Tuesday, 14 August, 2018

Mars making closest approach to Earth in 15 years

Mars is now the closest to Earth than it has been in 15 years Mars Close Approach: How to view the celestial event
Eleanor Moreno | 02 August, 2018, 15:44

Earth has been treated to back-to-back planets in opposition, Mars and Saturn, and the iconic Hubble telescope captured both beautifully. That is the point in Mars' orbit when it comes closest to Earth.

But, when and where can I see it?

Although studies investigating the possibility of terraforming Mars have been made before, the new result takes advantage of about 20 years of additional spacecraft observations of Mars. Selfie-taking Curiosity, the best-known of the two, is drilling into the hard rock of the planet to find out whether small life forms called microbes could ever have lived on Mars.

"Mars will be closest today, 31 July, but it will be very close for many weeks meaning telescope owners can get superb close-up views for a couple of months at least", said David Moore, editor of Astronomy Ireland magazine. Should we look more towards Mars or the Moon in our space programs? However, the Red Planet will slowly start moving away from Earth and by the middle of August it will be much fainter.

During opposition, Mars is especially photogenic because it can be seen fully illuminated by the Sun as viewed from Earth. Mars will still be especially bright and close tonight, so make sure to look up!


Now's the time to catch Mars in the night sky.

The red planet is coming - closer, that is. During its opposition, Mars came as close as only 57.6 million kilometers (35.7 million miles) away from Earth.

Observatories across the United States are hosting viewing events today to mark the occasion.

Terraforming or creating a habitable environment on Mars, that would allow humans to explore it without life support, is still a far-fetched dream, say scientists who found that existing technologies are incapable of forming an Earth-like atmosphere on the red planet. That was the closest in 60,000 years, and that kind of range won't happen again until the year 2287. At the close approach, the red planet will be brighter than all the stars in the night sky and therefore you will never miss this reddish colour planet as a naked eye bright object in the eastern sky after the sun set. At nightfall Jupiter is shining brightly in the south-southwestern sky, and Saturn is just off to the lower left in the low south-southeast.

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