3 on the road: Mars

Updated: Jul. 27, 2018 at 11:04 PM CDT
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Source: WLBT
Source: WLBT
Source: WLBT
Source: WLBT

JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - Our lives are measured by the movement of the sun and stars up above. The sun rises and starts a new day. Get enough of these in a row and it's a new week. At the end of the day the sun sets. Combine enough of these with sunrises and it marks a new month, year, or century.

Darkness falls with sunset and the so called "changless" night sky lights up with all sorts of activity. The moon, stars and planets come out. And the evening up above is anything but changeless. The moon was chasing Jupiter across the night sky earlier this week. Now, Friday night, Mars is chasing the moon.

Other worldly visitors come to see us all the time and decorate and redecorate our night sky. Bright Venus is in the west at night right now. Sometimes in the east early in the mornings. Venus is a regular.

Other planets drop by from time to time. Jupiter is relatively close and bright right now. And if you have just a fair telescope, you will discover Jupiter brings friends along with it, its own moons. And the little dots are always full when seen from earth.

And our own moon, starts out dim and yellow. And then seems to gain strength at it rises and plays hide and seek behind trees and through the windows of downtown buildings.

Mars rises late right now. Around 10 p.m. it is high enough to see. Mars is just a dim dot most of the time. But for a few nights it will be the 2nd brightest object in the night sky, behind the moon. That's because in ours and Mars's elliptical orbits we are passing closest to each other right now, and Mars has dipped closer to us than it normally is.

The bad news is, it won't get as big as the full moon as has been seen with the piece of photo-shopped art on social media.

But it will be brighter than it has in 15 years. This is how it looked in 2003. That year was the brightest Mars had been in recorded history, for over 60,000 years.

Now, it's the brightest it's been in 15 years, about a million and a half miles farther away that is was 15 years ago. But still bright enough to make you wonder, "What's that?" If you didn't know what it was.

But now you know: the brightening and dimming of Mars, brighter tonight and for a few more nights than it has been in years. Another of the constant changes in our changeless night sky.

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