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Astronomers are saying that Mars is going to look quite spectacular in the night sky tonight (Thursday, March 25). It is going to appear as a bright star next to the moon and shine brighter than any other points of light in the night sky. The reason, astronomers say, is that the red planet will be closest to the Earth in its journey along the ecliptic, the path the sun, moon and planets follow across the sky. You’ll have to wait till 2012 for Mars to return to this position and brightness.

So here’s your chance to get a really good look at the red planet because in another couple days, the planet Saturn will take its spot beside the moon. Such conjunctions of the moon and planets are regular reminders of how rapidly the moon moves across the sky.

Mars was in opposition to the Sun on Jan. 29, when it appeared 14 arcseconds in diameter, 1/120 of the diameter of the moon. Two months later, it is much farther away, and has shrunk to only 10 arcseconds in diameter.

The sky these spring evenings presents a striking contrast between its western half, filled with the bright stars and constellations of winter, and its eastern half, with Regulus the only bright star. Mars sits in solitary splendor in Cancer, one of the most insignificant zodiac constellations, just above the plane of the Milky Way.

But there is much lurking beyond the dim stars of spring, for we are entering the realm of the galaxies. The constellation Leo alone contains five of the brightest galaxies in Charles Messier’s famous 18th century catalog of deep sky objects.

When we look towards Leo, we are looking above the plane of our Milky Way galaxy at the depths of intergalactic space, unhindered by the clouds of dust and gas which fill our galaxy.

Source: Yahoo! News.

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  On March 25, 2010(5 years, 8 months ago.)

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