Mars, the Red Planet
Of all the planets in our solar system the planet Mars stimulates the greatest interest.
In one curious way this planet differs from all the others. Each of the planets present itself in a suitable position for study during every year, or at intervals of appoximately every 12 months.
This is not the case with the planet Mars, for this planet presents itself for study at intervals of two years and two months. The Martian year is nearly 688 days. As Mars is moving much slower than the Earth, it takes the two bodies 780 days to come into line.
When the Earth and the planet Mars are in a line with, and on the same side of the Sun, then Mars is in Opposition and so at its best position for study, for it is then as close as it can be.
The closer a planet comes the larger it seems and we have a better chance to see the details we want to observe.
Thus Opposition of 1963 was on February 4, in 1965 it was on March 9 (have a look at the diagram).
Not all Oppositions are as good as one another. Mars has a very elliptical orbit and Opposition distances can vary from 62 million miles at the end of February, to 35 million miles, when they happen towards the end of August.
However, when Mars is in Opposition in August it is very low in the sky and difficult to observe.
In February Oppositions it reaches only—1.1 magnitude, while in August it increases to —2.8, brighter than any other planet except Venus.
1. solar system – солнечная система
2. curious – интересный, любопытный
3. thus – хотя
4. Opposition -- противостояние
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