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12th of October 2020
Mars at Opposition
by Emil Lenc
Every 779.94 days or so, the planet Mars reaches opposition - the point where the Earth lies directly between it and the Sun. For amateur and professional astronomers alike this is of some significance as it coincides with when Mars is at its closest to Earth and so it appears both large and bright in the sky. This year, the opposition of Mars will occur on the 13th of October 2020 (take a moment to see it for yourself - Mars will rise towards the east just after sunset). To mark this event, and to add to the bucket list of Solar System objects observed with ASKAP, we pointed the telescope in the direction of Mars for about 8 hours. The animation above shows 12 minute snapshots of part of the sky seen by ASKAP over the course of the observation. Can you guess which of the objects in the animation is Mars? If you guessed the moving one then you're right! Even over just a few hours Mars can be seen to move. The word "planet" itself is derived from an ancient Greek word meaning "wanderer" so Mars is certainly playing its part. The other objects in the image are not stars, if fact, they are very distant radio galaxies (100's of millions, if not billions of light years away) - each powered by a supermassive black hole. (Image Credit: E. Lenc & V. A. Moss (CSIRO))

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