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What’s Up for December?

What’s Up for December?

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View Mars right now, and prepare for 2016, the best Mars viewing year since 2005! Last month early risers watched small, reddish Mars dance with brighter Jupiter and Venus just before sunrise. 

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This month Mars rises earlier-by about 2 a.m. local time. Its reddish color is unmistakable, even without a telescope. It’s easy to see below the Moon and Jupiter on December 4. You won’t see many features this month, because the planet is almost 10 times smaller than nearby Jupiter appears and 350 times smaller than the Moon appears to us on Earth.

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You should also be able to see Mars’ north polar region this month, because it’s currently tilted towards Earth. 

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You’ll be amazed at the changes you’ll see during 2016. January through December are all prime Mars observing months. Between January and May next year, Mars triples in apparent diameter as its orbit around the sun brings it closer to Earth. You’ll even be able to see the areas on Mars where NASA’s Mars landers are located.

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By October, Mars shrinks in apparent size to less than half its May diameter as it speeds away from Earth. Mars shrinks even further from October through December, returning to the same size we saw in January 2016 by year’s end.

So put Mars viewing on your calendar for 2016. You won’t see Mars this size again until 2018, when Mars will put on an even better show.

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