the foot of the Southern Twin, on July 26th and two days later, 1.3 South of the star Mebsuta (Greek lower-case letter 'epsilon' Gem or Epsilon Geminorum, mag. +3.0) at the 'groin' of the Northern Twin.

At high Northern latitudes, the long summer twilight had delayed Mars' first appearance until around late July, by which time the planet was rising in the North-east some 2 hours before the Sun. The Martian disk now appeared 3.9 arcseconds across, telescopes showing a gibbous phase of about 98% illumination. Elsewhere the planet was rising 2 hours ahead of the Sun (at latitude 40 North), 1 hours before the Sun (at the Equator) and 1 hours before the Sun (at latitude 35 South).

On August 4th Mars passed 2.8 North of the star Mekbuda (Greek lower-case letter 'zeta' Gem or Zeta Geminorum, mag. +3.9), the 'left knee' of the Southern Twin. It passed 1 North of the star Wasat (Greek lower-case letter 'delta' Gem or Delta Geminorum, mag. +3.5) on August 10th.

The planet passed 9.3 South of the star Castor (Greek lower-case letter 'alpha' Gem or Alpha Geminorum, mag. +1.9) on August 15th and then 5.8 South of Gemini's brightest star Pollux (Greek lower-case letter 'beta' Gem or Beta Geminorum, mag. +1.3) on August 19th. On August 25th Castor, Pollux and Mars formed a straight line some 12 in length, helping to pinpoint the planet as it rose in the North-eastern sky. Together with Jupiter, positioned 15 to the West of Mars, the four celestial bodies formed the shape of an isosceles triangle, with the two planets at the base.

The path of Mars through the Praesepe star cluster (M44) in September 2013 (Copyright Martin J Powell, 2013)

Mars in M44, September 8th-9th 2013

Mars crossed the open cluster M44 (Praesepe) in the constellation of Cancer. Move your pointer over the image - or click here - to see the track of the planet, marked at 0h UT on each date.

By late August 2013, when Mars was positioned around 36 West of the Sun, the planet has escaped the twilight and was rising in darkness from the entire Northern hemisphere. Mars also reached its faintest magnitude of the 2013-15 apparition (+1.6) around this time before beginning to brighten again from early September.

The view of Mars from Southern hemisphere latitudes was poor throughout most of 2013. From here, the shallow angle of the ecliptic to the Eastern horizon along this stretch of the zodiac resulted in the planet attaining a low altitude above the horizon as the dawn arrived. At latitude 45 South at the end of August, the planet was visible for just 40 minutes after rising. It disappeared into the brightening twilight, having attained an altitude of only 5 above the horizon. Further North the visibility durations were only slightly better and the altitudes only slightly higher: one hour visibility duration and 10 altitude at 35 South; 1 hours visibility duration and 15 altitude at 25 South and 1 hours visibility duration and 19 altitude at 15 South.

The planet entered Cancer, the Crab, on August 24th. From September 8th-9th Mars passed through the star cluster known as Praesepe (pronounced 'PRE-SEEP-EE'), designated Messier 44 (M44 or NGC 2632). It is also known by the names Beehive Cluster or The Manger. Positioned just 1.3 North of the ecliptic, this cluster commonly sees planets passing through it, and when they do so, it often makes an interesting photographic subject. The path of Mars through the cluster in 2013 is shown in the annotated photograph (left).

The following day (September 10th) Mars passed 2.2 South of the star Asellus Borealis (Greek lower-case letter 'gamma' Cnc or Gamma Cancri, mag. +4.6) and later that day, it passed 1 North of the star Asellus Australis (Greek lower-case letter 'delta' Cnc or Delta Cancri, mag. +3.9). On September 16th the planet passed 6.5 North of the star Acubens (Greek lower-case letter 'alpha' Cnc or Alpha Cancri, mag. +4.2), a name derived from the Arabic for 'the claws'.

Mars moved into Leo, the Lion, on September 25th, passing 5.4 North of the star Subra (Greek lower-case letter 'omicron' Leo or Omicron Leonis, mag. +3.5) at the tip of the Lion's foreleg, on October 3rd.

Mars entered the star chart coverage around October 5th, at which point it was positioned about 50 West of the Sun. The planet now rose 5 hours before the Sun at latitude 60 North, 4 hours before the Sun at 40 North, 3 hours before the Sun at the Equator and 2 hours before the Sun at latitude 35 South. On October 14th Mars passed 1 North of Leo's blue-white luminary Regulus (Greek lower-case letter 'alpha' Leo or Alpha Leonis, mag. +1.4), the planet being only 0.2 magnitudes fainter.

There was an interesting close passage of Mars with a fourth-magnitude star on November 17th. At around 0345 UT Mars (mag. +1.3) passed just 0.011 (41") North of the blue-white star Greek lower-case letter 'sigma' Leo (Sigma Leonis, mag. +4.0) at the foot of the Lion's hind leg. The small separation between the two objects ensured that they were both easily visible through telescopes. Interestingly, this coincided with the maximum activity of the Leonid meteor shower, whose radiant (apparent point of origin) was located in the Sickle of Leo asterism some 23 to the North-west of Mars.

Mars' passage through the constellations during the early part of the 2013-15 apparition (i.e. pre star chart) is summarised in the table below:

Date Range

Constellation

<----- Mid-Period ----->

Apparent Magnitude

Apparent

Diameter

(arcsecs)

Solar

Elongation

2013

May 22 to Jul 14

Astrological symbol of Taurus

Taurus

+1.4

3".8

14W

Jul 14 to Aug 24

Astrological symbol of Gemini

Gemini

+1.6

3".9

27W

Aug 24 to Sep 25

Astrological symbol of Cancer

Cancer

+1.6

4".1

39W

Sep 25 to Nov 25

Astrological symbol of Leo

Leo

+1.5

4".7

56W

Table showing the position and apparent magnitude of Mars for the early part of the 2013-2015 apparition. The magnitudes, diameters and solar elongations listed here refer to the middle of the period in question. In this and the tables which follow, the rising and setting directions of the constellations listed can be found by referring to the zodiacal constellation rise-set direction table.

The planet entered Virgo, the Virgin, on November 25th, when it was about 70 West of the Sun. By this time the view of Mars from Southern hemisphere latitudes was improving somewhat, despite the proximity of midsummer. The planet now rose in darkness, having pulled sufficiently far from the Sun for it to be visible for longer periods after sunrise and to attain higher altitudes. At 45 South the planet was visible for about an hour after rising - attaining 18 altitude above the ENE horizon - before twilight enveloped it. At 35 South the planet was visible for 2 hours, attaining an altitude of 30; at 25 South it was visible for 3 hours, reaching 40 altitude whilst at 15 South the planet was visible for 4 hours and reached a respectable 48 in altitude.

