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The Opposition of Mars in 2012
Mars reached opposition on March 3, 2012. The Sun, the Earth and Mars lined up in a straight line bringing Mars closer to earth on the 5th. Oppositions of Mars occur every 2 years so this is the brightest we'll see Mars until 2014.
Since the orbit of Mars is not perfectly symmetrical not all the oppositions are the same. This event was very unfavourable as Mars was far from the Sun, future oppositions will get better and better until a fantastic show in 2018 bringing Mars just as close as in the great opposition of 2003. How many times can I write "opposition" in a single paragraph?
In 2012 Mars was at Leo near Regulus for the opposition, Denebola was also visible but the area doesn't have many bright stars and that made the red planet stand out. The color of Mars can be affected by dust storms and this time it was bright red. I took a portrait photo using a telescope to register this opposition it will be nice to compare the apparent size of the planet against the 2014 opposition.
There's some detail on the surface and the polar cap is easy to see even with a small telescope (5''). Some orographic clouds above Mons Olympus are visible towards the left side of the planet.
This is not the end of the Mars Season yet, from the South Hemisphere the Moon will occult the red planet on September 19th. That will be a gorgeous event to see and photograph as the red of Mars will contrast very nicely against the Moon.
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