Retrograde Motions of Mars, Ceres and Vesta

By: Tunc Tezel


Region: Middle East

Country: Turkey

Date: Dec 2013 - Aug 2014

When this 10 MB video animation loads (takes a few minutes), you can track the motion of Mars in the Earth's sky during the course of 9 months. This sequence of images follow Mars from December 2013 (right) through August 2014 (left). The images are spaced some 5 to 7 days apart and they trace the retrograde motion of Mars in the Earth's night sky. Mars didn't actually reverse the direction of its orbit. Instead, the apparent backwards motion with respect to the background stars is a reflection of the motion of the Earth itself.

Retrograde motion can be seen each time Earth overtakes and laps planets orbiting farther from the Sun, the Earth moving more rapidly through its own relatively close-in orbit. In fact, Ceres and Vesta were also in the same part of sky and traced their own retrograde loops in the same time frame. Both Ceres and Vesta were binocular objects shining around 5th to 8th magnitudes in this course, their faint star-like images were labeled with Ce and Vs to respectively.

TWAN photographer Tunc Tezel has a special interest to capture long-term motions of planets in the night sky and his collection of Mars retrograde motions made in the last two decades is a unique effort. Although the above video is not considered a TWAN-style footage (as there is no landscape in the foreground), it is published on TWAN for its brilliant astronomy educational aspect. See this in form of a still image.

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