Solar System Phenomena - Mars

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The chart shows the path of Mars across the background stars over the course of the year. Stars to magnitude +4.5 are shown with some fainter objects included to complete constellation patterns. The white circles represent the planet on the first day of the month (the thirteenth circle representing 1 January next year) and are scaled according to apparent magnitude. The faint path before the first circle and after the last circle represent the planet's positions in December of last year and January of next year. In general, the planet moves from right to left except when it's in retrograde and proceding in the opposite direction.

The red planet begins the year in the morning sky, sharing the constellation Libra with its giant neighbour Jupiter with which it has a close encounter early in January. Rising ever farther ahead of the Sun, Mars next encounters a planet in April when it passes near Saturn. Opposition occurs at the end of July. This is a particularly favourable opposition from an observational standpoint with the disk of Mars appearing over 24 arc-seconds in diameter. The planet is easiest to see from southern latitudes this year although northern observers finally get some better views toward the end of 2018 when Mars is an evening sky object.

07 January0.2° south of Jupiter
30 JanuaryLibraScorpius
07 FebruaryScorpiusOphiuchus
11 MarchOphiuchusSagittarius
16 Marchdescending node
24 Marchwest quadrature (magnitude +0.4)
02 April1.3° south of Saturn
14 MaySagittariusCapricornus
22 Mayequinox - autumn in the northern hemisphere and spring in the southern hemisphere
28 Junestationary - direct to retrograde
27 Julyopposition (magnitude -2.7)
31 Julyminimum distance from Earth
16 Augustmaximum declination south
28 Auguststationary - retrograde to direct
16 Septemberperihelion
16 Octobersolstice - winter in the northern hemisphere and summer in the southern hemisphere
18 October1.9° south of the Moon
10 NovemberCapricornusAquarius
16 November1.0° north of the Moon - occultation in some parts of the world
03 Decembereast quadrature (magnitude +0.9)
07 December0.4° north of Neptune
21 DecemberAquariusPisces
31 Decembermaximum declination north