Mars Close Approach: Here's what you'll see from Earth

Katie Ramirez
July 27, 2018

Astronomers have revealed that Mars will be within a close range of our planet Earth on July 25 - fifteen years after its closest brush with Earth.

The minimum distance between the planets is about 33.9 million miles, according to NASA. "The astronomical term for this is called opposition, and this is the best time to see Mars in a telescope". Astronomers expect good viewing through early August.

"The reason Mars is becoming so bright is the fact that we are approaching Mars' opposition; this is the time when Earth will be directly between the planet and the sun", AccuWeather Astronomy Blogger Dave Samuhel said.

However, the planet will appear around the same brightness on the night of opposition and the night that it is making its closest approach to Earth.

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

A massive dust storm at Mars, however, is obscuring normally visible surface details. Mars Close Approach is exactly what it seems: the point in Mars' orbit around the sun when it comes closest to Earth. On Mars, they are the result of protons, and scientists have just figured out how the events happen. Mars will be at a distance of 35.8 million miles (57.6 million kilometers). Now, the MAVEN team has learned that protons were doing at Mars the same thing as electrons usually do at Earth-create aurora. As they approach Mars, the protons coming in with the solar wind transform into neutral atoms by stealing electrons from the outer edge of the huge clouds of hydrogen surrounding the planet.

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

The planet's close encounter in 2003 made headlines as it was the closest Mars came to Earth in almost 60,000 years, sparking rumors that it would appear as large as the moon. The planets aren't expected to be that close again until 2287, according to NASA. Demeter said the best time to view the planet is from 10:30 p.m. through midnight. It spotted some events in the upper atmosphere of the Red Planet. For some, that means a chance to see a total lunar eclipse - the longest of the 21st century, but the eclipse won't be visible from the United States.

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