The Red Planet last made its closest approach to Earth on July 27-28, 2018, its best apparition since 2003. The planet only reaches opposition every 2 years and 50 days, so there was no opposition in 2019. The next closest approach of Mars to Earth (the opposition of Mars) comes on October 13, 2020, so this year will once again be an excellent time to observe the Red Planet in a telescope.
In March and April 2020, Mars lies low in the southeastern sky at dawn for northern observers and low in the southern sky for southern-hemisphere observers. It’s not far from Jupiter and Saturn at this time. In fact, on March 31 the planet passes just a degree south of Saturn so both planets will be visible in a telescope using a low-power eyepiece.
September and October 2020 are the best time to observe Mars. The planet will rapidly grow in brightness on its way to opposition and move quickly across the sky. In early-to-mid October, the planet will grow impressively bright, even brighter than Jupiter, making for a spectacular sight rising in the east after sunset in the constellation Pisces. On nights of good seeing, and if there are no Martian sand storms like in 2018, the planet will reveal detail in a good telescope at high magnification. Observing Mars takes patience and practise, but it is worth the effort because Mars is the only planet that offers us a view of its surface.
Here’s the complete guide to the planet Mars and tips on how to observe it during its apparition in 2020.