This Is Why You Should Look up at the Sky Tonight
Mars will appear bigger than it's been in years.
Mars and Earth both orbit the sun, but they do so at different distances and speeds. Every two years or so, our planet gets sandwiched in between the sun and the Mars in a straight line, a phenomenon knowns as “opposition.” Thanks to this year’s solar system dance, Mars is currently the closest that it’s been to Earth since 2003.
Because the current opposition also coincides with July’s full moon, some parts of the world are privy to the longest lunar eclipse of the 21st century, which is not, unfortunately, visible in the United States.
When opposition occurred in 2003, Mars was only 34.6 million miles away from Earth, the closest it had been in 60,000 years, in a record that won’t be broken again until Aug. 28, 2287, according to NASA. At 4 am on Tuesday, it hit its closest point—35.8 million miles away to be exact—which is a lot less than its average distance of about 140 million miles. While it’ll be further away later tonight, this means it can still appear up to five times bigger and twice as bright as usual.
To get a good look, all you have to do is stare up at the sky and look out for a reddish orb hovering beneath the moon, though using a pair of binoculars will certainly enhance your view. But, if you don’t catch it, there will inevitably be some great pics up on social media, especially since Mars Opposition officially began last Friday.
And for more jaw-dropping celestial sights, check out 10 Breathtaking Photos of 2018’s First Supermoon.
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