Calling anyone who wants to witness astronomy awesomeness: Mars will be the closest to Earth since 2003. And you’re not going to want to miss it. So gather the kiddos together, get away from the city lights and check out these super-sized celestial event.

When and where can you see Mars? Well technically you’ve already missed the best of the best views. Mars made its closest approach early Tuesday morning—putting it 35.8 million miles away, according to NASA. But that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck.

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These two images of Mars (swipe for a view from 2016) taken by our Hubble Space Telescope (@NASAHubble), show very different views of the same hemisphere roughly two years apart. Both were captured when Mars was near opposition, which occurs about every two years, when Earth’s orbit catches up to Mars’ orbit.

At that time, the Sun, Earth and Mars fall in a straight line, with Mars and the Sun on “opposing” sides of Earth.
The first image, taken on July 18, 2018, features a global dust storm, with spring in the southern hemisphere. You can tell that dust has engulfed the planet by swiping back and forth. Details like craters become more difficult or even impossible to spot. The second image, taken on May 12, 2016, shows a clear atmosphere.
Credit: NASA, ESA, and STScI

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Before you start scanning the sky, look to the southwest. Yep, that’s where you’ll find the Red Planet. Mars will be visible low to the horizon. And as long as you’re outside and looking up, gaze over to the right and up a bit. Why? Well you’ll get a glimpse of Saturn too!

Don’t think you totally missed Mars if you can’t find a massive red circle in the night sky. Even though it’s at its closest to Earth, that’s still far enough away that the Red Planet will look like a small dot. So forget about searching for a basketball-looking planet or anything bigger than a really bright star.

Oh, and it won’t be this close to Earth again until 2287. So unless you want to leave a note for your great, great, great, great grandkids to watch it for you, it’s time to get viewing.

—Erica Loop

Featured Photo: Felix Mittermeier via Pexels


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