A once in a lifetime event for astronomers is always worth waiting for. Even though the Mars opposition occurs once every twenty-six weeks, it may still be regarded as once in a lifetime event if you take into account the last time that a Mars opposition occurred on the exact same night as a blue moon. Planetary resistance is an occurrence that happens once the planet rises as the sun sets. This typically occurs when the Earth is directly between the sun and the planet, causing the planet to follow the 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 much to get excited about. What is the reason for all the excitement?
Most astronomers took the opportunity to simply observe the passing of this phenomenon, while watchmaker David Gill, in 1877, used the opportunity to use precise measurement devices and calculations to calculate the solar parallax simply by observing Mars. This was an amazing astronomic breakthrough as it was responsible for redefining the calculations for finding the distance from the earth to the sun. The parallax has recently been updated with more accurate calculations, but using the same formula that brought David Gill to his conclusion.
With the newest opposition in sight, the eminent return of Mars has prompted much ado. This, however, is not the beginning of the event, which is set to last nearly a week and is marked with the closest the red planet has been to Earth since August of 2003. Mars is really closest to the earth on the 27th of January, and it will slowly ascend upwards as the days progress. If you are wanting to catch a glimpse of this beautiful red surface of this planet at its absolute closest. Brave the cold, or enjoy the balmy summer night if 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, as it will gradually diminish in size from 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’ll need to wait another twenty-six months 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 upon the cycle of the upcoming blue moon.
Not only does the resistance and Blue Moon happen on the same night, Mars is just a hand span (7 degrees of arc) away from the Moon. It is important, then, to record the events of the night to say that you’re there. Perhaps even some Photographs to mark the occasion. For the next time this happens, you children or grandchildren will be the ones to witness it.