Mars passed 1.2 North of the star Zavijah or Zavijava (Greek lower-case letter 'beta' Vir or Beta Virginis, mag. +3.6) on December 1st. The planet crossed the celestial equator (Greek lower-case letter 'delta' = 0) heading Southwards on December 16th and the following day passed 0.7 North of the star Zaniah (Greek lower-case letter 'eta' Vir or Eta Virginis, mag. +3.8). Having brightened to magnitude +1.0, Mars passed 0.7 South of the double star Porrima (Greek lower-case letter 'gamma' Vir or Gamma Virginis, mag. +3.5) on December 29th.

2 0 1 4

 

Mars reached western quadrature (90 West of the Sun) on January 2nd 2014, positioned 2.1 South-east of Porrima. When seen from the Earth, the planet now showed its minimum phase (the percentage of the planet's disk which was illuminated - in this case, 90%) making it appear slightly gibbous when seen through telescopes. Mars now rose around 8 hours before the Sun at latitude 60 North; 7 hours before sunrise at 40 North; 6 hours before sunrise at the Equator and 5 hours before sunrise at 35 South. Since the planet now lay close to the celestial equator, it rose very close to due East across the inhabited world.

Mars reached its most distant point from the Sun (aphelion) on January 3rd, at a distance of 1.666 AU (249.2 million kms or 154.8 million miles). The planet's heliocentric longitude (symbol Greek lower-case letter 'eta') at this point was 156 (Greek lower-case letter 'eta' = 156). The heliocentric (Sun-centred) longitude is the angle (from 0 to 359.99) that a planet is positioned in its orbit at any given point in time, measured with respect to the Sun. The angle is measured Eastwards (i.e. counter-clockwise when viewed from above the Sun's Northern pole) from the First Point of Aries, the 'zero point' of planetary longitude measurements (Greek lower-case letter 'eta' = 0). By definition, the First Point of Aries is the same direction as the Vernal Equinox (Spring Equinox), i.e. the direction in which the Sun appears against the background stars when its declination is 0 on its Northward path through the ecliptic. It is normally marked on star charts as 'Vernal Equinox' and is positioned at co-ordinates Right Ascension = 0 hours and Greek lower-case letter 'delta' = 0, i.e. in South-western Pisces.

Just one day earlier (January 2nd) the Earth had reached the perihelion position in its orbit, i.e. its closest position to the Sun at a distance of 0.9833 AU (147 million kms or 91.4 million miles). The heliocentric longitude of the Earth at perihelion every year is about 103, drifting only very slowly over time. This is known as the longitude of the perihelion (symbol Symbol for 'longitude of the perihelion' or 'pomega' (a Greek lower-case 'omega' with a macron)) and it is one of several orbital elements which are used to determine the positions of the planets in the Solar System at any given time. The aphelion and perihelion points of a planet's orbit are, of course, positioned directly opposite each other, the longitudes differing by 180.

By early January the Southern hemisphere view of Mars had improved to the point that it was now visible for more than a few hours before sunrise. The Red Planet rose 4 hours before the Sun at latitude 45 South, 5 hours before sunrise at 35 South, 5 hours before sunrise at 25 South and 5 hours before sunrise at 15 South. The visibility durations and planet altitudes attained were, respectively: 3 hours (37), 4 hours (50), 4 hours (60) and 5 hours (70).

Now positioned around 100 West of the Sun, Mars passed 0.6 North of the star Theta Virginis (Greek lower-case letter 'theta' Vir, mag. +4.4) on January 16th. The planet was now brightening significantly with each passing week, its pale-orange coloration seemingly more obvious than in the preceding months. Mars reached magnitude +0.5 on January 20th, technically making it a zeroth-magnitude object. On January 28th it passed 4.9 North of Virgo's brightest star Spica (Greek lower-case letter 'alpha' Vir or Alpha Virginis, mag. +1.0), Mars being about 0.6 magnitudes brighter than the blue-white star. Over the next two weeks, the planet brightened a further half-magnitude to 0.0.

In mid-February Mars reached 10".0 in angular diameter and was 120 West of the Sun. For telescopic observers, the planet was now at a sufficient apparent size for significant surface detail to be seen and for a regular campaign of observing to commence. At the beginning of March, Mars attained magnitude -0.5 ('minus first magnitude') and the following day (March 2nd) the planet reached its eastern stationary point, some 6 North-east of Spica. By mid-March, Mars had brightened to magnitude -1.0. Now moving retrograde (East to West) against the background stars, Mars encountered Spica again, passing 5.1 North of it on March 31st.

Mars reached opposition to the Sun (solar elongation = 180) on April 8th 2014, at which point it was directly opposite the Sun in the sky and at its brightest for this apparition. The planet was positioned 1 North-east of Theta Virginis and 6.7 NNW of Spica. This was not, however, Mars' closest point to the Earth during this apparition; because of the eccentricity of its orbit, Mars' perigee (its closest point to Earth) was reached one week later - on April 15th - when it was 0.6175 AU distant (92.3 million kms or 57.4 million miles). The Red Planet now shone at magnitude -1.4 and its apparent size was 15".2, i.e. double the size it was in mid-January and triple the size it had been in the previous November.

At opposition, a superior planet rises around sunset, is visible throughout the night and sets around sunrise. Its highest point in the sky is reached when it crosses the observer's meridian at local midnight (due South at midnight in the Northern hemisphere; due North at midnight in the Southern hemisphere).

On opposition day, the Red Planet was experiencing Summer in its Northern hemisphere and Winter in its Southern hemisphere. The planet's Northern polar axis was tipped towards the Earth at an angle of about 21, giving us a good view of its Northern Polar Cap (NPC). Mars was positioned at a heliocentric longitude of 198 (Greek lower-case letter 'eta' = 198) and the areocentric longitude of the Sun (Ls) was 113. The Martian Year was 32, the Martian Month was 4 and opposition day equated to Sol Number 244 on Mars. The equivalent Earth date on Mars - called the Martian Date (MD) - was July 7th. All the terms given in this paragraph are explained in more detail on the Martian seasons page.

At the 2014 opposition, Mars was 0.25 magnitudes brighter than it was at its previous opposition in March 2012 and its apparent disk diameter was about 9% larger. Indeed, its opposition disk size and brightness in 2012 had not been so poor since the opposition of February 1995, some 17 years earlier. Mars was now emerging from a period of poor (i.e. distant) oppositions which had resulted in small disk diameters (less than about 20" across) since the opposition of December 2007. Such distant and dim oppositions, taking place when the planet is near the aphelion position in its orbit, are often referred to as aphelic oppositions (for more details, see the Mars Oppositions page).

