Mars to come closest to Earth in 15 years next month

  • Mars to come closest to Earth in 15 years next month

Mars to come closest to Earth in 15 years next month

NASA plans to release on Friday what scientists say will be stunning new images of Mars taken by the Hubble Space Telescope.

Mars will still be 35.8 million miles away though, so there's certainly no danger of it bumping into us.

But some perihelic oppositions bring Earth and Mars closer together than others, the United States space agency said.

Mars will shine bright and look bigger between now and Tuesday.

Mars Close Approach takes place about every 26 months, but since Earth and Mars don't have perfectly circular orbits, the shortest distance between the planets isn't always the same for each close approach.

In 2003, Mars and Earth were the closest in almost 60,000 years - 55.7 million kilometres. Mars will still be more visible than normal for a while, but will become fainter as it travels farther from Earth during the planets' orbits around the sun. It makes it easier to see with telescopes or the naked eye.

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

However, there is a global dust storm obscuring the red planet that could continue through August and into September. In 1877, Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli claimed to have seen canals on Mars, suggesting there could be possible civilization, or Martians, on the red planet.

'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'. NASA said that won't happen again until 2287. But every 15 to 17 years the opposition also occurs near Mars' perihelion, the point at which the red planet's orbit is closest to the sun, which makes it even brighter in the sky when viewed from Earth, according to NASA.

Meanwhile, those in the Deep South, northern Plains and much of the West should have cloud-free conditions, leading to uninterrupted views of the red planet on the night that it reaches opposition. It also coincides with the longest total lunar eclipse of the 21st century, which will last 1 hour, 43 minutes.

While the blood moon eclipse will not be visible from North America, it will visible across much of Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia, weather permitting.