Mars Is Currently the Closest It Has Been to Earth in 15 Years
This week, look up into the night sky and you'll catch some incredible views of the Red Planet.
If you like your sleep, chances are you missed catching Saturday morning's eclipse, when a red hued moon and the planet Mars put on a rare show at 5.30am. Well, luckily, that wasn't the last of the celestial treats in store this week — last night saw Mars really making its presence known, as it hung out closer to Earth than it's been in 15 years.
According to NASA, the red planet only travels close enough to ours for these spectacular views once or twice every 15 or 17 years. Back in 2003, it made its closest approach in almost 60,000 years, and after this week's events, it isn't expected to make its next 'close approach' until October 6, 2020.
If you've been skygazing over the past few days, you would have seen Mars appear brightest from July 27 to 30, as it reached the point in its orbit that puts it closest to Earth. It was on show for most of last night, sitting just 57.6 million kilometres away from us — a relative sliver compared to the 401 million kilometre distance it reaches at its farthest.
You'll be able to glimpse the planet for a few more nights, though it's set to get fainter by mid-August as it continues on its orbit. To catch the Red Planet, look east. "Mars will be rising as the sun sets, and rising high and high in the eastern sky during the evening," University of Sydney astronomer Tim Bedding told The Age. "Later in the evening it will be more prominent, passing overhead at midnight."
If you find yourself stuck with anther cloudy night, NASA has kindly uploaded a four-hour video of the planet's approach from the Griffith Observatory in LA.
Published on August 01, 2018 by Libby Curran