Mars Will Be Extra Bright This Weekend During Opposition

Jul 26, 2018

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For the past few weeks, Mars has been growing brighter and brighter, and starting this weekend, you can see our planetary neighbor the closest its been to Earth since 2003 as it approaches opposition.

Opposition means Mars and the sun are on directly opposite sides of Earth.

The Earth, Sun and Mars align in opposition about once every two years, but Mars is only as bright as it will be this weekend about every 15 to 17 years when its position is closest to the sun, Rich Zurek, project scientist for NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter told the New York Times.

Mars will be at a distance of 35.8 million miles from Earth during its closest approach; the Red Planet is typically about 140 million miles away, according to NASA. The next time Mars will be this close will be in 2020.

Illustration via NASA
Illustration via NASA

 

During the opposition and closest approach, you’ll be able to identify Mars as shining, reddish-hue blob in the night sky. All you have to do is look up! Although you might have a tough time seeing this astronomical event against NYC’s city lights, other parts of the US will have clear views for four days before sunrise on July 31.

Mars will be brightest during its opposition on July 27 because the planet directly reflects sunlight back to Earth at opposition and will become fainter as sunlight is reflected at a slightly slanted angle, according to EarthSky. If you happen to miss Mars’ opposition and close approach, the planet has actually been brighter than usual all of July and will remain that way until September 7.

Feature image by Kevin Gill via Flickr. 

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