Mars is brightest object in the sky other than the moon this mid-April 2014.
Have you seen that bright red star that rises in the eastern sky after dark? No? Look more closely, you can hardly miss it. Of course, it's not a star but our handsome neighbor, Mars.
Mars is brighter (and bigger) in our view than it has been since 2007. No, it's not bigger than a full moon (more on that below), but it's very bright. That's because it's closer to us than it has been in nearly seven years. On April 8, Mars will be in opposition (the closest point to Earth when Earth passes between Mars and the Sun) at about 57.4 million miles (in 2007, Mars was closer and at about 55 million miles). Remember, the Sun is about 93 million miles from Earth so Mars is approaching half that distance.
On April 13-14, Mars will pair up with a full Moon. Then we can test the theory that it isn't nearly as big as a full Moon and in case there was any doubt, we'll see a vivid reminder of that (smile). On the following evening (April 14-15) , a blood-red Mars will be beside a blood-red Moon in total eclipse. It should be quite the sight! Get your telescopes, binoculars and cameras or iPhones ready. I bet there is going to be some fantastic photos published. The lunar eclipse begins about 9:50 pm PDT with the totality occurring about 12:45 am PDT on the 15th of April. A lunar eclipse is special anytime but with Mars about 9° to the northwest of the moon and far outshines Spica which will be about 2° to the west. To add to the beauty of this blood-red festival, Antares will be about 30° to the north of the Moon. Should be quite a show.
Oh and by the way, through a telescope at about 120 magnification, Mars will appear as big as a full moon is TO THE NAKED EYE! Have you ever wondered how that email got started? There's the answer!