Mars joins Santa in the sky Christmas Eve
The Red Planet won't appear this big and bright again until 2016.
Christmas Eve brings a lot more than Santa this year. Mars shines brightest and remains visible all night when it reaches opposition December 24. That night, the Red Planet shines brighter than any star; only the Full Moon and Venus will outshine it. An opposition occurs when Mars lies opposite from the Sun, becoming fully illuminated. Mars' oppositions happen roughly every 780 days.
Mars won't be this big or bright again until 2016. No equipment - just warm clothes - will be needed to enjoy this spectacle.
The Full Moon helps observers find Mars. On December 23, the Moon sits just 1° from the planet (one degree is equal to 2 Moon-diameters). Observers can also track Mars' westward motion against the stars of Gemini.