We’ve been looking at the sky for a few days now and wondering what was with the red star rising in the east. A simple search on the internet or using Astronomy apps on your phone for stargazing could show you that the beautiful and unique looking star is actually Mars.
It’s so bright because it gets closer to Earth that you can see it shine brightly in the sky. And on 27 July it will get closer to Earth than it has been in the last 15 years!
What is a “Perihelic Opposition”?
That’s when the Red Planet reaches “opposition,” meaning that it gets in its orbit where the Earth is between it and the Sun. This opposition occurs once every 26 months, but this particular one is special.
Mars and Earth revolve around the sun at different speeds: Earth takes 365 days to complete its journey, while Mars takes 687 days to do it, and both planets’ orbit is an ellipse, so at one point, they are closest to the sun, reaching a “perihelic opposition.”
On 31 July, Mars will be the closest to Earth since 2003. In 2003, Mars was at almost 55.8 million kilometers from Earth – the closest encounter in almost 60,000 years. The last day in July, Mars will be nearly 57.6 million kilometers away. On Aug. 28, 2287, Mars will set a record distance of 55.6 million kilometers away.
Mars and Earth can get as far from each other as nearly 400 million kilometers.
However, unlike other online articles from 2003, Mars will not appear in the sky as large as the full moon. To appear like the moon in the sky, Mars should be as close as 384,000 kilometers – and that would mess with our Earth’s tides and alter our planet’s orbit!
You will, however, see a bright red spot on the sky and know that’s Mars you’re looking at.
Rex Austinwas born and raised in Thunder Bay Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior. Apart from running his own podcast (Ice Fishing And Other “Cool” Things), he spends his time canoeing and backpacking in Northern Ontario.. As a journalist Rex has published stories for Global News (Thunder Bay) we well as Buzz Feed and Joystiq. As a contributor to Great Lakes Ledger, Rex most covers science and health stories. Contact Rexhere