How To See Mars, Jupiter And Saturn Up Close In A Virtual Telescope During ‘National Astronomy Week’

How to see Mars: look southeast as night falls and the red planet is right there in front of your eyes. It’s surprisingly bright, and its reddish hue is obvious if you look at it even for a few moments. 

Having been at opposition last month—a moment when Earth is between Mars and the Sun, and the two planets are at their closest in the Solar System—the planet is presently almost as bright as it ever gets. But not for long.

If you want to get an extra-special close-up before it wanes by the end of 2020 then watch on YouTube as the UK’s eighth National Astronomy Week (NAW 2020) goes virtual—and hosts Mars-gazing events through virtual telescopes. 

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Running from November 14 through 22, 2020, NAW 2020 will see UK astronomers celebrate the close approach of Mars to the Earth with a series of free online talks by leading astronomers such as Jane Greaves, a Professor of Astronomy at Cardiff University who was recently lead author on a paper that found traces of phosphine at Venus. Chris Lintott, a presenter on the BBC’s long-running astronomy programme The Sky At Night, will also talk. 

NAW 2020 will be entirely online and include many remote observing events comprising live-streamed views on YouTube of the planet seen through amateur and professional telescopes situated in the UK and abroad. 

As well as Mars being easily visible in the evening as a bright reddish object high in the sky, Jupiter and Saturn are also presently visible low in the west after sunset. 

Great nights to see the three planets will be Monday and Tuesday November 16 and 17, 2020 when they will be joined by a delicate crescent Moon in the western sky at dusk.

Tuesday night around midnight also sees the peak of the Leonid meteor shower. 

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“National Astronomy Week is a fantastic chance to see and find out more about Mars, a world that has fascinated people for hundreds of years,” said Lucinda Offer, NAW 2020 Chair. “We hope that with our imaginative online approach, this year’s National Astronomy Week will reach more people around the country than ever before.” 

If you’ve never seen Mars through a telescope, this is your last chance for a while; the next opposition of Mars—when the red planet not only looks brighter, but much larger in telescopes—isn’t until December 2022.

Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.

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