Backyard Observatory

Mars Is Shining Bright This Month & Is Closer Than It Will Be for Almost 15 Years

Everything is rosy on the red planet.

Mars October
Space Imaging via Getty Images

Mars is not only the planet earthlings seem most obsessed with, it's one of the most beautiful objects in the night sky. It glows a ruddy red that stands out against the pale twinkling of stars around it. It's an alluring sight any time you get to see it, but October 2020 is an outstanding time to look at the red planet from your own backyard. 

This month, Mars will shine brighter than at any other point in the year, and it will be larger in our sky than it will be again for almost 15 years. It all comes together to make October a month when you should be searching for the red "star" glowing in the eastern sky after sunset. 

On October 6, Mars will be just 38.6 million miles away, per Sky & Telescope. That's closer than it's going to come again until September 2035. Because of that proximity, it will be as large in the sky as it will be again until that date almost 15 years into the future. Though, it will remain relatively large throughout October and into November.

Then, on October 13, Mars will hit opposition, a point when Earth sits directly between the sun and Mars. That's when Mars will be at its absolute brightest point for the year, rising at sunset and remaining up until sunrise. Opposition with Mars comes once every 26 months, according to Astronomy. Though, some oppositions occur with Mars further away. This is a relatively close one. 

However, you don't have to go out on the night of opposition to enjoy Mars. It's going to be shockingly bright all month. In fact, it'll be the fourth-brightest object in the sky behind the sun, moon, and Venus, the morning star. It'll hold that rank through the spooky month before ceding fourth place back to Jupiter.

In addition to being luminous and an orangish-red color, Mars will be easy to spot whenever you go out to look. It's not just the night of opposition, the planet will be out throughout the majority of the night all month. Get out there and admire the big red guy in the sky.

Ready to go stargazing?

Here are all the best stargazing events that you can get out and see this month or you could stay in a stream the northern lights from home. If you're just getting started, check out our guide to astronomy for beginners or easy stargazing road trips from big US cities

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Dustin Nelson is a Senior Staff Writer at Thrillist. Follow him @dlukenelson.