Looking Up: Seeing Red

Jan 8, 2018

Credit earthsky.org

Wondering what some of those bright and colorful objects rising in the eastern pre dawn sky are? This week on Looking Up Hal identifies some of those mysterious spheres.

I warned you last week that you’ll need to get up early to see most of the stuff I’m talking about in January, and this episode is no exception. But, if you do get up early, you’ll get to see something really cool, and I mean that literally.

Mosaic of the Valles Marineris hemisphere of Mars projected into point perspective, a view similar to that which one would see from a spacecraft. The distance is 2500 kilometers from the surface of the planet, with the scale being .6km/pixel.
Credit NASA/JPL-Caltech / nasa.gov

In the pre-dawn Colorado sky, look to the east to see the bright and white planet Jupiter. You can’t miss it, below and to the left of the Moon. It’s the brightest thing in the sky, other than the Moon. Very near Jupiter you’ll see a red dot that is the planet Mars, about 175 million miles away. But here is where it gets even cooler! Below and to the left of Mars, you’ll see another red object in the sky, the star Antares. Antares literally means “rival of Mars” because the ancients saw them as the same color, with the dimmer Antares as the, well, rival. But now we know of course that Antares is a massive, giant red star, 550 ly away. Both are cool, literally. The temperature on Mars averages about 80 below zero. Antares has a surface temperature of about 6000 degrees. As stars go, that is absolutely chilly. And because it is so cool, it’s red. Pretty cool, right? 

Antares is seen on the left surrounded by a yellowish nebula of gas.
Credit Image Credit & Copyright: Ivan Eder / nasa.org

   If you’d like to take a closer look at Mars or Antares or any of the other wonderful and amazing things in the sky, please visit csastro.org for a link to information on our monthly meetings and our free public star parties!