Western Nevada College’s Star Party on Saturday, July 28 is going to brighten your day and provide an opportunity to see something out of the ordinary.
A Mars opposition on that evening will allow visitors to Jack C. Davis Observatory to view the Red Planet much brighter than usual. This occurs when Mars and the Sun line up on opposite sides of the Earth.
“Officially, the opposition happens July 31, but between July 27 and July 30 we’ll have the best viewing,” said Thomas Herring, Jack C. Davis Observatory director. “The 2018 opposition is also special since it is a perihelic opposition. This means that Mars is at its perihelion, the part of its orbit where it is closest to the Sun, and also at opposition. This will result in Mars outshining Jupiter for a few weeks before and after opposition.”
The Red Planet will orbit closer to the Earth than it has in 15 years. As long as the skies are clear, viewers will see a much brighter Mars, even though the Red Planet will be nearly 36 million miles away.
Mars will become noticeably brighter starting on July 7 and remain bright through Sept. 7. Interestingly, it will become brighter in the sky than all except the Sun, Moon and Venus.
WNC’s star parties normally run from sundown to 11 p.m.
Star Parties are led by the Western Nevada Astronomical Society, which brings together people with an interest in astronomy.
Two July presentations at the observatory by Northern Nevada lecturer Mike Thomas have been canceled.
However, on Saturday, July 14 at 7:30 p.m. during the Star Party, Herring will lecture about Mars and the upcoming opposition.
Jack C. Davis Observatory is located at 2699 Van Patten Drive in Carson City.