Mars Making Closest Approach to Earth in 15 Years

Astronomical Museum

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.

The next close approach will occur in 2020.

In 2003, Mars and Earth were at their closest in almost 60,000 years, coming within 34.6 million miles of each other. These two planets do come nearly this close after every 15 to 17 years.

When those high-speed incoming atoms hit the Martian atmosphere, some of their energy was emitted as ultraviolet light, which is invisible to the human eye but detectable to instruments like IUVS.

Viewing the planets will require no protection, and are easily seen in a telescope, binoculars or with the unaided eye, Higgins added.

By mid-August, the planet will become fainter as Mars and Earth travel farther away from each other in their orbits around the sun. Just look out for the big red dot.

On July 27, Mars will be in perihelic opposition, Express.co.uk reported on Sunday. NASA notes that much has been made of the observation that the Neanderthals were the last before the 2003 approach to see Mars so favorably placed.

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On July 31, Mars will be 35.8 million miles away.

Although it's still early to forecast, a large-scale weather pattern could bring clouds over the eastern states next week, as a southward plunge of the jet stream generates showers and thunderstorms, says weather.com meteorologist Chris Dolce.

Hubble, one of the largest space telescopes, captured images of dust storms on the Red Planet this summer.

"It will appear to be a very bright orange star and you'll be able to watch it creep across the sky", said Kelly.

Rain and thunderstorms will also lead to poor viewing conditions across a swath of the central U.S. On Mars, they are the result of protons, and scientists have just figured out how the events happen. Friday's will be long, lasting 1 hour and 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. NASA said that won't happen again until 2287.

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