Mars now at closest point for next 15 years and is huge and bright – how to spot it in night sky
MARS is about to reach the closest point it will be to Earth for the next 15 years.
The Red Planet will be 62.1 million kilometres (38.6 million miles) away from us and you should be able to spot it with the naked eye.
This may still seem like a large distance but it will make Mars bright and easy for stargazers to spot.
At its furthest way, Mars reaches a distance of 401 million kilometres (250 miles) from Earth.
Mars should be visible with the naked eye but you could also use a telescope.
The planet will be at its absolute closest on October 6.
Space agencies take the close approach as an opportunity to observe the planet[/caption]
Look to the right of the Moon and towards the Pisces constellation to try and spot it.
The best time to do this will be very late in the evening or just after midnight.
Downloading a sky scanning app on your smartphone could help you find the planet easily.
Mars occasionally comes closer to Earth because our planet and Mars have orbits that aren’t exactly perfect circles.
This means that sometimes they come closer to each other as they journey around the Sun.
Scientists think the closest Mars can get to Earth is 54.6 million kilometres (33.9 million miles).
That closest point has never actually been recorded though.
After our alignment this week, our next close encounter won’t be until 2035.
Nasa explained: “Close Approach is when Mars and Earth come nearest to each other in their orbits around the sun. Close is a relative term.
“The minimum distance from Earth to Mars is about 33.9 million miles (54.6 million kilometers). However, that doesn’t happen very often.
“If Earth and Mars had perfectly circular orbits, their minimum distance would always be the same. However, they have elliptical (egg-shaped) paths.”
The space agency added: “The orbits of Mars and Earth are also slightly tilted with respect to each other.
“All of these factors mean that not all close encounters are equal. In 2003, Mars made its closest approach to Earth in nearly 60,000 years! It won’t be that close again until the year 2287.
“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.”
Here’s what you need to know about the red planet…
- Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun
- It is named after the Roman god of war
- The landmass of Mars is very similar to Earth but due to the difference in gravity you could jump three times higher there than you can here
- Mars is mountainous and hosts the tallest mountain known in the Solar System called Olympus Mons, which is three times higher than Everest
- Mars is considered to be the second most habitable planet after Earth
- It takes the planet 687 Earth days to orbit the Sun
- So far, there has been 39 missions to Mars but only 16 of these have been successful
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In other space news, astronomers have revealed details about one of the most extreme planets ever discovered.
Both the Draconid meteor shower and the Orionid meteor shower will be lighting up our skies this month.
And, Nasa admitted a mysterious air leak that has plagued the International Space Station for months is getting worse.
Would you ever want to live on Mars? Let us know in the comments…
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