Mars making closest approach to Earth in 15 years

Jan Cross
July 28, 2018

"Since Mars and the Sun appear on opposite sides of the sky, we say that Mars is in "opposition", NASA explained.

The Red Planet will be just 35.8 million miles away from humanity's homeworld next Tuesday.

Well, since it means a shorter distance between Mars and Earth, you tend to see more missions to Mars take place in years that a close approach happens in because it means a shorter trip from Earth to the red planet.

It will be easy to spot Mars on Thursday night, not only because it will be shining brightly, but also because it will be sitting just below the almost full moon.

And on July 31, Mars will be at its closest approach to Earth in both their orbits around the sun.

Mars will be at its brightest appearance since 2003 when Mars made its closest approach to Earth in nearly 60,000 years.

Experts also found out that these proton auroras occur a lot more frequently on Mars than the auroras on our planet, which has a powerful magnetic field.

Because Earth and Mars follow elliptical orbits, some Earth-Mars encounters are closer than others.

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During opposition, Mars is especially photogenic because it can be seen fully illuminated by the Sun as viewed from Earth.

Of course, you can always step outside and check out the red planet with your naked eye.

'Not quite as bright as Venus, but still because of the reddish, orange-ish-red colour, you really can't miss it in the sky'.

If the weather does not cooperate for stargazers, there should still be plenty of opportunities to see the planet in the coming weeks.

However, there is a global dust storm obscuring the red planet that could continue through August and into September.

Rain and thunderstorms will also lead to poor viewing conditions across a swath of the central U.S. Areas from the Plains to the West would have the best view of Mars as it passes Earth. CU Boulder astronomer Doug Duncan talked to Colorado Matters about how to spot the planet and why it'll be so visible from July 27-31. It willl only be visible to some parts of the world, including Australia, Africa, Asia, Europe and South America.

The Mars opposition falls just before the longest total lunar eclipse of the century, which will last 1 hour and 43 minutes.

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