Date

Constellation

Apparent

Magnitude

Apparent

Diameter

(arcsecs)

Tilt

View from

Earth

(0h UT)

(North up)

Distance (AU)*

Solar

Elongation

Illuminated

Phase

Central

Meridian

Longitude

(0h UT)

from Earth

from Sun

2013

Oct 10

Astrological symbol of Leo

Leo

+1.6

4".4

+22.4

View of Mars from Earth on October 10th 2013 at 0h UT (Image from NASA's Solar System Simulator v4)

2.0796

1.6310

50W

94%

332

Oct 20

Astrological symbol of Leo

Leo

+1.5

4".6

+23.5

View of Mars from Earth on October 20th 2013 at 0h UT (Image from NASA's Solar System Simulator v4)

2.0108

1.6386

54W

93%

235

Oct 30

Astrological symbol of Leo

Leo

+1.5

4".8

+24.2

View of Mars from Earth on October 30th 2013 at 0h UT (Image from NASA's Solar System Simulator v4)

1.9363

1.6453

58W

92%

138

Nov 9

Astrological symbol of Leo

Leo

+1.4

5".0

+24.7

View of Mars from Earth on November 9th 2013 at 0h UT (Image from NASA's Solar System Simulator v4)

1.8565

1.6511

62W

92%

41

Nov 19

Astrological symbol of Leo

Leo

+1.3

5".2

+24.9

View of Mars from Earth on November 19th 2013 at 0h UT (Image from NASA's Solar System Simulator v4)

1.7718

1.6560

67W

91%

303

Nov 29

Astrological symbol of Virgo

Vir

+1.2

5".4

+24.8

View of Mars from Earth on November 29th 2013 at 0h UT (Image from NASA's Solar System Simulator v4)

1.6826

1.6599

71W

91%

206

Dec 9

Astrological symbol of Virgo

Vir

+1.1

5".8

+24.5

View of Mars from Earth on December 9th 2013 at 0h UT (Image from NASA's Solar System Simulator v4)

1.5895

1.6629

76W

90%

110

Dec 19

Astrological symbol of Virgo

Vir

+1.0

6".2

+24.0

View of Mars from Earth on December 19th 2013 at 0h UT (Image from NASA's Solar System Simulator v4)

1.4933

1.6649

81W

90%

13

Dec 29

Astrological symbol of Virgo

Vir

+0.9

6".7

+23.3

View of Mars from Earth on December 29th 2013 at 0h UT (Image from NASA's Solar System Simulator v4)

1.3948

1.6659

87W

90%

278

 2014

Jan 8

Astrological symbol of Virgo

Vir

+0.7

7".2

+22.4

View of Mars from Earth on January 8th 2014 at 0h UT (Image from NASA's Solar System Simulator v4)

1.2949

1.6659

93W

90%

182

Jan 18

Astrological symbol of Virgo

Vir

+0.5

7".8

+21.6

View of Mars from Earth on January 18th 2014 at 0h UT (Image from NASA's Solar System Simulator v4.0)

1.1948

1.6649

99W

90%

87

Jan 28

Astrological symbol of Virgo

Vir

+0.3

8".5

+20.7

View of Mars from Earth on January 28th 2014 at 0h UT (Image from NASA's Solar System Simulator v4)

1.0959

1.6629

106W

91%

353

Feb 7

Astrological symbol of Virgo

Vir

+0.1

9".3

+19.9

View of Mars from Earth on February 7th 2014 at 0h UT (Image from NASA's Solar System Simulator v4)

0.9998

1.6599

113W

92%

259

Feb 17

Astrological symbol of Virgo

Vir

-0.1

10".3

+19.3

View of Mars from Earth on February 17th 2014 at 0h UT (Image from NASA's Solar System Simulator v4)

0.9085

1.6560

121W

93%

166

Feb 27

Astrological symbol of Virgo

Vir

-0.4

11".3

+19.0

View of Mars from Earth on February 27th 2014 at 0h UT (Image from NASA's Solar System Simulator v4)

0.8243

1.6511

130W

94%

74

Mar 9

Astrological symbol of Virgo

Vir

-0.6

12".4

+19.1

View of Mars from Earth on March 9th 2014 at 0h UT (Image from NASA's Solar System Simulator v4)

0.7503

1.6453

141W

96%

344

Mar 19

Astrological symbol of Virgo

Vir

-1.0

13".5

+19.5

View of Mars from Earth on March 19th 2014 at 0h UT (Image from NASA's Solar System Simulator v4)

0.6897

1.6386

152W

98%

254

Mar 29

Astrological symbol of Virgo

Vir

-1.2

14".4

+20.3

View of Mars from Earth on March 29th 2014 at 0h UT (Image from NASA's Solar System Simulator v4)

0.6459

1.6310

165W

99%

166

Apr 8

Astrological symbol of Virgo

Vir

-1.5

15".0

+21.3

View of Mars from Earth at opposition on April 8th 2014 at 0h UT (Image from NASA's Solar System Simulator v4)

0.6219

1.6226

177W

100%

79

Apr 18

Astrological symbol of Virgo

Vir

-1.4

15".1

+22.4

View of Mars from Earth on April 18th 2014 at 0h UT (Image from NASA's Solar System Simulator v4)

0.6187

1.6134

167E

99%

352

Apr 28

Astrological symbol of Virgo

Vir

-1.2

14".7

+23.4

View of Mars from Earth on April 28th 2014 at 0h UT (Image from NASA's Solar System Simulator v4)

0.6352

1.6035

154E

98%

264

May 8

Astrological symbol of Virgo

Vir

-1.0

14".0

+24.1

View of Mars from Earth on May 8th 2014 at 0h UT (Image from NASA's Solar System Simulator v4)

0.6686

1.5930

142E

96%

175

May 18

Astrological symbol of Virgo

Vir

-0.8

13".1

+24.7

View of Mars from Earth on May 18th 2014 at 0h UT (Image from NASA's Solar System Simulator v4)

0.7148

1.5818

132E

94%

85

May 28

Astrological symbol of Virgo

Vir

-0.6

12".1

+25.0

View of Mars from Earth on May 28th 2014 at 0h UT (Image from NASA's Solar System Simulator v4)

0.7700

1.5701

122E

92%

353

Jun 7

Astrological symbol of Virgo

Vir

-0.4

11".2

+25.1

View of Mars from Earth on June 7th 2014 at 0h UT (Image from NASA's Solar System Simulator v4)

0.8312

1.5579

114E

90%

260

Jun 17

Astrological symbol of Virgo

Vir

-0.2

10".4

+25.0

View of Mars from Earth on June 17th 2014 at 0h UT (Image from NASA's Solar System Simulator v4)

0.8956

1.5454

107E

88%

166

Jun 27

Astrological symbol of Virgo

Vir

-0.0

9".7

+24.6

View of Mars from Earth on June 27th 2014 at 0h UT (Image from NASA's Solar System Simulator v4)

