Even though the Mars opposition occurs once every twenty-six months, it may nevertheless be considered once in a lifetime event if you take under consideration the final time that a Mars opposition occurred on exactly the same night as a blue moon. Planetary resistance is an occurrence that happens when the planet rises as the sun sets. This typically happens when the Earth is directly between the sun and the planet, causing the world to follow the exact same elliptical path as sunlight. Add that the moon will be full twice in the month of January, called a blue moon, then there is a lot to get excited about. What is the reason behind all the excitement? The next full moon of the month of January is on the 30th, the same day that Mars will be in direct opposition.
Most astronomers took the chance to just observe the passing of this phenomenon, while watchmaker David Gill, in 1877, used the opportunity to use precise measurement devices and calculations to figure out the solar parallax simply by observing Mars. This was an remarkable astronomic breakthrough since it was responsible for redefining the calculations for finding the distance from the earth to the sun. The parallax has just been upgraded with more accurate calculations, but using the exact same formula that brought David Gill to his conclusion.
With the most recent opposition in sight, the eminent return of Mars has prompted much ado. The night sky will be illuminated by a full moon on January 29th and 30th, as the Red Planet rises at Six O’clock PM, EST.. This, however, isn’t the start of the event, which is set to last almost a week and is marked with the closest the red planet has been to Earth since August of 2003. Mars is actually closest to the earth on the 27th of January, and it will slowly ascend upwards as the days progress. If you’re wanting to catch a glimpse of the gorgeous red surface of the planet in its absolute closest. Brave the chilly, or enjoy the balmy summer night in case your in the southern hemisphere on the 27th and get your telescope into focus. This will be the best night for optimal viewing of the red planet, since it will gradually diminish in size in the subsequent weeks. Mars will shine at Magnitude -1.28, almost as bright as the brightest star in the sky, Sirus. Don’t delay or you will have to wait another twenty-six weeks for the March of 2012 opposition. However, the next time that the opposition of Mars will occur on the same night as a blue moon depends on the cycle of the next blue moon.
Not only does the opposition and Blue Moon happen on the same night, Mars is only a hand (7 degrees of arc) away from the Moon. It is critical, then, to document the events of the night to say that you’re there. Maybe even some Pictures to mark the occasion. For the next time this occurs, you children or grandchildren are the ones to watch it.