MARS coming closer to the Earth
The red planet Mars will come closer to the Earth this week. It will be the closest distance between the two planets than at any time until 2035. The neighbor planet is currently to the north of the celestial equator. It is visible from both the hemispheres, shining with high intensity in the evening sky.
Mars will approach closer, only 62.1 million kilometers (38.6 million miles) away from Earth. For the next 15 years, it will remain the most relative distance between these two planets. It is going to happen on October 6, 2020. The stars on that day will remain few in numbers.
Read: Water Bodies on Mars
In the night sky, Mars is going to be visible with the naked eye. The Mars-size will be large and clear in the night sky. There are also chances of seeing the Jupiter and Saturn planets shinning brightly closer to the horizon. Earth and Mars occasionally come closer to each other as they are on elliptical orbits. When Mars is closer to Sun while Earth is farther from the Sun, at this point, the closest encounter happens.
The minimum or closest point of encounter is 54.6 million km, that is 33.9 million miles apart. This closest encounter configuration is known as opposition and happens every two years or so. In the past, such a closer encounter never happens. The nearest approach ever recorded happened back in 2003, with just 55.7 million km away from Mars. Two years ago, 2018 was pretty close, too, with only 57.6 million km that are 35.8 million miles.
As our planet is getting out of alignment with Mars, there is no less chance of Mars getting closer to the Earth again until 2029, culminating in a very close approach in 2035 – only 56.9 million km (35.4 million miles) apart. At the other end of the scale from the opposition is a conjunction, when the two planets are furthest from each other. They can end up 401 million km (250 miles) away from each other. It occurs when Earth and Mars are on opposite sides of the Sun.
The next lot of Mars missions like the Mars Sample Return will be traveling in 2022. Still, they’ll have to travel an extra 20 million kilometers, as we’ll be at a distance of 81.5 million kilometers (50.6 million miles) at our closest approach during this time. So this week is a pretty unique opportunity that we won’t have again until 2035. Make sure you wave to Mars as it goes past!