Mars moves into 'opposition' in Tuesday night sky

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) - Skywatchers are in for a rare treatTuesday night when the Earth, Mars and the sun will align in a nearly straightline.

Every 778 days, Mars reaches a point in its orbit calledopposition, when the planet lies directly opposite the sun in the Earth's sky,NASA reports.

That means Mars will rise around sunset and remain visible allnight long as it moves across the night sky. It will be unmistakable because itwill be bright orange and nearly 10 times brighter than other stars nearby,according to astronomers.

"From our perspective on our spinning world, Mars rises in theeast just as the sun sets in the west. Then, after staying up in the sky theentire night, Mars sets in the west just as the sun rises in the east," NASAexplains.

If the sky is clear Tuesday night, and the ABC News 4meteorologists are saying the storms will move out during the course of theday, Mars should be visible across the Lowcountry.

The opposition phase of Mars is a precursor for next week'sastronomy event, when Mars and Earth will be near their closest point to eachother - some 55 million miles apart.

At that point, which will be sometime after midnight April 15, wewill see the first of four "blood moons," called a Tetrad. The blood moon isformed when the sun, Earth and moon line up so that the Earth's shadow falls onthe moon.

At the same time, Mars will be visible as a bright red object nextto the moon.

April 15's blood moon will be the first of four between now andthe end of 2015. Astronomers say the remaining eclipses are on Oct. 8 of thisyear and April 8 and Sept. 28 of 2015.

Some religious sects see the series of blood moons as being linkedto biblical prophesies that call for the end of days. In Christian theology,Joel 2:31 points to a red moon, "The sun will be turned into darkness, and themoon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord come."

Astronomers say Tetrads may be rare, but are not unprecedented.There will be eight Tetrads of the 21st century.

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