Mars' appearance in our sky varies greatly depending on how far it is from us. When Mars is close, it appears large, bright and a deep orange-red color. A telescope may reveal surface features, polar icecaps and moons. This time is known as opposition because Mars and the sun are on opposite sides of the earth. Mars is visible all night long.
When Mars is far from us, it appears smaller, dimmer and less colorful. It can be hard to distinguish Mars from a star and a telescope is unlikely to reveal details. Mars may only be visible for part of the night or not at all. Mars goes through its cycle in our sky every 26 months and stargazers eagerly await each opposition.
Look for a bright, orangish-red orb on the ecliptic. To confirm, use binoculars or telescope to look for the disk of a planet rather than the point of light from a star. Don't confuse Mars with the bright red stars Antares (Scorpius), Aldebaran (Taurus) or Betelgeuse (Orion).
* Mars is getting brighter each night as it approaches opposition on July 27, 2018.
* Early in the month Mars will be close to Saturn.
* On April 7th, the moon will be near both Mars and Saturn. (see above).