If you look up at the night sky this week you might notice an unusually bright star, don’t be alarmed. This is because our big red neighbouring planet Mars will be closer to Earth this week than at any other time for the next 15 years.
This week Mars will be perfectly placed to be seen from both hemispheres, located a mere 62.1 million kilometres away from Earth, meaning stargazers may be lucky enough to see the planet without the need for a telescope. The days Mars will be closest to Earth are 5 October through to 6 October, according to Science alert.
The closest encounter between Earth and Mars will be when Earth is furthest away from the sun, and when Mars is closest to the sun. When this happens, the distance between the two planets will be 54.6 million kilometres apart. In past years, we’ve seen quite a few close encounters with the big red planet. The closest approach ever recorded by scientists took place in 2003, with a distance of just 55.7 million kilometres separating the two planets. In 2018, there was another close encounter, with 57.6 million kilometres between Earth and Mars.
Jupiter’s Great Red Spot should transit the planet’s central meridian around 9:24 p.m. EDT Sunday. Mars will be closest to Earth this Tuesday, 0.415 a.u (38.6 million miles). It won’t pass us that close again until September 2035. How old will you be then?https://t.co/gpeW2rX3uQ pic.twitter.com/TlIzryHUDk
— Sky & Telescope (@SkyandTelescope) October 4, 2020
We are however gradually getting further and further out of alignment with Mars, and won’t start to get closer to each other until 2029, which will result in another close encounter, but only in 2035, that makes this week even more special.
Those looking to view Mars shining brightly in the night sky from the southern hemisphere will have to look in an east-north-east direction. Surprisingly enough, Saturn and Jupiter can also be seen near the equator in a south-west direction, but they won’t be shining as brightly as Mars.
Visit Sky and Telescope to calculate where Mars will be in the night sky in your location around the world.