Stargazing: Mars' retrograde motion

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If you have followed Mars closely this winter you may have noticed that the planet appeared to move through Virgo from west to east from one night to the next. But every two years or so, there are a couple of months around opposition when Mars’ position seems to change direction and move east to west. This occasional westward or backward movement is called retrograde motion.

Mars will halt its eastward motion and begin creeping westward through Virgo on March 1. The Red Planet will continue to move backward through Virgo until it reaches its western stationary point on May 18, after which it resumes direct motion (west to east) against the background stars.

Look for Mars Thursday morning at 6 a.m., 35 degrees above the southwestern horizon. The Red Planet will sit about 5 degrees to the upper left of Spica and 7 degrees away from the waning gibbous moon. Mars will move to within one degree of Spica in July after resuming its eastern motion in May.

 

and Observatory


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