Now’s the time to catch Mars in the night sky. Next week, the Red Planet is making its closest approach to Earth in 15 years.
The two planets will be just 35.8 million miles apart Tuesday.
Mars is already brighter than usual and will shine even more — and appear bigger — as Tuesday nears. Astronomers expect good viewing through early August.
A massive dust storm on Mars is obscuring surface details normally visible through telescopes. But the dust reflects sunlight, which makes for an even brighter Red Planet.
“It’s magnificent. It’s as bright as an airplane landing light,” said Widener University astronomer Harry Augensen. Because of the reddish, orange-ish-red color, you really can’t miss it in the sky.”
In 2003, Mars and Earth were the closest in nearly 60,000 years: 34.6 million miles. According to NASA, the next close approach — 38.6 million miles — will occur in 2020.
Observatories across the United States are hosting Mars-viewing events next week. Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, California, will provide a live online view of Mars early Tuesday.