Over the next six weeks Mars will appear brighter than it has did in the past 15 years. This will happen because the planet will get really close to Earth and it is the first time it reaches this distance ever since 2003.
Mars will be at its brightest on July 31, and at that moment the red planet will be 35.8 miles away from Earth, information which was confirmed by the Weather Channel. Space lovers will be able to see Mars throughout July as it will be visible to the naked eye.
At that point the red planet will shine brighter than all the stars, which means that it will be very easy to spot it in the sky at night. The reason for this is a phenomenon named perihelic opposition. Opposition happens when Earth passes between Mars and the Sun.
While Mars opposition happens every two years, this time it will be a special occasion as the planet will also reach its closest point to the sun, the perihelion in its orbit.
Even if Mars will look very bright in the sky, the truth is that a huge dust storm is currently swiping the planet. “The storm is one of the most intense ever observed on the Red Planet,” declared NASA. This storm managed to cover 10 billion acres of the surface of Mars, which is one quarter of the planet. To understand this distance, we can compare it to the size of Russia and North America.
Opportunity, NASA’s rover that is solar powered, had to be put in sleep mode until the storm passes. Nonetheless, it remains to see whether the storm will affect it, and we do not know yet if it will manage to function afterward.