Starwatch: Mars draws close to Spica, Virgo's brightest star

Starwatch chart

There’s a pretty sight awaiting sky watchers in the morning skies towards the end of the week. Looking east, the planet Mars will be drawing close to Spica, the brightest star in the constellation Virgo, the virgin. The chart shows the view at 06:00 GMT on 9 November. Spica is one of the 20 brightest stars in the night sky, coming in at number 16. It is blue white in colour, and situated about 250 light years away, meaning that we see the star as it appeared 250 years ago.

In contrast, Mars shines with a ruddy hue and is just 21 light minutes away. Yet, despite being so much closer, the planet can only reflect sunlight rather than glow of its own accord, and so it will be only about half as bright as Spica. As the conjunction takes place low towards the horizon in a sky that will already be brightening with the dawn, as viewed from London, this could make Mars slightly difficult to pick out.


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