Mars and Earth Will be Closer Than They’ve Been in 15 Years – Here’s How to Spot it
Mars, the red planet is orbiting closer to Earth than it has done in more than a decade. Known as perihelic opposition, it means Mars will appear larger than normal in the night sky.
Here is part of the article that I found extremely fascinating: “Scientists have discovered that over many centuries, the orbit of Mars is becoming more elongated.
This means that the difference between perihelion and aphelion is growing, but the upside is that future perihelic oppositions will bring Earth and Mars even closer.”
Perhaps a very long time from now (as in thousands or millions of years) Earth and Mars may collide.
via: Daily Mail
Mars is set to balloon in size in the night sky next month, as the red planet orbits closer to Earth than it has done in over a decade.
Throughout the month of July, the orbit of Mars and Earth will align in a rare phenomenon known as perihelic opposition.
This occurs when Mars reaches its closest point to the sun at the same time as Earth’s orbit brings it directly between the two.
As a result of the phenomenon, Mars will be closer to Earth than it has been for 15 years, making it appear almost three times larger than normal in the night sky.
Perihelic opposition, which will also make the red planet appear brighter, can be seen with the naked eye.
Stargazers all over the world will be able to see the red planet, although those in the southern hemisphere will get the best view.
Although the actual point of opposition will occur on July 27, Mars will be noticeably larger for the majority of the month of July.
In the days before Mars Close Approach, the planet will look around three times brighter in our sky than it normally does.
It will also outshine Jupiter, registering as 1.8 times brighter in the night sky.
That means Mars will temporarily become the fourth-brightest object in the sky, ranking after the sun, the moon and Venus.
Mars will be up all night, rising after sunset and setting at sunrise.
Stargazers hoping to spot the red planet from the northern hemisphere should check the sky in the hours before dawn.
Mars should be visible in the southeast, located just below the Sagittarius constellation.
Meanwhile, the best view of the phenomenon will be enjoyed in the southern hemisphere.
For example, New Zealand capital Wellington will enjoy a view of the red planet as it reaches a maximum altitude of 74 degrees in the sky at the end of July.
At the point where Mars is closest to Earth, it will be just 35.8 million miles (57.6 million kilometres) away from our planet – compared to the average distance of 140 million miles (225 million kilometres).
Primed ready for nighttime viewing, one Twitter user took to the social media site to explain the significance of the event.
They said: ‘Currently the brightest “star”, Mars will triple in brightness leading up to July 27.’
As well as being far brighter, it will be much larger, with NASA revealing it will appear 2.7 times larger than normal.
Opposition is a reasonably common occurrence, and takes place around once every 26 months.
This is where Earth is sandwiched directly between the sun and Mars, in a similar fashion to the way it aligns itself with the moon each month.
Due to the variation between the orbits of Earth and Mars, opposition can happen anywhere along Mars’ orbit.
What makes this particular event so rare, is that Earth’s position between the red planet and sun will occur within a few weeks of Mars’ perihelion – the point in its orbit when it is closest to the sun.
This happens only once every 15 to 17 years.
The last time it happened was in 2003, and on that occasion the two planets were closer than they had been for almost 60,000 years.
Whilst the orbits are predictable to an extent, external variables such as gravitational pull surroundings moons, stars and other planets means some perihelic oppositions bring us closer to our neighbour than others.
The orbit of the two planets is slightly different, Mars’s orbit is more elliptical than Earth’s, so the difference between perihelion (the closest point to the sun) and aphelion (the furthest point away from the sun) is greater.
Scientists have discovered that over many centuries, the orbit of Mars is becoming more elongated.
This means that the difference between perihelion and aphelion is growing, but the upside is that future perihelic oppositions will bring Earth and Mars even closer.
Despite this, the fortuitous conditions of 2003 mean it will hold the record for the closest the planets have been until 2287.