0.9616

1.5325

101E

88%

71

Jul 7

Astrological symbol of Virgo

Vir

+0.1

9".1

+24.0

View of Mars from Earth on July 7th 2014 at 0h UT (Image from NASA's Solar System Simulator v4)

1.0279

1.5195

96E

87%

336

Jul 17

Astrological symbol of Virgo

Vir

+0.2

8".5

+23.0

View of Mars from Earth on July 17th 2014 at 0h UT (Image from NASA's Solar System Simulator v4)

1.0934

1.5065

91E

87%

240

Jul 27

Astrological symbol of Virgo

Vir

+0.3

8".0

+21.8

View of Mars from Earth on July 27th 2014 at 0h UT (Image from NASA's Solar System Simulator v4)

1.1576

1.4934

86E

86%

143

Aug 6

Astrological symbol of Virgo

Vir

+0.4

7".6

+20.2

View of Mars from Earth on August 6th 2014 at 0h UT (Image from NASA's Solar System Simulator v4)

1.2202

1.4805

82E

86%

46

Aug 16

Astrological symbol of Libra

Lib

+0.5

7".3

+18.4

View of Mars from Earth on August 16th 2014 at 0h UT (Image from NASA's Solar System Simulator v4)

1.2807

1.4679

78E

86%

309

Aug 26

Astrological symbol of Libra

Lib

+0.6

6".9

+16.2

View of Mars from Earth on August 26th 2014 at 0h UT (Image from NASA's Solar System Simulator v4)

1.3394

1.4557

75E

87%

212

Sep 5

Astrological symbol of Libra

Lib

+0.7

6".7

+13.8

View of Mars from Earth on September 5th 2014 at 0h UT (Image from NASA's Solar System Simulator v4)

1.3960

1.4439

71E

87%

115

Sep 15

Astrological symbol of Scorpius

Sco

+0.7

6".4

+11.1

View of Mars from Earth on September 15th 2014 at 0h UT (Image from NASA's Solar System Simulator v4)

1.4506

1.4329

68E

87%

18

Sep 25

Astrological symbol of Scorpius

Sco

+0.8

6".2

+8.2

View of Mars from Earth on September 25th 2014 at 0h UT (Image from NASA's Solar System Simulator v4)

1.5035

1.4226

65E

88%

280

Oct 5

 

Oph

+0.8

6".0

+5.1

View of Mars from Earth on October 5th 2014 at 0h UT (Image from NASA's Solar System Simulator v4)

1.5548

1.4132

62E

88%

183

* 1 AU (Astronomical Unit) = 149,597,870 kms (92,955,806 statute miles)

Table of selected data relating to the brighter part of the Mars apparition of 2013-15. The data is listed at 10-day intervals, corresponding with the dates on the star map. The Central Meridian Longitude (provided for telescopic observers) is the Martian longitude which appeared at the centre of the disk when seen from the Earth at the time indicated (0h Universal Time, or 0h GMT). A Martian longitude map by Damian Peach showing the surface features can be seen at the BAA Mars Section website (note that the map is shown with South up, matching the inverted view seen through astronomical telescopes). For example, when CM = 290, Syrtis Major appears at the centre of the disk. The Central Meridian Longitude increases by 14.6 every hour, so this allowance should be applied for observations at other times (if the result is greater than 360, subtract 360 to obtain the correct longitude). Those wishing to observe Mars telescopically should consider downloading the free 'Mars Previewer II ' software by Leandro Rios, available as a ZIP file at Sky & TelescopeThe data for the table was obtained from 'RedShift 5', 'SkyGazer Ephemeris' , 'Mars Previewer II' software and Mars Ephemeris Generator 2.5. The Martian disk images were derived from NASA's Solar System Simulator v4. The Martian disks appear at the same scale as those in the Mars Opposition data table here.

 

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Opposition now having passed, the solar elongation moved from Westerly to Easterly and the magnitude of the angle reduced. Mars' solar elongation reduced from 180 (at opposition) to 160 East of the Sun on April 23rd. On May 3rd the planet encountered Porrima for a second time, passing 1.3 South of it.

From about early May, the lengthening summer twilight began to interfere with the planet's visibility for observers at high Northern latitudes. The effect was more significant the further North an observer was situated. By the beginning of June, observers at latitude 60 North were only able to view the planet for about 2 hours, the entire visible period taking place in advanced twilight. The 'window of visibility' rapidly closed from these latitudes and from mid-June, observers North of about 58 North lost sight of the planet completely in the bright twilight, which now lasted throughout the night. Observers in these high latitudes did not see Mars again until November, by which time the planet had moved on South-eastwards along the zodiac.

Mars reached its western stationary point on May 21st, positioned 2.4 South-west of Porrima. Following this, the planet reversed direction and began to head South-eastwards. Mars was positioned 120 East of the Sun at month's end, setting 4 hours after the Sun at latitude 60 North, 6 hours after the Sun at 40 North, 8 hours after the Sun at the Equator and 9 hours after the Sun at 35 South. The planet was now several degrees South of the celestial equator, setting not far from due West across the inhabited world.

Its distance from Earth now increasing, Mars' brightness began to fade. By June 1st its magnitude had fallen to -0.5 and by the end of the month it was 0.0. Since opposition, its apparent diameter had shrunk by a third to 10".0.

The three bright stars forming the familiar figure of Virgo's South-eastern region were passed for the third and final time over the next five weeks - the planet moving direct (West to East) once more. On June 9th Mars passed 2.9 South of Porrima; on July 3rd it passed 2.4 South of Theta Virginis and on July 12th Mars passed 1.4 North of Spica.

Mars reached eastern quadrature (90 East of the Sun) on July 19th, positioned 1.5 NNW of Spica and showing an 87% illuminated, Westward-facing gibbous phase. Mars was now setting 1 hours after the Sun (at 60 North), 3 hours after the Sun (40 North), 5 hours after the Sun (Equator) and 7 hours after the Sun (35 South). Note the significant variation of time intervals at eastern quadrature (period after sunset) when compared to those of western quadrature (period before sunrise) in January 2014 at the same latitudes, despite the fact that the solar elongation was the same (90) in both cases. The different time intervals were caused by the planet's different declinations on the two occasions. Back in January 2014 Mars was positioned at a high declination (Greek lower-case letter 'delta' = +23) whereas in July 2014 it was positioned South of the celestial equator (Greek lower-case letter 'delta' = -11).

By August 7th the planet's apparent diameter had reduced considerably to just 7".6 - only half that at its closest approach back in mid-April. Having spent over eight months in Virgo, the planet finally entered Libra, the Balance, on August 10th. It was now positioned 80 East of the Sun and by mid-August had faded in brightness to magnitude +0.5.

