Published: Fri, July 27, 2018
Research | By Derrick Holloway

Mars set to make closest approach to Earth in 15 years

Mars set to make closest approach to Earth in 15 years

NASA found out that the skies over Mars put up quite a show for at least half of the planet, but it's a show very hard to observe. 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. On July 31, the planets will be 35.8 million miles apart.

The blood moon will be the longest total lunar eclipse of the 21st century and will occur just after 9pm United Kingdom time on Friday July 27.

Meanwhile, numerous other Mars orbiters are helping scientists understand the dust storm.

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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.

And on July 31, Mars will be at its closest approach to Earth in both their orbits around the sun. 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. With a small-to-moderate telescope you may be able to see the surface of Mars.

"The answer was thievery", said Justin Deighan, of the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado, Boulder, lead author of a paper on this research appearing July 23 in Nature Astronomy.

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The next Mars close approach is October 6, 2020, NASA says.

Mars will be at its brightest appearance since 2003 when Mars made its closest approach to Earth in nearly 60,000 years. Now, the MAVEN team has learned that protons were doing at Mars the same thing as electrons usually do at Earth-create aurora. "Not quite as bright as Venus, but still because of the reddish, orange-ish-red color, you really can't miss it in the sky".

They line up again at the same distance in 2287. Demeter said the best time to view the planet is from 10:30 p.m. through midnight. Observatories across the USA are hosting Mars-viewing events next week. It willl only be visible to some parts of the world, including Australia, Africa, Asia, Europe and South America.

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

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