This Week Mars Is the Closest It’s Been to Earth in 17 Years

Mars, The Red Planet

Photo: Stock Photos from Vadim Sadovski/Shutterstock

Get your telescopes ready—Mars is currently closer than ever to Earth. In fact, it's so close that you can even see it with the naked eye, though you'll want something more powerful if you want to see the details of the Red Planet. Over the next week, stargazers will be able to take advantage of Mars' close approach to get an eyeful of the planet.

This event occurs when Mars and the Earth are at their closest distance from each other during their orbit of the Sun. Though this happens every two years, due to their elliptical paths, the distance differs each time. For instance, the absolute minimum distance they have from one another is 33.9 million miles, but that has never been recorded. This year, the planets will be just 38.6 million miles from one another, which is the closest they've been since 2003.

The next time they'll be this close is 2035, which is right around the time that NASA is hoping to send people to Mars. In fact, NASA often takes advantage of the close approach when launching new missions. Right now their Perseverance rover is en route to Mars, with an expected landing date of February 18, 2021.

Where can you see Mars in the sky? Located just next to the Moon, it's visible all evening—though it reaches its highest point around midnight. There are hoaxes circulating the internet stating that Mars will appear as big as the Moon, but don't be fooled. As NASA says, “If that were true, we'd be in big trouble given the gravitational pulls on Earth, Mars, and our Moon!”

So be sure to get outside, weather permitting, and take advantage of this rare moment to view Mars.

Check out more stargazing opportunities in October, courtesy of NASA.

h/t: [IFL Science!, Daily Mail]

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Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Staff Editor and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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