Cosmic Illusion: Mars to Move Backward

We’re now coming into the home stretch of the last good apparition of Mars until 2016. Now blazing in the late-evening east-northeast sky like an eye-catching yellowish-orange “star,” Mars is less than six weeks away from its closest approach to Earth during this apparition.
At the beginning of the year, the red planet was 221 million miles (356 million kilometers) from Earth. This week, it will be 63 million miles (102 million kilometers) away and it now shines some 10 times brighter than it did on New Year’s Day.
Since Jan. 1, Mars has progressed more than halfway around our sky and now is on an easterly course through the background stars of the Zodiac. It currently resides smack in the middle of the constellation of Gemini, the Twins.
But on Thursday, Nov. 15, that steady eastward course is going to come to a stop.