On August 22nd Mars passed 1.6 South of Libra's second-brightest star, the blue-white double-star named Zuben Elgenubi (Greek lower-case letter 'alpha'2 Lib or Alpha2 Librae, mag. +2.8). Its fainter companion (Greek lower-case letter 'alpha'1 Lib) is magnitude +5.2 and is separated from the primary by 3'.8, making the two easily separable through binoculars. Whilst in Libra, Mars was involved in its second planetary conjunction of the 2013-15 apparition, when it passed 3.5 South of Saturn on August 27th. The two planets differed in brightness by just one-tenth of a magnitude. Saturn had faded since reaching opposition the previous May although its wide-open rings continued to make it a nice telescopic sight.

Mars passed 6.6 North of the star Sigma Librae (Greek lower-case letter 'sigma' Lib, mag. +3.3) on August 28th and 5.9 South of the star Zuben Elakrab (Greek lower-case letter 'gamma' Lib or Gamma Librae, mag. +4.0) on September 8th.

Mars entered Scorpius, the Scorpion, on September 13th, passing 0.5 North of the star Dschubba (Greek lower-case letter 'delta' Sco or Delta Scorpii, mag. +2.2) on September 17th and 2.5 South of another double-star, Graffias or Acrab (Greek lower-case letter 'beta' Sco or Beta Scorpii, combined mag. +2.6) on September 19th. The two blue-white components (Greek lower-case letter 'beta'1 Sco and Greek lower-case letter 'beta'2 Sco) are magnitudes +2.6 and +4.9, separated by 13".7 and easily seen in small telescopes.

At around 1600 UT on September 23rd, Mars (mag. +0.8) passed just 0.13 (8') North of the eighth-magnitude globular cluster M80 (or NGC 6093) which, like most of the brighter globulars, appears as a faint, circular, fuzzy spot of light through binoculars under dark skies. The narrow separation allowed the two objects to be easily contained within a typical telescope field of view. Binocular users saw the planet and cluster appear in very close proximity.

Mars entered the 'non-zodiacal' constellation of Ophiuchus, the Serpent Bearer, on September 25th. Whilst in Ophiuchus, the planet passed 3.1 North of Scorpius' leading star Antares (Greek lower-case letter 'alpha' Sco or Alpha Scorpii, mag. +1.3) on September 27th. Antares is unmistakable in that it shines orange-red, rivalling the colour of the Red Planet - indeed, the name Antares derives from the ancient Greek 'anti Ares' meaning 'rival of Mars' (Ares being the ancient Greek God of War). The two celestial bodies' brightnesses differed on this occasion by only half a magnitude, Antares being the fainter of the two. From higher Northern hemisphere latitudes the star's low transit elevation causes it to scintillate (twinkle) very distinctly, drawing much attention.

On October 8th Mars passed 2 North of the seventh-magnitude globular cluster M19 (NGC 6273) in Southern Ophiuchus. Shortly afterwards, Mars left the star chart coverage before passing 8.7 South of the star Sabik (Greek lower-case letter 'eta' Oph or Eta Ophiuchi, mag. +2.5) on October 11th. The Red Planet's solar elongation had reduced to 60 East by mid-month.

Mars entered Sagittarius, the Archer, on October 21st and five days later attained its most Southerly declination for this apparition, at -24 57' 9" (-24.95 in decimal format). The planet now set at its most Southerly position on the local horizon. Typically this will be towards the South-west at latitudes far away from the Equator and towards the WSW at Equatorial latitudes. Mars was now positioned 1.3 WSW of M8 (NGC 6523) commonly called the Lagoon Nebula, a sixth-magnitude gaseous nebula with apparent dimensions of 90' by 40'. Mars passed 0.5 South of the nebula between October 27th and 28th.

Over the next few weeks Mars passed the numerous bright stars which define the form of the Archer figure. It also passed close-by four globular clusters, which are particularly numerous in this star-rich region of the Milky Way.

On October 28th Mars passed 5.5 North of the star Nash or Al Nasl (Greek lower-case letter 'gamma' Sgr or Gamma Sagittarii, mag. +3.0) and later that same day, just 3'.5 (3.5 arcminutes) North of the eighth-magnitude globular cluster NGC 6544 (apparent diameter 8'.9). On November 2nd the planet passed 5 North of the star Kaus Meridionalis (Greek lower-case letter 'delta' Sgr or Delta Sagittarii, mag. +2.7) which marks the centre of the Archer's bow. The following day the planet passed just 3'.0 North of another globular cluster, M28 (NGC 6626) of seventh-magnitude and with an apparent diameter of 11'.2. On November 4th Mars passed 0.6 North of the star Kaus Borealis (Greek lower-case letter 'lambda' Sgr or Lambda Sagittarii, mag. +2.8) marking the top of the Archer's bow (and the top of Sagittarius' famous Teapot asterism). On November 6th the planet passed 0.7 South of the bright globular cluster M22 (NGC 6656) which is considered to be one of the finest globulars in the night sky. Its integrated magnitude is about +5.9 and it has an apparent diameter of 24'. It is just visible to the naked-eye from dark sites, is easily seen through binoculars and is a spectacular sight through telescopes. M22 was the first globular cluster to be discovered (in 1665 by German amateur astronomer Johann Abraham Ihle).

The four stars passed by Mars over the next week form the 'handle' of the Teapot. The planet passed 2.5 North of Psi Sagittarii (Greek lower-case letter 'psi' Sgr, mag. +3.1) on November 9th; 2.0 North of the constellation's second-brightest star Nunki (Greek lower-case letter 'sigma' Sgr or Sigma Sagittarii, mag. +2.0) on November 12th; 5.7 North of Ascella (Greek lower-case letter 'zeta' Sgr or Zeta Sagittarii, mag. +2.6) on November 14th and finally, 3.7 North of Tau Sagittarii (Greek lower-case letter 'tau' Sgr, mag. +3.3) on November 16th.

As Mars passed 3.7 North of the star Albaldah (Greek lower-case letter 'pi' Sgr or Pi Sagittarii, mag. +2.9v) later that same day, the planet was positioned a little under 50 East of the Sun and by month's end, Mars had faded to magnitude +1.0. From all inhabited regions of the world, Mars now set around 3 hours after the Sun. Observers situated at high-Northern latitudes, who lost sight of the planet in mid-June, now began to detect it once more, low down over the SSW horizon.

Just before leaving Sagittarius, Mars passed 15' North of the eighth-magnitude globular cluster M75 (NGC 6864) on December 4th. This distant and compact cluster - with an apparent diameter of just 6' - lies close to the constellation's Eastern border with Capricornus, the Sea Goat, which the planet entered later that same day.

