View Mars this month, and get a preview of great Mars views in 2016, the best since 2005!
What's Up for December? View Mars right now, and prepare for 2016, the best Mars viewing year since 2005!
Hello and welcome. I'm Jane Houston Jones at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
Last month early risers watched small, reddish Mars dance with brighter Jupiter and Venus just before sunrise. This month Mars rises earlier-by about 2 a.m. local time. Its reddish color is unmistakable, even without a telescope. It's easy to see below the Moon and Jupiter on December 4. You won't see many features this month, because the planet is almost 10 times smaller than nearby Jupiter appears and 350 times smaller than the Moon appears to us on Earth.
You should be able to see Mars' north polar region this month, because it's currently tilted towards Earth.
You'll be amazed at the changes you'll see during 2016. January through December are all prime Mars observing months. Between January and May next year, Mars triples in apparent diameter as its orbit around the sun brings it closer to Earth.
You'll even be able to see the areas on Mars where NASA's Mars landers are located.
By October, Mars shrinks in apparent size to less than half its May diameter as it speeds away from Earth. Mars shrinks even further from October through December, returning to the same size we saw in January 2016 by year's end.
So put Mars viewing on your calendar for 2016. You won't see Mars this size again until 2018, when Mars will put on an even better show. You might want to try sketching the features you see on the Red Planet, just as early astronomers did. It's easy to see some detail, even in the smallest of telescopes, and it will be a fun and inexpensive souvenir.
You can learn about NASA's #JourneytoMars missions at mars.nasa.gov. And you can learn about all of NASA's missions at www.nasa.gov
That's all for this month. I'm Jane Houston Jones.