Mars making closest approach to Earth in 15 years

Mars making closest approach to Earth in 15 years

Planet Mars' closest approach in a decade on Tuesday night will offer skygazers a thrilling astronomical treat. Mars, the fourth planet from the Sun, will be 57.6 million kilometres from Earth, the closest it has been since 2003 when it came within 55.7 million kilometres, which was the nearest in almost 60,000 years. But it must be noted that Mars closest to the Earth does not mean it will be at its brightest too. Today, the planet will be at a distance of 35.8 million miles (57.6 million km) from Earth.

Mars which is already brighter than usual, will shine even more and will appear to be bigger on Tuesday.

Transforming planets as a pre-cursor to colonisation is a staple of science fiction, and an aspiration for individuals including Elon Musk, whose company SpaceX uses images of terraforming Mars in its promotional material.

Observatories across the U.S. are hosting Mars-viewing events.

When Mars and Earth are close to each other, Mars appears very bright in the sky. This year's opposition took place during the total lunar eclipse and blood moon, making the red planet appear dim.

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It will grow fainter in the sky by mid-August as the two planets move further from each other. In the case of Mars, its brightest shades of red or orange will be visible.

A massive dust storm recently engulfed Mars, obscuring surface details normally visible through telescopes.

The event known as "Mars Close Approach" represents the point in the red planet's orbit at which it comes closest to Earth. "We want to do that again tonight", said Ed Krupp, director of the observatory.

If the weather is a problem at your location due to the monsoon, you can view NASA's live stream of the Mars sighting from the Griffith Observatory. The live stream can be found on the space agency's website, or NASA's YouTube channel from 1.30pm EST (around 11pm IST).

With Mars in closest position to Earth in a long time, you should be able to see it starting sunset and have the view until sunrise. It will be 38.6 million miles (62 million kilometers) apart then, according to NASA.