This July, Mars will swing closer to the Earth than it has done for 15 years, putting on a spectacular show for stargazers in the process.
Known as the ‘Mars Close Approach’, the planet will appear larger and brighter than it usually does in our night sky, thanks to the orbits of both Mars and the Earth lining up.
When can I see it?
The date of the Mars Close Approach is July 31, 2018, and that’s when the Red Planet will be closer to us than it has been since 2003.
It will still be an almost unimaginable distance away at nearly 36 million miles (over 57 million kilometres).
In the days leading up to the approach Mars will be almost directly opposite the Sun in the sky.
The Solar System is lined up so that Mars, the Earth and the Sun form a straight line with the Earth in the middle, on the same side of the Sun as Mars, and this means that the Mars will appear noticeably brighter than usual.
Stargazers will be able to observe this from July 27 – 30.
How can I see it?
Mars can often be seen in the night sky, and is usually visible with the naked eye.
With it being even brighter and larger than usual, budding astronomers should have no problem spotting the planet around the time of the Close Approach.
If you want to see more detail, you’ll need to call upon some binoculars or a telescope, but even without these tools, you should be able to appreciate Mars’ added perceived size and brightness.
According to NASA, the best time to see to see Mars is around midnight, when the planet reaches its highest point in our sky.
With that highest point only being between 8 and 12 degrees above the southern horizon – depending on where in the country you are – those with a clear view of the horizon will have a better chance of seeing the planet.
And those in areas with less light pollution will be able to experience the full effect of the Approach.
What if I miss it?
Clear skies are a must if you want to spot Mars, and with Britain’s weather often temperamental, there’s a high chance the skies will be cloudy come the end of July.
In the days following the Close Approach, Mars will become fainter as Mars and Earth travel farther away from each other in their orbits around the Sun, and by mid-August, it will be a lot harder to spot in the sky.
But fear not: you won’t have long to wait until the next Mars Close Approach, which takes place in just two years’ time on October 6, 2020.
This article originally appeared on our sister site, iNews.
[Main image: Shutterstock]