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Mars makes closest approach to Earth in 15 years

01 August 2018

That year also marked the closest that Mars had come to Earth since the Stone Age - and on Tuesday, it will come the closest it has since then. Mars wasn't as big as the moon in the night sky - not even close; that story is a hoax that somehow pops up every single year.

As Mars will be in the nearest position to the Earth, people can get the view from sunset until sunrise.

At only 35.8 million miles / 57.6 million kilometres from us, the Red Planet is closer to Earth this summer than at any time during the 32-year interval 2003 - 2035, allowing those with clear skies and without light pollution to see it quite clearly.

Earth's neighbour in the solar system was brightest from July 27 to 30, but it is expected to be visible throughout the night on July 31.

The last closest approach was in 2003, when Mars was 34.6 million miles (55.7 million kilometers) from Earth "and the closest it had been in almost 60,000 years", said NASA.

When the Sun, Earth and Mars are lined up, with Earth sitting in between, a phenomenon called "opposition" is in effect, giving the brightest view of Mars.

"Each Martian year, moderately large dust storms cover continent-sized areas and last for weeks at a time", NASA explained.

Part of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory mission, Mars Curiosity on Tuesday tweeted: "I feel so close to you right now". In the case of Mars, its brightest shades of red or orange will be visible. A total lunar eclipse occurs when the sun, Earth and moon line up perfectly, casting Earth's shadow on the moon. However, a massive dust storm engulfing the Red planet is obscuring the surface details which are normally visible through telescopes.

Mars will be seen rising from the Gemini constellation in India tonight (July 31).

By mid-August, NASA says Mars will become fainter as the planet and Earth travel away from each other.

Like all other planets, Earth and Mars have elliptical orbits, meaning oval in shape.

But just in case you miss Mars Close Approach this year, the next one is scheduled to take place on October 6, 2020. Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles will be hosting a live stream of the event.

Mars and Earth will be 38.6 million miles apart at that point.

Mars makes closest approach to Earth in 15 years