This is because the opposition of Mars, or the Sun was on the opposite side of the Earth, The washington post Report. This, coupled with the fact that Mars in its orbit is particularly close to Earth at the moment, made the planet so crisp that amateur astronomers with binoculars could take crisp pictures of its surface from their backyard.
You do not need a spacecraft to see Mars! You cannot miss it in the eastern sky after sunset or southward after midnight at local time. Today Mars is in opposition, meaning that it is located directly opposite to the Sun, making it particularly bright. https://t.co/gAbOkp9Fs3 pic.twitter.com/N59zEyXYEh
– NASA Mars (@NASAMars) October 13, 2020
Photographers documented the incident well, such as with this time-lapse video shared on Reddit which shows the entire planet clearly rotating.
The Mars, Huawei P20’s 1200 frame and 17mm eyepiece and 2x Barlow were processed in Photoshop on SkyWatcher 127 Mac-Cas. pic.twitter.com/QqTRaXYWoB
– Jack Mullian (@jackmullion) October 15, 2020
According to NASA, Mars is actually in opposition once every 26 months. But it is much less common to oppose Mars and Earth passing close to each other in their orbits. It only happens once every 15 to 17 years, making Tuesday night a rare occasion.
Mars shine pic.twitter.com/5Z5cGQIAek
– Mary (@ BLOODYM4RIY) October 15, 2020
Mars actually reached the closest to Earth a week ago on 6 October, and it would not close again until 2035. Wapo Report.
#Mars In protest against my backyard #Johnnesburg 2020.10.13 UTC 20:45. Imprisoned with # ZWOASI224mc 3 x Barlow and Celestron 8 “. Sharpcap – Autostectart – Registax – 5 x 3000 frame stacked pics extracted with Vinzupos #Astrophotography pic.twitter.com/UV5FRijj39
– Grant Peterson (@ GP_O11) October 13, 2020
But if you miss the show, Mars will once again pass near the Earth on the first day of December 2022 and go into opposition a week later, a double performance – despite Tuesday’s show’s less dazzling.
I nearly forgot!
Happy Mars Opposition Day People. pic.twitter.com/4F7caSo3Tn
– Dave Eagle FRAS Cra Star Creding Mad! (@Dave_StarGeezer) October 13, 2020
Read more: Shining mars tonight shines extra [The Washington Post]
More on Mars: NASA photographed the Epic Dust Devil on the surface of Mars