Mars Opposition: Best Time to See Mars Until 2033

~4 min
Mars at opposition 2022

At the beginning of December, Mars will reach opposition with the Sun, offering the year’s best view of the Red Planet. Learn why this celestial event is an absolute must-see.

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Mars Opposition 2022#

Mars will reach opposition on December 8, 2022, at 05:35 GMT (00:35 EST). The Red Planet will be positioned on the opposite side of the Earth from the Sun, and the three bodies will form a nearly straight line in space.

What does this mean for you as an observer? It means that you absolutely should go and see Mars in the sky! Here are a few reasons why.

  • Mars will be fully lit by the Sun and reach the year’s maximum brightness. With a magnitude of -1.9, it will be brighter than all the stars in the sky!
  • At opposition, the Red Planet will appear almost at its biggest: its angular size will equal 17″, which is nearly three times bigger than the planet’s apparent size in May. That’s because just recently, on December 1, Mars reached the perigee or its closest point to the Earth. Check this picture to see how the apparent size of Mars changes from month to month.
  • This year, Mars opposition occurs near the closest perigee for the upcoming decade — Mars will be positioned at 0.54 AU (80 million km or 50 million mi) from the Earth.
  • You’ll have plenty of time for observation: Mars will rise at sunset, reach its highest point at around midnight, and stay visible for the rest of the night.
  • On the night of opposition, observers from North America, Western Europe, and Northwest Africa will also have a chance to see the lunar occultation of Mars. At the moment of occultation, the Red Planet will disappear behind the Full Moon’s disk — what a stunning sight to see!
  • The opposition of Mars is a relatively rare event — it happens only every two years or so. So don’t miss it!

Note that you can start observing Mars right now without waiting for the opposition. The planet is already big and bright in the sky and will continue to brighten until December 8. Check out our infographic to learn more about the Mars opposition in a cool graphic format.

Do you enjoy viewing Mars? Then watch it at opposition in December 2022. Learn why this will be the best time to see the Red Planet till 2033.
See Infographic

How to spot Mars in the sky?#

Mars is quite easy to find and distinguish from other celestial bodies, especially at the moment of opposition. It will appear as a bright reddish dot in the constellation Taurus — between the stars that make up one of the Bull’s “horns”. The planet will rise above the northeastern horizon at sunset and reach the highest point in the sky in the southeast by midnight.

The Mars opposition in 2022 is especially favorable for the Northern Hemisphere observers, as the planet will be positioned much higher in the sky there. The planet is easily visible with the naked eye, but you can also use binoculars or a telescope for its observation. This year, Mars will be tilted to the Earth so that both of its polar regions will be visible through a medium or large telescope. However, you won’t see the ice caps: the northern ice cap is now covered by a thick layer of clouds, while the southern cap has shrunk considerably during the summer season.

The easiest way to locate Mars in the sky is to use a stargazing app — for instance, Sky Tonight or Star Walk 2.

Find Mars in opposition using Sky Tonight#

First, download Sky Tonight on your iOS or Android device.

Use the Search:

  • Tap the magnifier icon at the bottom of the screen;
  • In the Trending section, find the Mars opposition event;
  • Tap the blue target icon to see the location of Mars in the sky at the moment of opposition.
  • In the same Trending section, you can tap the blue target icon next to Mars to learn where the Red Planet is right now.

Use the Calendar:

  • Tap the calendar icon at the bottom of the screen and select December 8 on the Events tab;
  • Scroll down the list of events below the calendar and find the Mars opposition event;
  • Tap the blue target icon to see the location of Mars in the sky at the moment of opposition.

Find Mars in opposition using Star Walk 2#

First, download Star Walk 2 on your iOS or Android device.

Use the Search:

  • Tap the magnifier icon at the bottom-left corner of the screen;
  • Type “Mars” in the search field and tap the corresponding search result;
  • The app will show you the current location of Mars in the sky.

Use the Calendar:

  • Tap the menu icon at the bottom-right corner of the screen;
  • Open the Astronomy Calendar;
  • Find and tap the Mars opposition event on December 8;
  • The app will show you the location of Mars in the sky at the moment of opposition.

The Moon and Mars close together on December 8, 2022#

On the night of the Mars opposition, you’ll be able to see another celestial event — a conjunction of the Moon and Mars. The Full Moon will pass 0°32' from the Red Planet in the constellation Taurus.

Observers from Northern America, Europe, and Northern Africa are especially lucky as they will also have a chance to witness a lunar occultation of Mars on the same night. At the time of the occultation, the Moon will pass in front of Mars, completely covering it!

When is the next opposition of Mars?#

The next Mars opposition will occur on January 16, 2025. It will be less spectacular than this year’s opposition: the Red Planet will be farther away from the Earth, so it will appear a bit dimmer (magnitude -1.4) and smaller (angular size 14.6″) in the sky. Well, all the more reason for you not to miss the Mars opposition in 2022!

Bottom line: Mars will reach opposition on December 8, 2022. At this moment, the Red Planet will be at its biggest and brightest for the whole year. The next opposition of Mars will occur only in 2025.

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