How to Find Mars in the Night Sky

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Mars is one of the five planets visible in the sky with the naked eye. Because Mars is red, it is particularly distinctive. To find it in the sky, you can pick up the current month’s copy of “Astronomy” or “Sky and Telescope” magazine; a sky map is on the center pages of both magazines. Or you can look at the sky map at AstroViewer.com (see Resources). "Sky and Telescope's" website also gives text descriptions of planets’ locations in the sky (see Resources).

    Open AstroViewer.com.

    Click on the “Start Astroviewer” button. The star map will open in a separate window. The dotted line on the map is the ecliptic, along which the sun, moon and planets travel.

    Click on the "Sky Map" tab. Click on the “Location/City” button and select the nearest city. Click “OK.”

    Look along the ecliptic for a red dot. If you hover your mouse pointer over, you’ll see that its label is “Mars.”

    Move the arrows on the right and bottom of the map to center the red spot, so that you can zoom with the left arrow. Enlarging the map, you’ll better see the configuration of the stars near Mars. However, because Mars is red, you’ll be able to distinguish it fairly easily from the surrounding white stars.

    Tips

    • If you don’t see the red dot on the map, click on the “Planets’ Visibility” tab, which tells you when it rises and sets in the sky. Mars may not be visible during certain times of the year. You can see if Mars is on the opposite side of the sun by clicking on the “Solar System” tab.

    Warnings

    • You may need the star map from inside "Astronomy" or "Sky and Telescope," so you have something to carry outside when you look up at the sky, especially if you are not familiar enough with the constellations to find Mars by the indicators provided at AstroViewer.com.

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