So what does Mars approaching opposition mean to me as an amature astronomer?
|Mars, January 30th 2016|
The first of which was made by me in January of 2016, months before the last close approach of the Red Planet. It was the best I could do. Mars was just a featureless ruddy disk in the sky.
The second image was captured just a few days after opposition in May 2016.
|Mars, May 27th 2016|
I remember cursing the clouds because I could not use the 'scope on the night of opposition.
There is a huge change in the appearance of Mars between these two images!
I was using the same telescope, the same barlow, the same imager, the same capture software, the same laptop, the same driveway location...
The difference between the two images was the position of Mars in its orbit with respect to Earth's.
NakedEyePlanets.com has a really good graphic that shows the apparent relative size of Mars at opposition from 2012 to 2018. Look at how large Mars will be in 2018!