When you look up at the night sky this weekend, don’t be surprised to see a bright red addition to the usual collection of stars.
According to NASA, Mars is now quite close to us, as it reaches the part of its orbit called ‘opposition’, where it’s exactly opposite the Sun in the Earth’s sky.
The Red Planet shines its brightest between July 27th and 30th as the Sun, Earth, and Mars all line up, with Earth sandwiched in the middle of the other two.
However it will be closest to Earth this Tuesday, July 31st, when the planet will be at a distance of 57.6 million kilometres – this phenomenon is called Mars Close Approach.
The last time we saw the Red Planet up close was in 2003, when it was 55.8 million kilometres away from Earth – its closest venture to us in 60,000 years.
On the 31st, Mars will reach its highest point around midnight, and will be visible roughly 35 degrees above the southern horizon, or one-third of the distance between the horizon and overhead.
But just in case you miss Mars Close Approach this year, the next one is scheduled to take place on Oct. 6, 2020.