Mars to come closest to Earth in 15 years

Mars to come closest to Earth in 15 years

If Mars seems unusually large and bright in the night sky this weekend, it's not your imagination.

During the month of July, Earth and Mars have been getting increasingly closer to one another and will be at their closest point since 2003 beginning this Friday, July 27.

The two planets will be just 35.8 million miles (57.6 million km) apart next Tuesday.

"Mars wouldn't be almost this dusty if it wasn't for this one enormous deposit that is gradually eroding over time and polluting the planet, essentially", said study co-author Kevin Lewis from Johns Hopkins University. That means Mars and the sun will be on exact opposite sides of us.

"Even with bright moonlight, you can't miss Mars", Samuhel said. Although 15 years might not sound like a particularly long time to some, H.R. MacMillan Space Centre astronomer Kat Kelly assures it will be a once-in-a-lifetime viewing opportunity for many based on the next time the two planets will be this close to one another.

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.

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Due to the elliptical orbits taken by Earth and Mars around the sun they will to reach their closest point to each other until 3:50 a.m. EDT on July 31, according to space.com. First, a solar wind proton approaches Mars at high speed and encounters a cloud of hydrogen surrounding the planet.

The next close approach will occur in 2020 when the Red Planet will be within 38.6 million miles. With a small-to-moderate telescope you may be able to see the surface of Mars.

"The Martian proton auroras are more than a light show", said Dr. Jasper Halekas, from the University of Iowa.

In 2003, the red planet came 34.8 million miles close to Earth, which was the closest it's been to us in 59,619 years. The planets aren't expected to be that close again until 2287, according to NASA. Observatories across the USA are hosting Mars-viewing events next week.

This summer, opposition occurs July 27, or overnight Thursday into early Friday morning.

The total lunar eclipse on Friday will be visible in Australia, Africa, Asia, Europe and South America.

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