On December 8th Mars passed 6 South of the star Dabih (Greek lower-case letter 'beta' Cap or Beta Capricorni, mag. +3.0), an Arabic name meaning 'lucky one of the slaughterers'. The disturbing name derives from a distant time when heathen Arabs held ritual animal sacrifices at the rising of Capricornus. Unsurprisingly, the animal in question would often be a goat, though apparently not exclusively.

Mars reached perihelion (its closest orbital position to the Sun) on December 12th, when it was 1.3812 AU (206.6 million kms or 128.3 million miles) from the Sun. The planet's heliocentric longitude at this point (and therefore, its longitude of the perihelion) was 336 (Symbol for 'longitude of the perihelion' or 'pomega' (a Greek lower-case 'omega' with a macron) = 336).

Over the next two weeks, Mars passed four of the brighter stars which straddle the ecliptic in the Eastern half of the Sea Goat. The planet passed 0.6 South of Theta Capricorni (Greek lower-case letter 'theta' Cap, mag. +4.0) on December 22nd; 0.2 North of Iota Capricorni (Greek lower-case letter 'iota' Cap, mag. +4.3) on December 28th; 1.5 North of Nashira (Greek lower-case letter 'gamma' Cap or Gamma Capricorni, mag. +3.7) on January 2nd 2015 and 1.6 North of Deneb Algiedi (Greek lower-case letter 'delta' Cap or Delta Capricorni, mag. +2.9) on January 5th.

2 0 1 5

 

Now positioned a little under 40 East of the Sun, the planet entered Aquarius, the Water Bearer, on January 8th, passing1.1 North of the star Iota Aquarii (Greek lower-case letter 'iota' Aqr, mag. +4.2) on January 11th. Four days later (January 15th) Mars passed 3.9 North of the star Ancha (Greek lower-case letter 'theta' Aqr or Theta Aquarii, mag. +4.1).

On January 19th Mars (now mag. +1.1) passed 0.2 South of the planet Neptune (mag. +7.9) in a relatively close planetary conjunction. Both planets were located in central Aquarius at this time, about 10 South of its best-known identifier, the so-called 'Steering Wheel' asterism. A star chart showing this region of the night sky can be found on the Neptune page.

On January 27th Mars passed 0.5 South of the star Lambda Aquarii (Greek lower-case letter 'lambda' Aqr, mag. +3.9). From around this time through to late February, Mars was positioned South of the Great Square of Pegasus - four fairly bright stars forming a near-perfect square, in the Eastern half of the constellation of Pegasus, the Winged Horse. From around February 4th to 15th, the planet was positioned South of the Circlet of Pisces, at the Western end of Pisces, the Fishes. The Circlet comprises six stars of fourth and fifth magnitude; under light-polluted conditions it is likely that some or all of them will not be seen with the naked-eye.

Mars entered Pisces on February 11th. At this time the planet Venus was positioned just 5 to the South-west of Mars. Venus, having entered the evening sky at the start of its 2015 apparition, had been closing in on Mars from the South-west and saw conjunction with Neptune on February 1st. Since the start of 2015 Venus had been moving North-eastwards and gaining on Mars by about 0.5 per day; it eventually caught up on February 21st in a planetary conjunction which positioned the brightest of the naked-eye planets some 0.4 South of the Red Planet. The two planets were positioned only a short distance East of the First Point of Aries (see above) and they crossed the celestial equator (heading North-eastwards) on the same day. A star chart showing this region of the night sky can be found on the Uranus page.

Mars briefly left Pisces on March 1st when it entered Cetus, the Whale, before re-entering Pisces the following day. As Venus passed to the North of Uranus in central Pisces on March 4th, Mars was positioned 4.8 to the WSW of the pair. Venus then sped on North-eastwards, heading towards its greatest eastern elongation on June 6th. One week later (March 11th) Mars was also in conjunction with Uranus, passing 0.3 to the North of the blue-green outer gas giant.

On March 14th Mars passed 1.5 South of the star Epsilon Piscium (Greek lower-case letter 'epsilon' Psc, mag. +4.2). With Mars positioned a little over 20 East of the Sun, observers in far Southern latitudes began to lose sight of the Red Planet as it slipped into the dusk twilight. The planet now set 2 hours after the Sun at latitude 60 North, 2 hours after sunset at 40 North, 1 hours after sunset at the Equator and about an hour after sunset at 35 South. Having returned to the vicinity of the celestial equator, Mars was again setting towards the West across the inhabited world.

Mars entered Aries, the Ram, on March 30th, by which time observers at mid-Southern latitudes were beginning to lose sight of the planet in the dusk twilight. On April 1st Mars passed 7.7 South of the beautiful double-star star Mesarthim (Greek lower-case letter 'gamma' Ari or Gamma Arietis, mag. +4.6) and later that day, 9.1 South of the star Sharatan (Greek lower-case letter 'beta' Ari or Beta Arietis, mag. +2.6).

On April 6th Mars passed 10.6 South of the constellation's leading star Hamal (Greek lower-case letter 'alpha' Ari or Alpha Arietis, mag. +2.1). Whilst in Aries, the planet was passed by Mercury in a difficult planetary conjunction on April 23rd. The two planets were positioned 1.4 apart and just 14 away from the Sun. This final conjunction of the Martian 2013-15 apparition was only visible from Equatorial latitudes and as far North as the mid-Northern hemisphere.

Mars' passage through the constellations during the latter (i.e. post star chart) period of the 2013-15 apparition is summarised in the table below:

Date Range

Constellation

<----- Mid-Period ----->

Apparent Magnitude

Apparent

Diameter

(arcsecs)

Solar

Elongation

2014

Sep 25 to Oct 21

 

Ophiuchus

+0.8

5".9

62E

Oct 21 to Dec 4

Astrological symbol of Sagittarius

Sagittarius

+0.9

5".4

53E

Dec 4 to

Astrological symbol of Capricornus (Capricorn)

Capricornus

+1.0

4".9

43E

2015

 Jan 8

Jan 8 to Feb 11

Astrological symbol of Aquarius

Aquarius

+1.2

4".5

35E

Feb 11 to Mar 1

Astrological symbol of Pisces

Pisces

+1.2

4".3

31E

Mar 1 to Mar 2

 

Cetus

+1.3

4".2

26E

Mar 2 to Mar 30

Astrological symbol of Pisces

Pisces

+1.3

4".0

23E

Mar 30 to May 3

Astrological symbol of Aries

Aries

+1.4

3".9

16E

Table showing the position and apparent magnitude of Mars for the latter part of the 2013-15 apparition. As in the first table, the magnitudes, diameters and solar elongations refer to the middle of the period in question.

