Athena's Web Weekly Column

Week of January 29th - February 4th, 2010

Full Mars

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The Grand Canyon of Mars

Mars flashing red in the sky

  It's not often a Full Mars coincides with a Full Moon, but we have such a case this year.

  The Full Moon is, of course, an event which takes place every month, while a Full Mars takes place only after two years. A 'Full Mars' is an opposition between the Sun and Mars, with the Earth observing the alignment from in-between these two colorful compadres. Because the Earth and Mars are on the same side of the Sun in our Solar System at this time, they are closer to each other, and Mars therefore appears much brighter in our sky.

  The average length of time it takes for a 'Full Mars' to reappear is 2 years and 50 days (780 days), but it can vary was much as 50 days. Mars, being a fairly small planet, has its orbit perturbed by the gravitational attractions of both Jupiter and Saturn, which can either slow it down while acting as a break, or accelerate the pace as the red-headed Fireball takes the inner curve on these outer giants. In general Mars gets brighter for a year, and then dims for a year.

  This is as bright as it gets.

When the Moon and the spirits dance

When the Moon and the spirits dance

  Right now is when we're in a direct line and can see the full light of the Sun on the face of our ruddy travelling companion, in the same way that we see the full light of the Sun on the Moon at the Full Moon. This year, the opposition between the Sun and Mars and the Sun and the Moon are within 11 hours of each other. That's Friday night. The Full Moon conjuncts Mars within the hour of its culmination. Mars is receiving the concentrated power of the Full Moon.

  "To boldly go where no man has gone before."

  Oh, yea? You first.

  Although it will be very close to the glare of the Full Moon over the next few days which will make direct viewing of the red planet difficult, in general this would be a wonderful time to observe Mars, either with the naked eye, or a very powerful telescope. We draw close enough to Mars at this time such that he is promoted in rank, overtaking Jupiter as the fourth brightest object in the sky after the Sun, Moon and Venus. Mars does not twinkle in the same manner the stars do. While most home telescopes would not be powerful enough to see the polar caps, one at your local observatory may be able to.

  Martial energy is physical energy, plain and simple.


Mars will be largely lost in the lunar glare
but look between Regulus (Leo) and Castor and Pollox (Gemini)
(bright stars) to spot the conjunction

This is a great deal of strength, helping us to move furniture, boxes and children, not necessarily in that order. Since this is an opposition, it tends to manifest through others. Someone is telling us what to do, or worse, is making us do what they want us to do. Too much Mars can make people belligerent or pushy. Too much testosterone and not enough deodorant. The shortest distance is between two points is a straight line, but forcing your way through may wind up costing you in diplomatic points.

  As if the Full Moon conjuncting Mars weren't enough, this is taking place at 9 and 10 degrees of Leo, a Fire Sign.

  Normally, a Full Mars is a wonderful time to simply go out and observe our planetary neighbor dressed in his finest splendor, once the Moon begins to move on. But what we lose in visual splendor, we gain in celestial strength. This is a strong one.

  A fortunate few may even be able to discover the center of the universe.

  They'll think so, anyway.


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