Space Research

Mars will be at its closest point to Earth in 15 years

There’s another reason for stargazers to continue looking at the sky. According to US space agency NASA, the Red Planet will be at its closest point to Earth in 15 years, providing a golden opportunity for spectacular nighttime watching. Mars is going to look extremely bright in the night sky, brighter than nearly anything else.

It was last in 2003 when Mars came within 56.1 million kilometers of Earth, the closest it had come in 60,000 years. Unfortunately, this year the two planets won’t get quite as close. The Red Planet will appear the brightest to stargazers next month on July 27, 2018, when the two planets will be just 35.8 million miles (57.6 million kilometers) apart. While people will be able to see Mars with their naked eyes all the way through July, a telescope will definitely offer a better and a more detailed look at the red planet’s unique features.

Mars opposition takes place every two years or so, roughly every 26 months. But this year is special as the Red planet will also hit its closest point to the sun in its orbit, a point called the perihelion.

The unusual event will take place due to the perihelic opposition phenomenon in which the orbits of Earth and Mars align, bringing the two planets closer together. In simple words, an opposition is when Earth is directly in between Mars and the sun.  Perihelic opposition takes place only once in every 15 to 17 years.

“Since Mars and the Sun appear on opposite sides of the sky, we say that Mars is in ‘opposition’,” NASA explained. “An opposition can occur anywhere along Mars’ orbit. When it happens while the Red Planet is closest to the Sun (called ‘perihelic opposition’), Mars is particularly close to Earth,”

The next time that Mars gets this close to Earth will be on September 15, 2035.

About the author

Megha Kedia

Megha Kedia

Megha is a seasoned reporter with over six years of experience covering news in technology, science and related fields. At The Space News, Megha covers space research & technology news.

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