As Mars' solar elongation reduced below 15 East of the Sun around mid-April, the planet finally became lost from view from the Northern hemisphere and - a couple of weeks later - from Equatorial latitudes. Mars remained out of view - lost in the solar glare - for over three months as it continued Eastwards on the far side of its orbit from the Earth. Mars reached superior conjunction (passing behind the Sun as viewed from the Earth) on June 14th, when it was 2.5675 AU (384 million kms or 238.6 million miles) from Earth. Had the planet been visible from Earth at this time, it would have shone at magnitude +1.5 and appeared just 3".6 across.

Mars became visible from the Earth again in the dawn sky from around late July 2015, when it was first glimpsed from Northern Tropical latitudes. This heralded the start of the 2015-17 apparition, which saw Mars in the constellation of Scorpius when it next reached opposition in May 2016.

 [Terms in yellow italics are explained in greater detail in an associated article describing planetary movements in the night sky.]

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Mars Conjunctions with other Planets, 2013 to 2015

During the 2013-15 apparition, there were six visible planetary conjunctions involving Mars, all taking place at elongations of less than 75. Mars was fainter than magnitude +0.6 in all cases.

Only one of the six conjunctions took place at dawn, this being on July 22nd 2013, when Mars passed 0.8 North of Jupiter in Western Gemini. With the exception of high Northern latitudes, the two planets were bright enough to cut through the dawn summer twilight and attain a reasonable altitude above the North-eastern horizon before succumbing to the brightening sky. At latitude 50 North the planets attained an altitude of 8 before they were lost from view whilst at 20 North they reached 15. In the Southern hemisphere the planet reached 13 above the horizon at latitude 15 South but only 5 at 45 South. Adding interest to the event was the planet Mercury, positioned several degrees to the South-east of the pair, although it could only be seen from latitudes South of about 30 North.

Perhaps the most interesting Martian conjunction of the 2013-15 apparition was with Saturn in central Libra on August 27th 2014. It was easily seen from the Southern hemisphere but was more difficult from higher Northern latitudes, where twilight and low altitude interfered with observation. The separation between the two planets was a wide 3.5, so that they were too far apart to fit within a telescopic field of view but were excellent in binoculars. The planets differed in brightness by just 0.1 magnitude, making their subtle colour differences easier to discern. Observers were likely to have discerned the colours more clearly by slightly de-focussing their binocular eyepieces or camera lenses.

In early 2015 Mars encountered four planets in as many months, all of the conjunctions favouring Northern hemisphere observers. A conjunction between Mars and Neptune in Aquarius on January 19th 2015 was interesting though unspectacular, the two planets being separated by just 0.2 - the closest planetary conjunction of the 2013-15 apparition. Whilst Mars was an obvious telescopic or binocular object, eighth-magnitude Neptune was fifteen times further away than the Red Planet and 520 times fainter and had to be 'teased out' from the smattering of background stars. Mars could easily be picked out in the dusk twilight but at higher latitudes Neptune required up to an hour more time before the sky was dark enough for the planet to be seen through binoculars. Consequently the altitude of the two planets had fallen considerably by the time both of them could be seen together. When they became visible, the pair were placed 11 high in the South-west at 60 North and 22 high in the WSW at 20 North. In the Southern hemisphere, the pair were placed 17 high in the West when they became visible at 15 South and 7 high in the West at 35 South.

Just over a month later on February 21st, Mars was passed by Venus, the Red Planet having moved into Pisces and now several degrees closer to the Sun. The pairing was ideally placed for Northern hemisphere observers because the ecliptic at this point in the zodiac presented a steep angle to the Western horizon just after sunset. Twilight affected observation of the conjunction in the Southern hemisphere, though the two planets were still visible, low above the Western horizon.

The last easily seen conjunction of the 2013-15 apparition took place on March 11th, when Mars passed 0.3 to the North of Uranus in central Pisces. The circumstances applying to Neptune (above) also applied here except that, since Uranus was six times brighter than its more distant twin, it required less time to become visible in the twilight. At higher latitudes, Uranus required an extra 30 minutes or so to become visible after Mars had first been glimpsed in the twilight. When the pair became visible in the West after sunset, they stood 7 high at 60 North and 12 high at 20 North. Twilight and low altitude prevented visibility of this conjunction at latitudes South of about 20 South.

Finally, a difficult conjunction took place between Mars and Mercury on April 23rd 2015, the two planets being only 14 away from the Sun. The approximate region of visibility was between 40 North and 5 South. As they became visible in the dusk sky, the planets stood less than 5 high in the WNW.

The following table lists the conjunctions involving Mars which took place at solar elongations of 14 or greater. Where other planets were also in the vicinity, details are given. Note that, because some of the conjunctions occurred in twilight, the planets involved may not have appeared as bright as their listed magnitude suggests.

Table showing conjunctions of Mars with other planets during the apparition of 2013-15 (Copyright Martin J Powell, 2013)

Mars conjunctions with other planets from July 2013 to April 2015 The column headed 'UT' is the Universal Time (equivalent to GMT) of the conjunction (in hrs : mins). The separation (column 'Sep') is the angular distance between the two planets, measured relative to Mars, e.g. on 2015 Feb 21, Venus was positioned 0.4 South of Mars at the time shown. The 'Fav. Hem' column shows the Hemisphere in which the conjunction was best observed (Northern, Southern and/or Equatorial). The expression 'Not high N Lats' indicates that observers at latitudes further North than about 45N most likely found the conjunction difficult or impossible to view because of low altitude and/or bright twilight.

In the 'When Visible' column, a distinction is made between Dawn/Morning visibility and Dusk/Evening visibility; the terms Dawn/Dusk refer specifically to the twilight period before sunrise/after sunset, whilst the terms Evening/Morning refer to the period after darkness falls/before twilight begins (some conjunctions took place in darkness, others did not, depending upon latitude). The 'Con' column shows the constellation in which the planets were positioned at the time of the conjunction.

To find the direction in which the conjunctions were seen on any of the dates in the table, note down the constellation in which the planets were located ('Con' column) on the required date and find the constellation's rising direction (for Dawn/Morning apparitions) or setting direction (for Dusk/Evening apparitions) for your particular latitude in the Rise-Set direction table.

A table of planetary conjunctions involving Mars from 2016 to 2020 can be seen here.

Although any given conjunction takes place at a particular instant in time, it is worth pointing out that, because of the planets' relatively slow daily motions, such events are interesting to observe for several days both before and after the actual conjunction date.

There are in fact two methods of defining a planetary conjunction date: one is measured in Right Ascension (i.e. along the celestial equator) and the other is measured along the ecliptic, which is inclined at 23 to the Earth's equatorial plane (this is due to the tilt of the Earth's axis in space). An animation showing how conjunction dates are determined by each method can be found on the Jupiter-Uranus 2010-11 triple conjunction page. Although conjunction dates measured along the ecliptic are technically more accurate (separations between planets can be significantly closer) the Right Ascension method is the more commonly used, and it is the one which is adopted here.

