Mars will appear orange and distinct in the night sky this month. (Damian Peach photo)

Mars jumps out from the night sky across B.C.

Mars is the brightest it’s been in 15 years this October

With Mars at its brightest in 15 years and two full moons – October is a great month to look up.

Mallory Thorp, a PhD student in the department of astronomy and physics at the University of Victoria, explains that Mars is currently in opposition, which is a “fancy word” used for when the planets and the sun align.

“So the Earth is going to be in between the sun and Mars,” said Thorp.

Mars slides into opposition every two years – due to Earth’s position on its orbit this is as close as our planet will get to Mars in the next 15 years, making the red planet extremely bright and distinct.

READ ALSO: Victoria astronomer helps discover 10 billion-year-old galaxy cluster

“It’s a combination of opposition and our position within our own elliptical orbit,” she adds.

To locate Mars, Thorp suggests going out just after sunset and gazing northeast, which is the direction the sun and planets rise. As the night goes on, Mars – which will be bright orange – will move from east to west across the sky basically following the same path the sun makes during the day.

“It will really stand out from any other star,” she said. “I think if you even stood outside and put your head up and wiggled it around, your eyes would catch it.”

READ ALSO: How much do you know about the moon?

Mars will be closest to Earth until Oct. 13 and after that it, the red planet will get “dimmer and dimmer for 15 years” before it comes back around, although there are periods where Mars will get slightly brighter when in opposition.

Another notable but unrelated space event this month is a double full moon.

There are about 29.5 days in between each full moon, which means there’s usually only a chance for one full moon a month. However, if one occurs at the beginning of the month, there’s a chance a second one could take place before the month is over – which is exactly what happened in October with the first full moon taking place on Oct. 1 and the second occurring on Oct. 31.

“This is the time of year where we all get a little bit sad as the days get shorter and it starts to get dark early, but it’s a nice reminder that there’s lots of beautiful stuff that we don’t have to stay up late to see now,” said Clare Higgs, a fellow PhD student.

For the best stargazing experience, Higgs likes to go to the beach under Mount Douglas due to the lack of streetlights, while Thorp recommends Cadboro Bay, adding that being near open water is a great way to reduce light pollution.


 

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:
kendra.crighton@blackpress.ca. Follow us on Instagram.  
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

AstronomyAviation and space

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A firefighter descends the ladder truck after checking on the upper floors of the Clarence House apartment building after a fire broke out Tuesday morning. See story on page 5. 
 (Brennan Phillips - Western News)
UPDATE: Flames doused for second time at fatal Penticton apartment fire

The Elm Ave. building first caught fire around 4 a.m., killing two people and displacing dozens

(Submitted)
Penticton apartment fire claims two lives

An apartment on Elm Avenue went up in flames Tuesday morning

A firefighter descends the ladder truck after checking on the upper floors of the Clarence House apartment building after a fire broke out Tuesday morning. (Brennan Phillips - Western News)
There has been COVID-19 exposures at two elementary schools in District 42. (Image courtesy CDC)
Interior Health reports 24 additional COVID-19 cases

This includes three school exposures in Kelowna

MLA Dan Ashton (Contributed)
Penticton MLA won’t seek leadership of B.C. Liberals

Dan Ashton believes a moderate leader with broad appeal is needed

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrives for briefing on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020 (B.C. government)
B.C. records 217 more COVID-19 cases, mask use urged

Infection spike continues, 21 senior facilities affected

Los Angeles Dodgers celebrate after defeating the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 to win the baseball World Series in Game 6 Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
L.A. Dodgers beat Rays 3-1 to win 1st World Series title since 1988

National League champs claim crown in six games

Two have been taken to hospital following a vehicle crash north of Vernon on Highway 97 Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
Crash north of Vernon causes Highway 97 traffic delays

Emergency crews respond to two-vehicle incident near Swan Lake; occupants taken to hospital

Seven-year-old Aaliyah Rosa was found dead in an apartment in Langley in July. (Langley Advance Times files)
Child’s body cold, no pulse: Off-duty cop testifies in Langley mother’s murder trial

The seven-year-old girl’s mother faces a first-degree murder charge

A Summerland woman has set up an online fundraiser to provide backpacks to those being released from correctional facilities.(ca.gofundme.com)
Summerland woman raising money for backpack program

Backpacks will be distributed to those being released from correctional facilities

École de l’Anse-au-sable. (Google Maps)
15 cases of COVID-19 tied to Kelowna Francophone school outbreak

Three other schools in Kelowna are also dealing with potential exposure events

People march during a climate strike in Montreal, Friday, Sept. 27, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Judge rejects 15 youths’ climate change lawsuit against Canadian government

Justice Michael Manson has granted the government’s motion to strike the plaintiffs’ claim

A four-vehicle accident on the Bruhn Bridge in Sicamous destroyed two cars and a section of bridge guardrail but remarkably injured no one. (Sicamous RCMP Image)
Sicamous’ Bruhn Bridge site of two collisions

Although a total of five vehicles were involved, no one was injured

Steven Gardner in an Instagram selfie that contributed to his arrest.
Receipt plus Instagram selfie leads to arrest of Kamloops man

Steven Gardner is facing three firearms charges

Most Read