Mars making closest approach to Earth in 15 years

Mars making closest approach to Earth in 15 years

If you miss the Mars Close Approach next month, the next approach will be October 6, 2020. "If Earth and Mars followed perfectly circular orbits, opposition would be as close as the two planets could get".

Astronomers have revealed that Mars will be within a close range of our planet Earth on July 25 - fifteen years after its closest brush with Earth.

Mars will rise in the southeast around sunset and slowly track across the sky throughout the night before setting to the southwest around sunrise, local time.

In 2003, Mars and Earth were at their closest in almost 60,000 years, coming within 34.6 million miles of each other.

Every 26 months or so, Mars swings by Earth at varying distances as both planets make elliptical orbits around the sun. This weekend the red planet will be closer, larger and brighter than it has been in 15 years.

The Red Planet begins to brighten discernibly in June as the gap closes, and it will turn on an exceptional show for sky watchers from Jul 27 to 30. By mid-August, Mars will become fainter as the planet and Earth travel farther away from each other in their orbits around the Sun.

Mars will be easily visible with the naked eye - weather permitting. This is why you will often see Mars missions launching every two years. Only Venus will appear brighter.

That same day, parts of the world will see a total lunar eclipse called a blood moon, which could make the lunar surface look like it's been stained red. You can't miss it.

A massive dust storm that has engulfed the planet will make viewing surface details more hard than it typically would be for those using a telescope, but the dust also reflects the sun's light better, making the planet appear all that much brighter.

In the U.S., Mars reaches its highest point around midnight about 35 degrees above the southern horizon or one-third of the distance between the horizon and overhead, NASA notes. This is when Mars should start to come into view from Earth.

The total lunar eclipse on Friday will be visible in Australia, Africa, Asia, Europe and South America. Friday's will be long, lasting 1 hour and 43 minutes. NASA said that won't happen again until 2287.

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