Something strange is happening: Mars Reverses its Course

Something strange is happening: Mars Reverses its Course

If you are wondering what is wrong with Mars as it is moving in the reverse direction, it is time to update your knowledge.

Mars is the center of attraction these days for the scientific community as organizations like NASA and SpaceX wants to colonize the red planet with humans. Several efforts ranging from the examination of the Martian surface to the planning of a manned mission are being made for achieving this revolutionary goal. While all of this was going on, scientists have made another mysterious announcement about Mars as they said that the course of our neighbor planet will become reversed. They also revealed that Mars will make its closest approach to the Earth since 2003 in about 4.5 weeks. It is quite bright these days and its brightness is expected to increase with every passing week. In case you want to view it yourself, you can observe Mars in the lower east-southeast sky just before midnight.

If you are wondering what will this lead to, there is absolutely no need to worry as it is perfectly normal and all the planets of our solar system go through this process. The name associated with this kind of movement is ‘Retrograde Motion’ and it will also bring the red planet far below its normal orbit. Despite the fact that humans have known this for ages, ancient astronomers struggled to explain the reasons for that. That’s not all as the Greek scientists had another problem to deal with and they found it difficult to provide a logical explanation. They observed that sometimes Mars adopt a back-and-forth motion that leads to a zigzag path which resembles the alphabet ‘Z’.

Ultimately, Greek astronomers came up with an idea that all the planets orbit around Earth in Epicycles which produces these complex, coil-like curves. Having said that, this theory was never appreciated as it didn’t match with the actual observations of the planets. This puzzle was finally solved in 1543 by Nicolaus Copernicus, a Polish Astronomer. He replaced Earth with the Sun as the central point of our solar system and explained why we observe planets moving backward. He published all his priceless work under the title of ‘De revolutionibus’.

Copernicus told the world that all of this is nothing but an illusion. He elaborated that all the planets are orbiting the Sun but each of them has its own speed and this is the reason behind this ‘Backward Motion Effect’. Consider that two cars are moving in the same direction but one of them is moving faster than the other. From the perspective of the faster car, the slower one is moving backward at the point of overtaking and that is exactly what happens in our solar system but at a much larger scale.

All those people who are observing the red planet since 1st of January will acknowledge that it has become much brighter as the time went by. According to an estimate, it is 25 times brighter than it was at the end of the last year. In technical terms, it was found in the zodiacal constellation of Libra and was at a distance of 292 million kilometers from Earth as the year began. It has been on an eastwards journey ever since and was within 68.2 million kilometers from Earth when this movement suddenly came to a halt on 28th of June. After a slight pause, it started to move in the reverse direction and will continue to do so for two months. Scientists are expecting it to make another pause on 28th of August before returning back to its normal movement.

This is the mystery which Copernicus solved as he explained that it is merely a perspective-based illusion. According to his views, Mars will not be doing anything different but our Earthly perspective will lead us to believe that it is stopping, reversing its direction, and coming back to its regular motion. Researchers believe that the movement of both Earth and Mars will cancel out this backward motion effect after 28th August as Earth will overtake the red planet after a struggle of more than 6 months. Consequently, the brightness of Mars will start fading as the process responsible for this amazing glow will be reversed. Therefore, we will observe a rapid fading of the planet in the last part of the year.

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