Mars Will Look Brighter in the Night Sky Than It Has in 15 Years Next Month

Sunday, 17 June 2018 - 4:12PM
Space
Mars
Sunday, 17 June 2018 - 4:12PM
Mars Will Look Brighter in the Night Sky Than It Has in 15 Years Next Month
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Earth's closest neighbor is going to be even closer soon, and this should give stargazers a reason to be excited.

During July 2018, Mars will be coming within 35.8 million miles (57.6 million kilometers) of Earth, which is the closest the Red Planet has come since 2003. It won't be quite as close as it was back then - when it came within 34.9 million miles (56.1 million kilometers) - but it's still going to be extremely bright in the night sky.

While it's going to be approaching for the next few weeks and will provide ample opportunities to stargaze (or technically "planet-gaze"), it's going to be at its very closest during the early morning of July 31, 2018, according to The Weather Channel



Due to the nature of Earth and Mars' respective orbits, the distance between the two is remarkably inconsistent from year to year. The two planets are at their closest during the rare occasion when they're in "perihelic opposition" with each other, which is when Earth is directly in between Mars and the sun. If you were standing on Mars during this time, it would look a lot like a "Terran eclipse" of the sun, if you will.

Back in 2016, Mars was at one of its farthest distances for much of the year, being 47 million miles (75.6 million kilometers) away and appearing very small through any telescopes. While a telescope certainly helps, you won't need it soon considering how bright Mars will get. 

Once it's at its peak, Mars will be brighter than nearly anything else in the night sky short of the Moon, and it'll shine much brighter than either Venus or Jupiter. Even if you miss its peak on July 31, you'll still have most of August to catch it as it gradually begins moving away.

However, this summer will be the time to look at Mars until over 17 years from now. Once Mars and Earth split up once again, the next time that Mars gets this close will be on September 15, 2035.
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