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31st Jul 2018

Mars is making its closest approach to the Earth in 15 years today


NASA has told people to “get outside and look for Mars”

Mars and the Earth will today come closer than they have for over a decade today. At their nearest, the two planets will be just 35.8 million miles (57.6 million kilometres) apart.

The last such event was in 2003 when Mars and Earth came the closest they had in nearly 60,000 years – touching within 34.6 million miles (55.7 million kilometres) of each other. That encounter won’t be beaten until 2287.

Astronomers expect good viewing conditions of Mars throughout early August. Harry Augensen, Widener University astronomer, told the New York Times: “It’s magnificent. It’s as bright as an aeroplane landing light.

“Not quite as bright as Venus, but still because of the reddish, orange-ish-red colour, you really can’t miss it in the sky.”

The next “close approach” event between the third and fourth planet from the Sun will be in 2020 when the two planets will come within 38.6 million miles (62 million kilometres) of each other.

Observatories across the US are hosting viewing events today to mark the occasion. A spokesperson from The Griffith Observatory said: “By a celestial coincidence, at the same time, Mars will be at its very best position for viewing through a telescope from Los Angeles, as it crosses the meridian and appears highest in the southern sky”.

You can watch a live stream of the event here: