Approximately every two years, Earth and Mars become aligned where the two planets pass close to each other in their orbits. Some oppositions of Mars are closer than others due to the eliptical nature of the planet's orbits. Mars is on its way to the closest approach in recorded history. During 2003, Mars reaches opposition in August, and the date of closest approach is August 27. On that date, the two planets will be closer to each other than they have been in 100,000 years. Mars will reach a maximum size of 25.1 arc-seconds in diameter, the largest possible size as seen from Earth.
On the date that this image was taken, Mars had already swelled to a size of about 20 arc-seconds. This image was taken from my backyard in Scottsdale, Arizona, using a ToUcam with a Mewlon-210 scope carried on an EM-10 mount. A Takahashi VariExtender was used to lengthen the focal length of the scope to about f18.4.
RA: 22h 53m 10.3s Dec: -13d 03' 13"
July 20, 2003
Image by Sid Leach
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