Red Planet Outshines Red Nose

This Christmas Eve it's Mars not Rudolph that will light the sky.

Dec. 24, 2007 — -- The red planet outsines the red-nosed reindeer this holiday. Although Rudolph may have a very shiny nose that glows like a light bulb, it's Mars that will glow in the sky on Christmas Eve.

"It's only 55 million miles away, which makes it brighter than the brightest star in the sky on Christmas Eve," said Jack Horkheimer, a Miami Museum of Science and Planetarium astronomer.

The planet Mars will be "at opposition" on Christmas Eve, meaning it will sit directly opposite the sun. It will be about as close and as bright to Earth as it ever gets.

"Plus it will be followed by a spectacular full moon," Horkheimer said. "They will track across the sky together all night long until sunrise Christmas morning."

The two celestial bodies will be highest in the sky at about midnight, which is primetime for Santa Claus. Horkheimer said they'll be so bright that Rudolph won't even be needed to guide St. Nick's sleigh tonight.

"Rudolph can just stay home and chill out at the North Pole this Christmas Eve," Horkheimer said.

So eager viewers who aren't experiencing a foggy Christmas Eve where they live can take a look outside tonight and see the red nose outshined by the red planet.