For the balance of July we’ll be concentrating on the planet Mars, an object that simply cannot be missed now as it approaches a very close approach to the Earth on July 31st. Indeed, this will be the Summer of Mars. Just look low in the east-southeast sky on any clear, balmy evening soon after darkness falls and you’ll see a fiery yellow-orange “star” blazing brilliantly.
Named for the Roman god of war, Mars is often called the Red Planet. But anyone who takes a look will see that it’s more like a yellowish orange — the color of a dry desert under a high sun–which is exactly what you’re looking at.
From now into September, Mars shines with a topaz glow that is brighter than any other object in its region of the sky except on those nights when the Moon is in the general vicinity (such as on July 27th, with the Full Moon).
Some people are going to call it a UFO, but of course it’s not. Any unusual close approach of Mars will loan itself to making it appear exceptionally brilliant and indeed, from now into the first week of September, Mars will outshine even Jupiter (the planet normally second in brightness only to Venus).
Find more astronomy stories here.
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