Mars at Opposition: The Best View of Mars on March 3

Saturday, March 3, 2012 is a date to mark on your calendar. This is the day when Mars will be in opposition with the earth. When such a position occurs, it is very easy to see planet Mars in the sky even with the naked eye.

Meaning of “Opposition”

Opposition is an astronomical term that refers to a phenomenon that occurs when a planetary body is directly opposite to the earth from the sun. In this context, opposition occurs when the sun is directly opposite to Mars. This phenomenon only occurs once in 26 months. During opposition, the earth and Mars are “close” together making Mars appear bright and large in the sky. On March 5th Mars and the earth will be approximately 62.6 million miles or 100.7 million kilometers. On March 5th Mars will shine at magnitude of -1.2 with an apparent disk diameter of 13”.9. Regardless of your position globally, the planet Mars will be well placed for observation. Maximum opposition will occur at approximately 20:03 UTC. This will not be the closest that Mars has come closest to the earth. In August 27, 2003 Mars and the earth were closer together for more than 60,000 years. During this opposition, the approximate distance between the earth and mass was 55,780,000 kilometers. Then, with the exception of the moon, Mars were the brightest object in the sky. Astronomers estimate that there will be approximately fifteen oppositions by the year 3000. The best opposition will occur in the year 2729. Then, Mars and the earth will be at a distance of 55,651,000 km. If you miss the opposition on 5th march, you will have to wait until July 2018.

How to Photograph Mars

For the ideal picture, you need to have a high resolution camera to get the fine details of Mars. That said, the best type of camera to buy is the planetary camera. This camera has been designed to capture thousands of frames at a short time. Software then analyzes the frames to give a detailed picture. Alternatively, you can use the Astronomical CCD camera. This camera is specifically designed to for scientific and imaging purposes. These cameras are primarily designed to be used through a telescope but have been customized with adapters for use with camera lenses. With the right camera, focus your camera past infinity. Focus manually, and use a tripod stand to stabilize your picture. Finally it is imperative to note that patience is required if you are to get the best shot.

Nevertheless don’t be disappointed if the results are not what you really wanted them to be – Mars is a difficult target. If you wished you had a lot better equipment – let’s say like NASA has – well, have a look at this site: http://www.uahirise.org/hiwish/ . Basically you can tell NASA your wishes which piece of Mars should be photographed next – and you don’t have to sit hours in the cold for that 😉

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