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Finding Mars in the Night Sky, October 2013 to August 2014

During the brightest period of its 2013-15 apparition, Mars was easily found from the Northern hemisphere using the well-known asterism known as The Big Dipper (or The Plough) in the constellation of Ursa Major, the Great Bear. Between October 2013 and August 2014, when Mars was moving through Leo and Virgo, the planet could be found using the method shown in the animation here.

If Mars is some months away from opposition when it is observed, its coloration may not be immediately obvious to the naked eye; in which case, a pair of binoculars will help to reveal its trademark orange colour. 

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Leo, Virgo, Libra and Scorpius: Constellation Photographs

Photograph showing the constellation of Virgo, the Virgin. Click for a full-size photo (Copyright Martin J Powell, 2006)

 

Photograph showing the constellation of Leo, the Lion. Click for a full-size photo (Copyright Martin J Powell, 2005)

 

Chart showing the areas of the 2013-14 star chart which are covered by the photographs. Dashed lines indicate that the photograph extends beyond the boundary of the star chart

 

Photograph showing the constellation of Libra, the Balance and the Northern region of Scorpius, the Scorpion. Click for a full-size photo (Copyright Martin J Powell, 2006)

 

Leo, Virgo, Libra and Northern Scorpius  Photographs showing the region of the night sky through which Mars passed during the year following October 2013. In the Leo photo, stars are visible down to an apparent magnitude of about +8.0; in the Virgo photo the limiting magnitude is about +7.5 whilst that of the Libra photo is about +7.0. Note that the three photographs do not have the same scale because of the differing camera lens settings and image resolutions (Move your pointer over the images to identify the constellations and click on the images for their full-size equivalents).

Lying to both North and South of Mars' path through the zodiac from 2013-14 are numerous interesting deep-sky objects (objects beyond our Solar System) which can be seen through small telescopes and binoculars. More details can be found on the Zodiacal Sky: Cancer-Leo-Virgo page.

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Moon near Mars Dates, July 2013 to April 2015

The Moon is easy to find, and on one or two days in each month, it passes Mars in the sky. The following tables list the dates on which the Moon passed near the planet between July 2013 and April 2015:

Date Range

(World)

Conjunction (Geocentric)

Solar Elong.

Moon Phase

Date & Time

Sep. & Dir.

2013

Jul 6/7

Jul 6, 12:12 UT

3.7 N

19W

Waning Crescent

Aug 3/4

Aug 4, 11:18 UT

5.2 N

27W

Waning Crescent

Sep 1/2

Sep 2, 09:39 UT

6.2 N

36W

Waning Crescent

Sep 30/..

Oct 1, 06:27 UT

6.6 N

47W

Waning Crescent

..Oct 1

Oct 29/30

Oct 30, 00:55 UT

6.4 N

58W

Waning Crescent

Nov 27/28

Nov 27, 16:10 UT

5.7 N

71W

Waning Crescent

Dec 25/26

Dec 26, 02:45 UT

4.6 N

85W

Waning Crescent

2014

Jan 22/23

Jan 23, 06:29 UT

3.6 N

102W

Waning Gibbous

Feb 19/20

Feb 19, 23:58 UT

3.1 N

124W

Waning Gibbous

Mar 18/19

Mar 19, 03:14 UT

3.2 N

152W

Waning Gibbous

Apr 14/15

Apr 14, 18:23 UT

3.5 N

171E

Waxing Gibbous

May 11/12

May 11, 13:32 UT

2.9 N

138E

Waxing Gibbous

Jun 7/8

Jun 8, 00:44 UT

1.6 N

114E

Waxing Gibbous

Jul 5/6*

Jul 6, 01:21 UT

0.2 N

96E

Waxing Gibbous

Aug 2/3

Aug 3, 10:01 UT

2.2 S

83E

Waxing Crescent

Aug 31/..

Aug 31, 23:43 UT

4.1 S

73E

Waxing Crescent

..Sep 1

Sep 29/30

Sep 29, 17:01 UT

5.6 S

64E

Waxing Crescent

Oct 28/29

Oct 28, 12:53 UT

6.5 S

56E

Waxing Crescent

Nov 25/26

Nov 26, 10:07 UT

6.6 S

49E

Waxing Crescent

Dec 24/25

Dec 25, 07:33 UT

5.7 S

42E

Waxing Crescent

* A lunar occultation took place (i.e. Mars disappeared from view behind the Moon), seen from the central and Eastern Pacific Ocean and Northern South America. For occultation maps see the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan website.

 

 

 

2015

Jan 22/23

Jan 23, 04:40 UT

3.9 S

35E

Waxing Crescent

Feb 20/21

Feb 21, 01:29 UT

1.5 S

29E

Waxing Crescent

Mar 21*/22

Mar 21, 22:13 UT

1.0 N

21E

Waxing Crescent

Apr 19/20

Apr 19, 19:01 UT

3.1 N

14E

Waxing Crescent

* A lunar occultation took place, visible from the Southern Pacific Ocean, Southern South America and parts of Antarctica. For occultation maps see the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moon near Mars dates for the period from July 2013 to April 2015. The Date Range shows the range of dates worldwide (allowing for Time Zone differences across East and West hemispheres). Note that the Date, Time and Separation of conjunction (i.e. when the two bodies were at the same Right Ascension) are measured from the Earth's centre (geocentric) and not from the Earth's surface. All times are Universal Time [UT], which is equivalent to GMT. The Sep. & Dir. column gives the angular distance (separation) and direction of the planet relative to the Moon, e.g. on May 11th 2014 at 13:32 UT, Mars was positioned 2.9 North of the Moon's centre. The Moon Phase shows whether the Moon was waxing (between New Moon and Full Moon), waning (between Full Moon and New Moon), at crescent phase (less than half of the lunar disk illuminated) or gibbous phase (more than half but less than fully illuminated).

 

The Moon moves relatively quickly against the background stars (in an Eastward direction, at about its own angular width [0.5] each hour, or about 12.2 per day) and because it is relatively close to the Earth, an effect called parallax causes it to appear in a slightly different position (against the background stars) when seen from any two locations on the globe at any given instant; the further apart the locations, the greater the Moon's apparent displacement against the background stars. Therefore, for any given date and time listed in the table, the Moon may have appeared closer to Mars when seen from some locations than others. For this reason, the dates shown in the table should be used only for general guidance.

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The Naked-eye appearance of Mars

Naked Eye Planet Index

Planetary Movements through the Zodiac

 

Mercury

Venus

Mars

Jupiter

Saturn

Uranus

Neptune

Pluto


 

Credits

 


Copyright  Martin J Powell  July 2013


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