This year has turned out to be very rich in astronomical events. Besides the regular meteor showers that can be observed every year, we will have a chance to witness the longest total eclipse of the moon of the century and to see Mars at its brightest and closest to Earth.
If you have a look at the sky you will see that Mars appears bigger and brighter. The reason behind that is that the planet is in opposition, which means the Earth will be directly between the red planet and the sun. The event will reach its peak on Thursday night, that is one night before the blood moon on July 27.
Mars and Earth orbit the Sun differently and due to this fact they will only reach their closest point to each other on July 31. On Thursday Mars will be sitting just below the full moon, which will make it very easy to spot on the night sky, as it will shine very brightly.
In 2003 Mars came closest to Earth in 60,000 years and that made room for rumors that we would have two moons in the sky. Despite being closer to Earth than normal, you will only see Mars as a bright red point of light in the sky, and not as large as the moon, as most expect.
Here is a tip to make it easier to spot Mars in the sky: it will rise on the southeast around sunset, it will slowly cross the sky throughout the night and it will set in the southwest around sunrise. Don’t worry if you don’t have a telescope. Mars will be visible with the naked eye. However, you won’t be able to see some details on the planet, like its ice caps.
If the weather is not good and there’s no chance to see the sky behind the clouds, don’t despair. There are still chances to see the planet in the coming weeks. Mars will be visible in the sky throughout the rest of the summer until the end of the fall. The disadvantage is that it gets dimmer and dimmer towards the end of the year and you will no longer be able to enjoy its marvelous brightness.