If you’re a fan of astronomy, make sure you keep an eye to the skies this week. Mars will shine the brightest it has since 2003 this week, and you don’t want to miss it! NASA said: “Simply go outside and look up and, depending on your local weather and lighting conditions, you should be able to see Mars.” Mars will make a close approach of Earth tomorrow, coming about 38.6million miles from our planet.
The close approach coincides with opposition, when Mars is directly on the opposite side of Earth from the sun. NASA explained: “This lineup happens about every two years. During this opposition, Mars and Earth are closest to each other in their orbits. That means Mars is at its brightest, so go out and take a look!”
While Mars should be visible with the naked eye, a telescope could come in handy to help you see more details of the red planet. NASA said: “When Mars and Earth are close to each other, Mars appears very bright in our sky. It also makes it easier to see with telescopes or the naked eye. The Red Planet comes close enough for exceptional viewing only once or twice every 15 or 17 years.”
While you may hear some reports that Mars will look as big as the moon during the opposition, unfortunately this isn’t the case. NASA explained: “Don't be fooled by the Mars Hoax. The message is that Mars will look as big as the Moon in our night sky. If that were true, we'd be in big trouble given the gravitational pulls on Earth, Mars, and our Moon!”
If you miss this week’s astronomical event, thankfully you’ll have another chance to see Mars in 2022. The next Mars Close Approach is December 8 2022, when Mars will be just 38.6 million miles from Earth!