Mars to come closest to Earth in 15 years in July 2018
Star gazers could have a good view of the Red Planet next month as Mars is set to come to the closest point to Earth since 2003 when it reaches opposition with the Sun in late July.
This year, Mars opposition will occur on July 27, according to NASA.
The reason is that Earth will pass between Mars and the sun and will be closest to the red planet on July 31 — an estimated 35.8 million miles away. Mars will be notably visible to the naked eye all the way through July, but a telescope may come in handy to get a really vicarious thrill.
During opposition, Mars is especially photogenic because it can be seen fully illuminated by the Sun as viewed from Earth.
“Since Mars and the Sun appear on opposite sides of the sky, we say that Mars is in ‘opposition’,” NASA explained.
Every 15 or 17 years, opposition occurs within a few weeks of Mars’ perihelion – the point in its orbit when it is closest to the Sun.
— ESA Rosetta Mission (@ESA_Rosetta) May 4, 2015
“An opposition can occur anywhere along Mars’ orbit. When it happens while the Red Planet is closest to the Sun (called ‘perihelic opposition’), Mars is particularly close to Earth,” NASA said.
On July 27, Mars will be in perihelic opposition, Express.co.uk reported on Sunday.
But some perihelic oppositions bring Earth and Mars closer together than others, the US space agency said.
The 2003 opposition was the closest approach in almost 60,000 years, it added.
A dust storm is currently walloping Mars, covering around 10 billion acres of the red planet’s surface. That’s an area equivalent to the size of North America and Russia, and it takes up a quarter of Mars’ surface area.
“The storm is one of the most intense ever observed on the Red Planet,” Nasa said in a press release.
Nasa put its solar-powered Opportunity rover in sleep mode to ride out the storm, but its unclear whether the ageing rover will be able to function again after the storm ends.