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Stargazers can watch Mars heading west for next few months

Kevin Gill
Creative Commons

Regular viewers of the night sky may have noticed Mars appearing to do something rather unusual.

Most nights, the Red Planet appears to move east across the sky, but every two years, it changes course.

Starting last night, Mars began heading back to the west.

Norbert Vance, the director of the Sherzer Observatory at Eastern Michigan University, says this is called the planet's "retrograde motion."

"It happens anytime Mars or any of the other outer planets are passed by the Earth or orbits around the sun. It's like passing a truck on the freeway. We're going a little faster than Mars, so we seem to overtake it."

To see this phenomenon, stargazers just need to look east after about 10 p.m. on a clear night to get a good view.

Mars will continue to move west until late January when the planet's motion returns to normal.

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Josh Hakala is the general assignment reporter for the WEMU news department.
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