This is the closest it will be for the next 15 years. And that means stargazing is highly recommended as Mars will be bright, large, and easy to see with or without a telescope.
We recommend that you consult a star map to determine where Mars will be in the night sky for your location so that you can plan the best viewing.
But the good news is that it will be in a region of the night sky with very few stars, and if you’re lucky you should be able to catch Jupiter and Saturn shining closer to the horizon as well.
The day we’re closest to Mars is October 6, so go for it.
As you can see in this video below, Mars and Earth are both in slightly elliptical orbits, which means they can sometimes be very close to each other.
The closest possible encounter occurs when Earth is furthest from the Sun (aphelia) and Mars is closest to the Sun (perihelion). At this point, the two would be at least 54.6 million kilometers (33.9 million miles) apart.
This setup is called an opposition, and it happens every two years or so. But we never really recorded ourselves reaching that perfect “closest” point.
The closest approach we have ever recorded occurred in 2003, with just 55.7 million kilometers separating us from Mars. Two years ago, 2018 was pretty close too, with just 57.6 million kilometers (35.8 million miles) between us.
Sadly, we are moving further and further away from our nearest neighbor and will not begin to approach again until 2029, resulting in a very close approach in 2035 – just 56.9 million kilometers (35.4 million miles) away. each other – so start planning your March 2035 observation schedule well in advance!
At the other end of the scale of an opposition is a conjunction, when the two planets are furthest apart from each other. They can end up within 401 million kilometers (250 miles) of each other. This happens when Earth and Mars are on opposite sides of the Sun and both in their aphelion.
It is for this reason that space organizations take advantage of the short distance between our planets when these windows appear. This year has been a great opportunity for many missions to the Red Planet.
If you remember, Mars One was planning to launch a lander on Mars in 2020 before it ever did.
But three missions managed to take off. NASA’s Perseverance rover is close to halfway through its journey to the Red Planet after liftoff in July, while two more missions have left for Mars in the same two-week window.
The next batch of missions to Mars – like the return of samples from Mars – will travel in 2022, but they will have to travel an additional 20 million kilometers, because we will be at a distance of 81.5 million kilometers (50.6 million kilometers). miles) to our nearest approach during this time.
So this week is a pretty special opportunity that we won’t have until 2035. Make sure to greet Mars as it passes!