Mars to make closest approach to Earth since 2003

Mars to make closest approach to Earth since 2003

Mars to make closest approach to Earth since 2003

NASA notes that many missions to Mars coincide with these close approaches.

On July 31, Mars will be 35.8 million miles away.

Mars and Earth are the closest planets to each other.

"In this case it's going to appear about five times brighter than usual", added Kelly.

If you miss this weekend's event, the next close approach of Mars will happen on October 6, 2020, when the red planet will be 38.6 million miles away from Earth. It will be easy to spot Mars on Thursday night as it will be sitting just below a almost full moon.

In 2003, the red planet came 34.8 million miles close to Earth, which was the closest it's been to us in 59,619 years. Mars will still be more visible than normal for a while, but will become fainter as it travels farther from Earth during the planets' orbits around the sun. 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. 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.

While Mars has seemed closer for a while now, it will seem biggest and brightest through the end of the July, since Mars Close Approach is July 31.

During opposition, Mars is especially photogenic because it can be seen fully illuminated by the Sun as viewed from Earth. Only Venus will appear brighter.

The red planet is easily visible with the naked eye, but folks with a telescope may be able to see some details of the planet, including the planet's ice caps, according to AccuWeather.

However, there is a global dust storm obscuring the red planet that could continue through August and into September. That same day, parts of the world will see a total lunar eclipse.

Observatories across the US are hosting Mars-viewing events next week. Friday's will be long, lasting 1 hour and 43 minutes. On Mars, they can happen anywhere, and in large areas, said NASA.

While the blood moon eclipse will not be visible from North America, it will visible across much of Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia, weather permitting.

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