The Main Stream

Apr 8, 2014 2:42 PM

Mars shines brighter in April than it has in years

If you want to see Mars at its best, now's your time: This month, the Red Planet looks bigger and brighter than it has for the past six years.

Mars is easy to spot in the night sky: For skywatchers living in mid-northern latitudes, it sparkles like a yellow-orange gem in the southeast just after dark. By the middle of the month, the planet will get as bright as the star Sirius. Mars is currently moving through the constellation Virgo - which means it makes a pretty pairing with Spica, a nearby blue-white star.

This month's biggest sky highlight comes on April 15, when the first total lunar eclipse since 2011 takes place. North America is prime viewing territory for this eclipse, which reaches its peak with 78 glorious minutes of totality beginning at 3:06 a.m. ET.

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