Here at ILoveNature, we like to take an occasional break from trying to save the world to look up at the skies and gaze in the majesty of the universe. We're particularly excited about the news around Mars that has been coming from NASA, the Curiosity Rover, and ESA. Our big red neighbor has been the site of a lot of really fascinating discoveries.
And, guess what, you can see Mars with the naked eye tonight.
On NASA's website, they've announced that you will be able to see Mars in all its beautiful glory as it passes close to our planet.
35.8 million miles is definitely not what most of us would consider “close.” But in planetary terms, close is definitely relative! On July 31, Mars will be 35.8 million miles from Earth, which is the closest it has been to Earth in 15 years. What does this mean for sky watchers? It means the Red Planet will appear super bright, and with its orange-red color, will be hard to miss in the nighttime sky. From July 27-30, the point in Mars’ orbit will come closest to Earth, and will be closest to Earth before sunrise Eastern Time on July 31.
What defines a “close approach?” The minimum distance from the Earth to Mars is about 33.9 million miles and does not happen very often. Because Earth and Mars have elliptical orbits and are slightly tilted to each other, all close approaches are not equal. When Mars slowly approaches what astronomers call opposition, it and the Sun are on opposite sides of the Earth. Earth and Mars align in opposition about every two years (fun fact: this is why most NASA missions to the Red Planet are at least two years apart – to take advantage of the closer distance). Opposition to Mars is at its closest to the Sun every 15 to 17 years, when excellent views of the Red Planet from Earth can occur. This is what is happening on the early morning hours of July 31.
Soooo get your binoculars and go say hi to the big red guy in the sky!