Now is the time to catch Mars in the night sky.
Next week, the red planet will approach Earth the next 15 years.
The two planets will be just 57.6 million kilometers apart next Tuesday. And on Friday, Mars will be in opposition. This means Mars and the Sun will be on exactly opposite sides of the earth. On the same day, parts of the world will see a total lunar eclipse.
Mars is already brighter than usual and will shine even more and appear larger as Tuesday approaches. Astronomers expect good visibility by early August.
However, a massive dust storm that currently surrounds Mars obscures the details of the surface normally visible through telescopes. The Martian atmosphere is so full of dust that NASA can not recharge Opportunity Rover – not enough sunlight can reach its solar cells – and so it has been quiet since June 10. Air traffic controllers do not expect to hear about the 14-year opportunity until the storm subsides, and maybe not even then.
The good news about all of the mire dust is that it reflects sunlight, creating a brighter red planet, said Widener University astronomer Harry Augensen.
"It's awesome It's as bright as a plane landing light," Augensen said. "Not quite as bright as Venus, but still because of the reddish, orange-red color, you really can not miss it in the sky."
In 2003, Mars and Earth were closest in nearly 60,000 years -34.6 million miles (55.7 million kilometers). NASA said that this will no longer be the case until 2287. NASA's next approach in 2020 will be 38.6 million miles (62 million kilometers).
US observatories are hosting Mars observing events next week. Los Angeles – Griffith Observatory will deliver a live online view of Mars early Tuesday.
The total lunar eclipse on Friday will be visible in Australia, Africa, Asia, Europe and South America. A total lunar eclipse occurs when the sun, earth and moon are perfectly aligned and throw the shadow of the earth at the moon. The Friday will be long and lasts 1 hour and 43 minutes.
Mars, earth, sun are perfectly in heaven this weekend