See Mars Now: Red Planet Shines Bright

From the space.com article:
Mars will be closer to Earth this month than any time until the year 2016.

The red planet is now the brightest “star” in the evening sky and is already above the horizon as evening twilight fades away. But give it at least two more hours – until about 8 p.m. – for it to climb above the poor atmospheric seeing that’s near the horizon. By then, this brilliant yellow-orange world will be at an altitude of around 30 degrees as seen from mid-northern latitudes.

Your clenched fist held at arm’s length is roughly equal to 10 degrees, so by 8 p.m. Mars will be about “three-fists” up from the east-northeast horizon. Mars appears much sharper and steadier when it crosses the southern meridian, about a half hour after local midnight. Its altitude as seen from most mid-northern latitudes is then about 75-degrees (more than “seven fists” up from the southern horizon).

Mars is retrograding (moving westward) through the stars of Gemini and will cross over into Taurus on Dec. 30. It will come closest to the Earth on the night of Dec. 18 (around 6:46 p.m. EST). The planet is then 54,783,381 miles (88,165,305 kilometers) from Earth. It is at opposition – exactly opposite from the sun, with Earth in the middle – six days later, on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24.

It will then gleam at magnitude -1.6, and through Jan. 2, 2008, will outshine Sirius, the brightest star.

Read the whole article here.
Picture of where Mars will be in the sky here.

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