Mars in October 2005 when last close to the Earth, photographed at
Arkansas Sky Observatories by P. Clay Sherrod.
Note the outbreak of heavy yellow clouds across the surface of the planet
If you are interested in exploring the Red Planet MARS, or have never seen it when close to the Earth, May 2016 is your best opportunity in many years to see it bright and closest to Earth.  On May 22, 2016, Mars will reach opposition (opposite the sun from the Earth) and be poised for excellent viewing, south of overhead around midnight and in the sky all night long for May and June.

Presently the Red Planet is aout 19" arc across (still about half the size of Mighty Jupiter in the angular size that you see), and magnitude -1.8, making it brighter than any other object in the sky except Venus when visible and the moon.  At this time, Mars is poised in Scorpius, next to the very bright reddish star "Antares", which was named as the "rival of Mars" and the signal of war and conflict.  At one time, thousands of years ago, Antares must have been brighter, because today it is not anywhere as right as Mars as you will see this month.  Nonetheless. both are still equally red.

A Complete Guide to Observing Mars is found here on ASO at:

Mars will not be this close again until July 2018, when it will actually be slightly closer, but less favorable for high resolution viewing since it will be quite low on the southern horizon during that apparition.
So visit the Red Planet this month for your best views!

Doc Clay
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