It hasn’t happened in 30 years … a rare astronomical event in the sky of Saudi Arabia


Engineer Majed Abu Zahra, president of the Astronomical Society in Jeddah revealed that the skies of Saudi Arabia and the Arab world will witness, after sunset on Wednesday 3 March 2021 and the beginning of the night, the occurrence of the planet Mars near the cluster of stars of the Pleiades, where they will be separated by 2.6 degrees, which is the closest conjunction to them since 20 January 1991.

It will be easy to see the planet Mars with the naked eye, despite its dimness compared to the past four months, but there is a need to use binoculars, or photography, to see the Pleiades star cluster near the red planet from within cities.

It will be observed in early March that the star of Aldebaran is brighter than Mars to the naked eye, as Mars is diminishing every day, which means that it is fainter than Aldebaran by the time it will pass by seven degrees north of Aldebaran on March 20, and by next April 24 Mars will be fainter when it emerges From the constellation Taurus, and enters the constellation Twins.

Mars is the fourth planet in terms of distance from the sun, and it takes about two years of Earth years to make a full circle in front of the constellations of the stars in the zodiac, so Mars usually meets the Pleiades every two years, however as an exception, the next conjunction of Mars with the Pleiades will happen next year. From the following year, on August 20, 2022, because the conjunction of Wednesday occurs early this year, and no retrograde motion of Mars will occur between 2021 and 2022, and after 2022 the conjunctions of Mars and Thuraya will occur every two years until March 14, 2036.

It happens in rare cases that Mars has three conjunctions with the Pleiades in a period of about 4.7 months, and for this to happen, Mars must reach the encounter at a critical time, so that it can pass near the Pleiades as it moves forward “eastward in front of the stars in the zodiac,” then Backward “towards the west in front of the stars in the zodiac,” then back and moving “east” again, and this is what happened in 1990-1991 and will be repeated again in 2037-2038.

To observe the conjunction of Mars and the Pleiades, the binoculars will be ideal, through which Mars and the Pleiades will appear in the same field of view. In addition, the large size of the Pleiades is suitable for telescopes that reveal many faint stars associated with the star cluster.

The pairing will also be attractive for astrophotography, as Mars and the Pleiades cluster are bright enough to be photographed with smartphones and digital cameras.

It is worth noting that the conjunction of Mars and Pleiades this year will not be at the same apparent distance again until February 4, 2038.


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