Despite the U.S. government shutdown today, it appears that many planned observations of Comet ISON – as it sweeps dramatically close to the planet Mars today – will happen. NASA has a skeleton crew in support of the six crew members aboard International Space Station (ISS) in place, so presumably they will observe Comet ISON today, as previously announced. Likewise, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s HiRISE instrument will be turned in Comet ISON’s direction today, according to Anjani Polit, the HiRISE Uplink Lead.
The 2010 opposition of Mars happens on January 29.
You want to see the planet Mars, right? Sure! Everyone does! About every two years, Mars suddenly becomes much more noticeable. That’s already happening as I write this, in mid-January of 2010. Mars’ brightness has increased, and it is appearing in the sky for more hours of the night now than it has for the past couple of years. In late January of 2010, Mars will be at its best for this two-year period. The chart below shows Mars on January 29, when it will be near the full moon. You’ll find Mars every evening now in the east by the time true darkness falls. By late January, Mars will be ascending in the east immediately after sunset. In February, it will be in the east already when the sun goes down. Mars is reddish. It shines steadily. Look in the east any evening now, and you’re likely to notice it!