Stargazing: Mars dazzles

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Mars will be its biggest and brightest in two years when it arrives at opposition to the sun on Tuesday. The Red Planet comes to about 57 million miles from Earth during opposition and will shine at a brilliant --1.5 magnitude, just slightly dimmer than Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky.

During opposition, the sun, Earth and Mars are lined up in a straight line with Earth in the middle. Mars is located in Virgo and rises in the east around sunset. You can find the planet high in the south at midnight, before it sets around dawn. The best time for viewing Mars with a telescope during opposition will be when the planet is high in the southern sky around midnight.

Look for Mars tonight at 9:30, 20 degrees above the east-southeastern horizon. The Red Planet will sit about 7 degrees above Virgo's brightest star Spica.

Learn more about Mars and the April 15 total lunar eclipse in next Monday's Stargazer.

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